Chiang Mai Ethical Elephant Experience- Together we travel

elephant bath

 

Reposted from  Together We TravelChiang Mai ethical elephant experience

A 'must do' whilst in Northern Thailand and in particular Chiang Mai is to experience the native Asian elephants.  

This was high on our bucket list whilst planning to travel as neither of us have ever come face to face with these incredible animals! We knew we wanted to experience this in Asia as we loved the look of the Asian elephant, with their light pink speckled faces and vast trunks. We also knew that elephants often get mistreated at these 'camps' and so called 'sanctuary's' so we knew that we had to do our research and pick the right place. Metal chair rides, not enough space, abuse, overworked, mistreatment were all things we wanted to make sure we were not funding. It is hard to believe that in this day and age things such as this continue to happen to animals but sadly they do and all so often. Only we as customers and tourists have the power to change this, so lets make sure we do all we can. 

We came across Chai Lai Orchid while doing our research and it stood out to us due to their 'sustainable ethical eco trekking packages'. What they offer is humane elephant experiences that provide intimate and natural interactions in their habitat of the jungle. Alongside interacting with the elephants you can hike through lush rice terraces and leafy trails to secluded waterfalls in the mountains. This sustainable jungle trek is led by knowledgeable Karen Hill local tribe guides which helps create jobs in the community. The treks reflect their core values of respecting nature and indigenous culture.  After generations of their families living in the Northern Thai mountains they can share their knowledge about the many uses of jungle plants for food and medicine. This was one of our favourite aspects of the trip. 

Chiang Mai Waterfalls

 

Our itinerary 

Alongside the tour packages listed on the website you can also contact the team to create custom experiences to suit you. That is exactly what we did... 

Day 1

  • 8am hotel pick up from Chiang Mai town - 1hr drive up the mountains to the jungle 

  • Welcomed with a fresh coconut to drink which the elephants will finish for you as you meet them for the first time roaming around the camp 

  • 10am drive to the start of the trek (2hr trek). You will encounter jungle, waterfalls, elephants, rice fields

  • Lunch stop halfway through with the local Karen tribe that they have freshly prepared

  • Time to interact with the tribe and see where they live

 

  • Hop on a traditional bamboo raft and relax down the lazy river until you arrive back at the camp

  • ELEPHANT TIME!

  • Grab a bag of bananas and head up into the jungle to feed the elephants 

This is a little overwhelming to begin with. You cannot gage the true size of an elephant until you stand face to face with one. The two of us were greeted by a family of 4 hungry elephants; grandma, mum, sister and baby.

 

These giants eat 250kg of fruit and vegetables a day! Once we ran out of fruit and they spread out to eat the surrounding vegetation we relaxed a little as we made our way down to the jungle with them, our guide and their 2 trainers. 

  • Walk down to the river with the elephants... its BATH TIME!

  • Spend time watching them play fight in the river, wash and swim with them

 

Watch out they are rather cheeky!

ethical elephant experience

 

After all of this we were pretty tired, it was time to relax and have dinner. The food was great, we opted for a delicious traditional Pad Thai as we sat and looked over the bridge at the sun setting over the elephants who were also resting. It was so beautiful it felt as though we could be in a film scene!

 

We then crossed the bridge back into camp and had a couple of beers under the stars and fairy lights before heading to bed with big smiles on our faces. The accommodation is perfect; a simple little bungalow with en suite bathroom which was lovely and clean.

 

Day 2

Living a life where you wake up before your alarm as you can't wait to start the day is one that we try to lead. This is exactly what happened here! It was breakfast time and we were surrounded by elephants eating their breakfast roaming free  in the jungle. It was magical.

 

  • 8:30am breakfast time 

  • 9am we were picked up for the 1hr drive up into the mountains 

  • Completed a 4hr jungle trek which was beautiful! Saw one of the best waterfalls we have ever seen and learnt lots from our local guide who explained all the herbal medicines in the jungle that we even sampled there and then. A long hike but not an intense one 

 

  • Lunch stop today was halfway through and again delicious 

  • The hike finished with picking fresh passion fruit and strawberries

A sleepy drive back to camp left us saying goodbye to the elephants and hopping back on the truck to our hotel in Chiang Mai, arriving around 6pm... It was time to rest.

