My first post since leaving HK! It’s been a whopping 10 weeks back in Chicago and I’ve finally mustered up the courage to go through my old photos. I’ll try to keep the waterworks at bay so I can post our last few expeditions…. now or never right?!
We did the whole secluded beach theme for Jake’s 30th, so we needed something new for mine. Anything to escape the reality that my youthful days were coming to an end. Good thing Chiang Mai was high on my travel list and, while in Thailand, not near the water!
We only had one plan in mind for our weekend: Elephants. We got tons of recommendations for one particular elephant farm (Patara for anyone wondering), so that immediately went on the to-do list. Only … my planning skills got in the way again. Who knew you had to book in advance?! After many failed (and somewhat stalkerish) attempts at getting them to make an exception for us, it was clear we needed to choose another park. BUT – in researching other options, I came across countless reviews indicating that the majority of these places mistreat the elephants. There was no way we were going to support that so I was beginning to think we were going to have to scrap our plan… until I came across one park that seemed different…
So we booked it. It was the BEST choice we could have made. Where to start singing my praises of the Elephant Nature Park….
First off, ENP is a sanctuary and rescue center for mistreated (to put it mildly) elephants. It was started by one truly inspiring woman named Lek who has dedicated her life to saving endangered Asian elephants from the logging and tourism industries. Their stories are absolutely heartbreaking – and sadly, VERY common. She’s saved dozens of elephants over the years and all of them now live at the park … which she has opened up to visitors to spread awareness of the cruelty that goes on, and of course – to raise money since it is SO expensive to run an operation like this.
Lek and the park have been featured on National Geographic, Discovery, Animal Planet, BBC… we saw some fantastic documentaries throughout the day but of course now that I want to rewatch them, I can’t find them! Here’s a quick one that, while a teeeensy bit dry (at least in comparison to the others), gets the point across. She is awesome.
One of the two babies that were born at the park…. and the herd that protects him. Obviously he told them to beat it for a second so he could have my camera all to himself.
ENP is the only place of its kind that we came across that does NOT let visitors ride the elephants. Which – okay, when I found that out, I was a little bummed…. until I found out that in order to have elephants ‘work,’ they are beaten and tortured into submission. There is an incredible amount of cruelty that goes on, but Lek does not believe in whips, hooks, or strong discipline and slowly she is making a difference.
Alright enough preaching. Check out this gal! Encyclopedia Jake recalled that elephants, like humans, mourn their dead….. he was right. We came across this sweet lady who had lost her best friend a year earlier. She has remained in solitude since then. And sadly probably will stay that way for the rest of her own life. But she did let us feed her.
Ah yes the classic pose. This one had a thing for tall jersey-clad men. And baths.
Plotted my way into some alone time. (!!!!!) Don’t even try to tell me these aren’t the best creatures on earth. Right up there with cats of course.
Which, speaking of…
The Crazy Cat Lady in me couldn’t come to Chiang Mai and not see the tigers. Although let me make clear that I am NOT an advocate of this place. I’m convinced that these animals were drugged. (Maybe not so apparent with the cubs but the way the full grown tigers behaved.. very suspicious) So I’m not going to dwell on this place. I wouldn’t go back, but I suppose I still can post a pic or two.
So did we spend our whole time courting wild beasts you ask?
Well no. I may have been on the brink of giving up material possessions and attempting to become the next Lek, but other things got in the way. Full days call for pool, and of course nap time pre-dinner.
(Might I say we loved our hotel, the U Chiang Mai, and would totally recommend it!!! One of the best parts? The staff. They must have noticed my birth date on my ID when we checked in, because that night they whipped out a cake and broke into song as we were leaving to head into town!! Thai people are second to none!)
Mastered my pose by zipline #28.
Our ride. If we ever live somewhere conducive to this type of vehicle again, sign me up. Efficient, easy to park, a nice breeze.
Another great trip on the books. And miraculously, no tears here at the moment, just smiles.