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Elephant Nature Park, Thailand – Photos

Wednesday, March 12th, 2008


The Elephant Nature Park was started up in 1999 by a woman named Lek who made it her life’s work to rescue and take care abused elephants. The success of the park can be attributed to an incredible marketing campaign – The Elephant Nature Park has been covered by National Geographic, Animal Planet, and the BBC among others. Stars including Meg Ryan have come here. The result of all this publicity is that Elephant Nature Park has received donations from very generous donors and can count on Western Volunteers to do much of the labour (paying volunteers I should add). The park is a nature haven, not only do they have Elephants, there are also dogs, goats, and water buffalo, all living together and cared for in this park.


We arrived at the park at about 9:30 am and had about 15 minutes to meet the elephants – the 31 elephants are here due to many different reasons: victims of landmines, inflicted blindness, drugging, poaching, car accidents, or sometimes just general neglect. At about 10 am they were ready for the 1st feeding of the elephants – we ended up feeding Lilly, an elephant who had been hooked on amphetamines (her previous owner had fed her drugs to keep her working through fatigue).


Lilly is a docile elephant who eats slower than most – we fed her pineapples, sugar cane, and bananas, while patting her huge trunk. The Park has profiles on each elephant which are worth looking at; elephants are different, just like people, with different likes and dislikes, different temperements and fears. Lilly for example is afraid of other animals, especially dogs…

After the feedings, it was time to bring the elephants down to the river for bathing time.


After bathing, the elephants have “fun time” in the mud pool and then run around jumping and pushing each other. In many ways elephants are just like dogs, the only difference being that they can end up crushing you in their playfullness…

 We had lunch, were shown a video (about the history and role of elephants in Thai culture, and highlighting the accomplishments of the Elephant Nature Park), then repeated the same routine in the afternoon – once more feeding Lilly (who we got quite fond of), then watching the elephants bathing in the river.

At 5 pm it was time to go – the elephants were back in their kralls (they walk there by themselves, familiar with their daily routine), and the goats and water buffalo were likewise back in their enclosures. As we left we saw the dogs getting fed by the volunteers.


It was an expensive tour (6500 baht, or about $200, including pick-up from Chiang Dao). It’s easy to criticize Elephant Nature park for it’s success – one would hope that other Elephant parks and camps get their fair share of money for their elephants. Do poor locals resent the fact that foreigners pour money and effort in helping wild animals over people? How about the historical role of the elephant as workers – here they are getting pampered by rich Western tourists. It raises a lot of questions. The park re-iterates that money goes to educating the local population and that it funds different projects in villages. But the bottom line is that Elephant Nature Park has worked tirelessly doing good in the world, helping not only elephants but also other animals and, we hope, the local population through programs and by providing employment opportunities. You can’t really criticize that. There’s no doubt that without Lek that elephants like Lilly would be dead; we left feeling good that we had at least contributed a little to a good cause.

Hotel Review – Chiang Dao Nest (and a little bit about Chiang Dao)

Tuesday, March 11th, 2008


A beautiful spot with clean and modern bungalows – we had some of our best sleeps in Thailand here! Nights actually get cold here and we appreciated the shower (which generates very hot water at high pressure!) and the heavy blankets on the bed. No complaints at all about the bungalow.

Likewise, the whole infrastructure of Chiang Dao Nest is great; there’s an internet shack (with high speed internet!) and a very comfortable dining area. The grounds of the hotel are beautiful with a huge variety of exotic plants and flowers. Just gorgeous! The price is also very good (about $30/night).


2 things we didn’t like here: 1) We found Wicha, the owner, very rude. It started the minute we arrived and set the tone for the rest of the stay. I looked the hotel up on Trip Advisor and opinions vary – people either thought she was great or that she was really rude. My feeling is that it depends how she likes you, she’s obviously the queen of her kingdom and will treat you accordingly (very un-Thai, but everything about Wicha and Chiang Dao Nest in un-Thai). The following review made me smile because it was an exact mirror of our experience;     I agree with him – she should manage the details but stay away from dealing with customers.

The 2nd thing that disappointed us was the Western food. For all the talk about how the Western Food is so great here, we found it very disappointing! If there had been a Thai restaurant nearby we would have eaten there. I would really recommend that Chiang Dao Nest have at least one Thai plate on their menu (Chiang Dao Nest 2 has a Thai menu but it’s pretty far down the road…)

I would give this place a 3 1/2 out of 5 – my 2 negatives aside, this would be a pretty perfect place!


On Chiang Dao:

Chiang Dao is a lovely little town about and hour and a half north of Chiang Mai. We spent 2 days here; the first day we discovered the surrounding area including the Chiang Dao caves (quite remarkable, the cave complex actually goes 14 km into the mountain!) and the temple on Chiang Dao mountain (nice views!). The 2nd day was spent at the Elephant Nature Park (see next post). Chiang Dao is also a nice base for trekking activities. A beautiful spot!


Chiang Mai (and its dogs) – Photos

Monday, March 10th, 2008
cm1.jpg We weren't in Chiang Mai very long (about 24 hours) but we were quite impressed - the weather is cooler and the city much cleaner than Bangkok. It has a more provincial feel - people ... [Continue reading this entry]

Ko Yao Noi, Thailand – Photos

Friday, March 7th, 2008
ky1.jpg Ko Yao Noi was the highlight of our trip to Thailand - we absolutely loved it. It's not as spectacular physically as Phi Phi and the beaches are not as nice (the picture ... [Continue reading this entry]

Hotel Review – Lom’Lae Beach Resort (Ko Yao Noi)

Friday, March 7th, 2008
lom3.jpg We ended up loving this place; Firstly, this is not a luxury resort; the wooden bungalows are rustic with large windows. Bugs can get in (for those that are squeamish). I killed a ... [Continue reading this entry]

Seaplane in the Andaman, Thailand – Photos

Friday, March 7th, 2008
s3.jpg One of the highlights of our recent trip to Thailand was flying by seaplane from Ko Phi Phi Don to Ko Yai Noi with Destination Air The flight took a total of ... [Continue reading this entry]

Ko Phi Phi, Thailand – Photos

Thursday, March 6th, 2008
pp1.jpg  It is incredible how this place has changed since the Tsunami. When I last came here in 2002, all hotels were bungalow-type operations on the strip of sand that makes up Tonsai village. ... [Continue reading this entry]

Ayutthaya, Thailand – Photos

Thursday, March 6th, 2008
ayu1.jpg Ayutthaya was the capital of the Kingdom of Siam between 1350 and 1767, when the city was sacked by the Burmese (after which the capital became Bangkok). It's a nice day trip by ... [Continue reading this entry]

Wat Phra Kaew, Bangkok – Photos

Thursday, March 6th, 2008
bk1.jpg bk91.jpgbk3.jpg bk5.jpgbk93.jpgbk92.jpgbk8.jpgbk7.jpg[Continue reading this entry]

Hotel review – Phranakorn Nornlen Hotel (Bangkok)

Wednesday, March 5th, 2008 This small "boutique" hotel is currently ranked 4th of 357 hotels on trip advisor and was where we stayed on our recent trip to Bangkok (February 2008). We loved some features of this hotel but also found a few things ... [Continue reading this entry]