 

Packing list

(2 days 1 night)

Leave luggage in Chiang Mai hotel if possible, it makes life easier with less luggage to carry around. 

  • Water is provided 24/7

  • Some snacks. Sugary things for the trekking 

  • Comfy trainers

  • Athletic cool clothing x2

  • Swimwear x1

  • Swimming towel (bath towel provided)

  • Pajamas 

  • Change of clothes for evening 

  • Something warm

  • Underwear and socks

  • Sunglasses 

  • Hat

  • Toiletries incl suncream and insect repellent (shampoo and bodywash provided)

  • Plasters and small basic medical kit

  • Camera

  • Travel journal and/ or laptop - great place to write 

The main reason we chose Chai Lai Orchid is because all proceeds help provide rescued elephants with a happier, healthier environment to live in. But what makes it so special is that this organisation is so much more than just an elephant sanctuary. Chai Lai Orchid was created to stop the exploitation and sex trafficking of the young girls from the surrounding tribes by empowering those at risk. 

 

The mission of their charity; Daughters Rising is this - 'each year, young mothers and at-risk girls participate in our program attending English, Thai and computer classes and seminars on women’s health, trafficking and their rights. Because the trainee women are living below the poverty line, they cannot spend their days attending classes when there are mouths to feed, so we pay each one a fair wage in addition to education expenses, medical supplies and providing food and housing. 100% of our proceeds fund Daughters Rising Programs.' You can find out more about this incredible mission here.

 

From the minute we crossed the swing bridge into the Chai Lai Orchid camp we knew we made the right choice. 

Scarleny's visit to Chai Lai

Elephant sanctuary

 

Before I go into talking about this magical experience, I want to let you know that this was my fourth time in Thailand and I’ve always been against the use of elephants for human entertainment. I went to Chiang Mai with the sole purpose of working on my healing. This was for me a much needed solo trip during a dark time when I knew I had to seek light for my wellbeing. I started this self love trip by going to see friends who are current expats in Chiang Mai, meet their baby and then dive into a few days of silent meditation and intense yoga. So in between visiting friends and my meditation and yoga retreat I had a few days in the city. I don’t know how I got so lucky (the universe knew I needed this also) but as I searched for a place on airbnb I came across these jungle bungalows remotely located at an elephant sanctuary. So this is how I discovered this beautiful place

 

I LIVED WITH ELEPHANTS IN THAILAND

in TRAVEL on 11/05/18

Before I go into talking about this magical experience, I want to let you know that this was my fourth time in Thailand and I’ve always been against the use of elephants for human entertainment. I went to Chiang Mai with the sole purpose of working on my healing. This was for me a much needed solo trip during a dark time when I knew I had to seek light for my wellbeing. I started this self love trip by going to see friends who are current expats in Chiang Mai, meet their baby and then dive into a few days of silent meditation and intense yoga. So in between visiting friends and my meditation and yoga retreat I had a few days in the city. I don’t know how I got so lucky (the universe knew I needed this also) but as I searched for a place on airbnb I came across these jungle bungalows remotely located at an elephant sanctuary. So this is how I discovered this beautiful place…

 

live at an Elephant sanctuary in Chiang Mai

 

 

U N C O V E R

Seeing as this trip was about spiritual healing I thought, well what better way to rebalance than to immerse myself in the jungle surrounded by nature and these amazing creatures. The more I read on this place the more I uncovered why it was right for me. You guys, The Chai Lai Orchid is the ONLY airbnb in THAILAND where you can live with Elephants! I REPEAT!! You can live with elephants. What?? I mean, I didn't even know this was a possibility. It was unreal waking up to baby elephants roaming around my bungalow. Not only do you get to live in this eco lodge and play with the rescued elephants wait until I tell you about how your economic contribution helps support human rights, by empowering at risk women.

 

 

READ MORE

What does "Ethical" Elephant Camp REALLY mean?

