Monday, July 15, 2013

Walking With Giants




When we were planning our trip to Thailand, I couldn’t stop talking about elephants. Who isn’t fascinated by elephants? They are majestic and beautiful in a strange and prehistoric way. And you get to ride them in Thailand. My inner five year old was freaking out.

As I started doing research, I learned that the process of domesticating elephants for work and tourism is inhumane. The parks had mixed reviews, and some travelers were disturbed while riding the elephants, as the mahouts were brutally jabbing them with sharp hooks to get them to perform.

I just knew we just couldn’t support those places with our time and money. Luckily, I found the Elephant Nature Park and booked it immediately.



The center is beautiful and inspiring. Their founder, Lek, is a Thai woman on a mission to rescue abused elephants and to educate her country about humane training methods. She’s now has rescued 35 elephants and 400 dogs. (I’m not kidding. Four hundred. Animal Hoarders would have a field day.)



All of the elephants have disturbing stories and scars: some had broken legs from being forced to beg in the streets of Bangkok, others had mangled feet from stepping on mines while logging in Burma, and several were blinded from being forced to work.




At the center, they are rehabilitated in their natural habitat, and you can visit for a day or stay up to two weeks. We opted for the day, and learned how to be a mahout, which involved feeding them, hanging with them, and bathing them in the river. It’s hard to describe in words what it was like to interact with these guys up close. It was exhilarating, and a little terrifying, and nothing short of incredible.






No riding elephants, but I couldn’t have asked for anything more. If you're interested, you can support the park here.







3 comments:

  1. So cool, Tiffany! I am finally catching up on blogs, and love every picture you put up here!

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  2. This is fantastic! I had the opportunity to visit Chang Mai and interact with elephants as well but I think the place I went to wasn't great. I tried to research it when I got back but couldn't find much. Just didn't feel right when I was there though. I'm so happy to hear that places like this exist. Beautiful pics!

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