 Babies learn from their mom and the herd.

Babies learn from their mom and the herd.

Is it ethical? Here are ways to tell if an elephant camp is as animal-friendly as it seems.

Is it really a ‘sanctuary’?

Almost definitely not. At present, no tourism-funded ASEAN elephant facility meets all the requirements that define a true sanctuary. Animal sanctuaries don't allow the public to come in contact with wildlife, and only in Thailand’s national parks do wild elephants roam free. Companies that provide homes for Thailand’s domestic elephant population often permit visitors to get close to, touch, bathe and feed elephants. These camps range from exploitative to very ethical - but none of them should be calling themselves a ‘sanctuary’. 

Chai Lai Orchid (113 of 577).jpg

Does the camp claim the elephants are ‘free to roam’?

If elephants roamed free outside of Thailand’s huge national parks, there would be significant danger to human life, as well as to the elephants, as they encounter traffic and other risks. Domestic elephants have to be enclosed, and camps use chains to tether the elephants at various times of the day and especially at night.

A lot of westerners get very emotional when they see elephants in chains, but actually this is a good way to keep an elephant safe. Ropes chafe and cut into an elephant’s skin. Chains should loosely fit around the animal’s ankle. Enclosures quickly become barren from over foraging. The elephant should have at least two meters of tether while in their eating area. At night time, there should be more tether so the animal has enough slack to move around and lay down without getting tangled.

https://www.tripadvisor.com/blog/tethering-integral-elephant-care/

How are the Elephants trained?

In captivity, training is important so that people and elephants (or any animal) may live together safely. It is also necessary for the health and well-being of the elephants. Training helps the elephants smoothly and efficiently follow commands for behaviors needed to receive medical care and daily husbandry. Basic commands, such as holding the mouth open for an oral examination, holding a foot up for examination, or holding still for wound care are key elements of good elephant husbandry. In addition, many elephants respond positively to training for mental stimulation and physical challenge. Elephants should be trained using positive reenforcement such as target training.

 They need fresh food like bamboo, all day, everyday!

They need fresh food like bamboo, all day, everyday!

What are the elephants’ living conditions?

Ethical camps provide plenty of the following:

  • Shade Asian elephants are not  savannah animals and can get overheated and sunburnt, so it's important they have trees to shade them from the hot sun. You will often see elephants throwing dirt and sand on themselves as natural sunscreen.

  • Natural ground to walk on- Elephants should never be forced to stand on cement all day. This is actually one of the leading causes of early death.

  • Access to food and water- Elephants should have access to lots of fresh drinking water throughout the day. They should be able to pick fresh food from their immediate habitat and the rest of their food intake should be harvested daily. Food diversity is also imperative to an elephant's health - feeding them watermelons all day long is not great, for obvious reasons!

  • Cleanliness and bathing- Being surrounded by piles of their own feces isn’t great for anyone. Good camps keep up with disposal of the elephants’ dung and ensure their areas are regularly swept and hosed constantly throughout the day. Also elephants love to spend time in water and the happiest elephants are those who have the plentiful opportunities to bathe and play in the water! A dirty mud puddle where elephants are forced to wallow doesn't count: parasites, which thrive in mud, are really dangerous to elephants.

  • Exercise- Ideally, elephants should walk about 17km each day                                                               

  • Friends- Elephants need love too. Ideally there should be one or two bull elephants and several females at each camp. And happy, comfortable elephants make babies!
  • Medical treatment- A qualified veterinarian is the foundation of good health care and has a direct impact on the elephant's health and well-being. Elephants should routinely be checked by a vet biannually and treated quickly if problems arise between visits. The elephants are comfortable being tethered so the vet can treat them. The camp should be able transport a sick elephant to the elephant hospital if necessary.
 A protective mother elephant hides her baby.

A protective mother elephant hides her baby.

How does it benefit the local community ?

Elephants need a lot of space so most Chiang Mai elephant camps are located far from the city, often rural, poor and economically marginalised villages. But does the company support the local community and do their part to care for the natural resources? As a tourist your visit should benefit the place your visit.

Community based tourism involves communities controlling, managing and developing their own tourism industry. Some camps offer Karen homestays in the mahouts' villages where travellers can experience the community's way of life and consider their social, economic, and environmental impacts upon the destination they are visiting.

 Also, good companies pay their staff well, ensuring no-one is forgotten: their porters (who bring food to the elephants), their guides, and their mahouts should all receive a living wage. It’s really hard to discern from a passing visit or through a website whether a company pays fairly, but it’s definitely worth asking questions!

 Nukul, a Karen woman with her family's elephant.

Nukul, a Karen woman with her family's elephant.

Does the camp buy elephants?

Contrary to what most people may think, the most ethical way to ‘save’ an elephant is to rent it. When you purchase an elephant from an abusive owner you often pay upwards of 60,000 USD - a lump sum which directly benefits the exploitative owner and perpetuates the cycle of abuse and torture, usually by financing the owner’s next purchase of a smuggled wild baby elephant. The horrible animal abuse called pahjaan is an old style of training used for "breaking" wild elephants. Buying an elephant can perpetuate the cycle of trafficking and abusing wild elephants.

 Does the camp claim the mahouts don’t use bullhooks?

The reality is, elephants can kill. Mahouts risk their lives on a daily basis to look after them, but people often forget about the welfare of these caretakers. Good mahouts will form a close bond with their animal based on kindness and respect and rarely have to use physical methods. Nevertheless, bullhooks are backup, necessary for ensuring everybody’s safety, including the elephants’. But they should absolutely not be over-used or used too harshly.

If camps become obsessed with appearances and instruct mahouts not to use bullhooks, they will resort to the use of nails or sharp sticks instead, keeping them tucked out of sight in their hands. If you are concerned about the use of sharp objects, you should check for bloody pock marks or scars on or near the elephant's rump - these usually indicate that a past or present mahout is overusing one of these tools.

 Don't under estimate how strong an elephant is.

Don't under estimate how strong an elephant is.

Is the company transparent about money?

Ethical organisations always disclose the details of how donations are used. Transparency and accountability is important, so there should be documentation readily available to the public.

Are there rides?

It is not as simple as rides or no rides. We must take into account all the factors that affect the elephants health and happiness. Elephants, like horses, have been ridden in this way for thousands of years and there are ways to do it that promote wellness, and ways that work the animal to death. Chair rides CAN hurt elephants but not in the way most people think. The padding under the saddle needs to stay dry which means the elephant can’t go to bathe and cool off. Elephants can die from heatstroke. Chairs ensure a higher person to elephant ratio,  a pure profit-making move for unethical camps. Such places are more likely to over work elephants (and caretakers) and create a dangerious situation.

Read more

 Chai Lai Sisters Guide "Nut" aka Lady Gaga gives her elefriend a hug.

Chai Lai Sisters Guide "Nut" aka Lady Gaga gives her elefriend a hug.

 

 

 

 

Travel Photoshoots in Chiang Mai, Thailand- why we love them

 We love  Mint ’s bright and playful photographs

We love Mint’s bright and playful photographs

Forget selfies. The latest travel accessory is a professional photographer.

Hiring a photographer to take professional shots used to only for engagements and weddings. But social norms have shifted and now you don’t even have to get married just to have great photos of yourself. Hiring a photographer during vacation is a great souvenir. It will not weigh down your bags or clutter your living space.

 Pre wedding shoot at Chai Lai Orchid Photo:  James

Pre wedding shoot at Chai Lai Orchid Photo: James

Unlque locations  + local knowledge

Local photographers know all the best backdrops. They can take you to cool neighborhoods and locations that you might not find out about otherwise. Chiang Mai offers stunning scenery ranging from rice fields and jungle waterfalls to ancient temples and colorful local markets.

 Photo  Matthew Neal

Give beautifully

A photoshoot makes a great gift for a friend traveling solo or a couple on honeymoon. You might find that where you’re traveling you can get more bang for your buck. If you’re traveling in Southeast Asia you can hire one of the best photographers for a fraction of the price that you would pay back home. A photographer here will give you an entire day of shooting for the price you would pay per hour in NYC.

  Look and feel like a high fashion model with a  Matthew Neal  shoot 

 Look and feel like a high fashion model with a Matthew Neal shoot 

Explore your style

Even when you are traveling you can find a photographer who fits your personal style. It’s up to you if you want hair, makeup, and studio lighting or just natural candid shots documenting your day. You can keep it simple with a single look or choose multiple locations and outfits.

 For super romantic photos you can even exchange vows and have an elephant as your witness at an Elephant wedding with  James  

For super romantic photos you can even exchange vows and have an elephant as your witness at an Elephant wedding with James 

Collecting incredible experiences is the best gift we can give ourselves, having these photos to look back on will be the icing on the cake
— Jessica P Chai Lai Guest
 Get glam and time travel with  Toon  to experience traditional Lanna style in Chiang Mai.

Get glam and time travel with Toon to experience traditional Lanna style in Chiang Mai.

Be in the moment

In the age of social media and it seems like everything needs to be documented to matter. But while traveling and trying to capture every amazing landmark with your gopro and your DSLR you actually lose moments that matter. With travel photo shoots you be fully present to experience in your adventure and leave it up to a professional to get some great captures. 

 Photo by Mint

Photo by Mint

Of course you don't need a wedding to get a photoshoot but if you are looking to celebrate we offer Chai Lai Thai wedding packages and Honeymoon trips for a once in a life time adventure.

Songkran in Chiang Mai

Songkran-Activities-Temple.jpg

Best places to experience the water festival in Chiang Mai

สุขสันต์วันสงกรานต์ suk san wan songkran!

Songkran is Thailand wet and wild New Years celebration and one of the best times to visit Chiang Mai. The festival falls on some of the hottest days in Thailand (beginning around April 13-15th) and people celebrate by throwing water on each other, using water guns, buckets, hoses and anything they can get their hands on.

The meaning behind Songkran?

Songkran, derived from the Sanskrit word saṅkrānti is the Thai New Year’s celebration. Songkran has traditionally been celebrated as the New Year for many centuries, and is believed to have been adapted from an Indian festival. Songkran is observed nationwide, the best  Songkran celebrations are still in Chiang Mai, where the festival continues for six days and even longer in Mae Wang. Songkran is not just about throwing water at people, traditionally it is also a time to visit and pay respects to elders, including family members, friends, neighbors, and monks. The water symbolizes cleansing and renewal. The throwing of water originated as a way to pay respect to people, by capturing the water after it had been poured over the Buddhas for cleansing and then using this “blessed” water to give good fortune to elders and family by gently pouring it on the shoulder.

 

  • Traditional Songkran - Wat Phra Singh

Early morning at sunrise on the 13th, locals will offer alms to Buddhist monks, and Songkran will officially kick off.  Join the parade and pour water on Chiang Mai and Lanna’s prominent Buddha statue ‘PhraPutthaSihing’. Join the parade and bring sand and Salee (Bodhi tree) to the temple

 

Water festival

 

  • Songkran in the city

Ride the back of a truck around the moat or cruise Loy Kroh Road. Thapae Gate is Party Central and the streets are filled with revelers from

Around the world as well as local thais and everyone is armed with the biggest water gun they can get their hands on.

bamboo rafting

 

  • Songkran like a Local - Mae Wang

Mae Wang waterfall and Mae Wang river are amazing off the beaten path experience! With bamboo rafts, inner tubes, cheap fresh BBQ and an abundance of fresh cool water. Songkran on the countryside is a lovely escape from the madness in the old city. The sides of the river are lined with picnic huts made of bamboo and Thatch roofs. Local vendors sell beer, spicy som tam and grilled chicken. The Chai Lai is located on the Mae Wang river and we can book rafts or driver for you. 

Fun fun in the sun but it felt so good and WET. Everyone loved it, especially the kids. This is a fantastic place to enjoy it if you have a large group of friends. Go bamboo rafting, inner tubing, swimming or just picnic at the catered huts along side the river and enjoy the laughter with your fellow human beings.”- WhereToGoInThailand.com
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