Travellers often come to Chiang Mai as part of a longer tour of Thailand or Asia. I flew in from Bangkok with my friends and chose a mid-day arrival. This way, we didn’t need to wake up too early for our flight and still had the afternoon to relax and explore a little bit.
We chose to stay at Goldenbell Hotel, which is a reasonably priced hotel just a few steps away from the gates of the city center. It is also conveniently next to a night market that sells amazing local food.
We had a great meal and tucked in early to be fully rested and ready for a full day of adventures.
We booked our tour straight from the sanctuary's website (www.elephantjunglesanctuary.com)
We chose the full day tour but you also have the option to go only for half a day. If you want to stay longer, there's also an option to stay at the sanctuary overnight.
It takes about an hour and a half to get to the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary. There are several camp sites in the mountains surrounding Chiang Mai and we were driven to one on the back of a closed cab pick-up.
Upon arrival, visitors (about 20-30 per batch) were gathered at a large nipa hut. There, we were given colorful ponchos that are hand-woven and typically worn by the natives of the surrounding villages.
After we were all fashionably ready, we were gathered around our guide to learn more about the sanctuary’s advocacy. Here, they don’t ride elephants or ask them to do tricks and other unnatural activities.
They also told us about how harmful it is to ride on the backs of elephants. We also learned a lot about their diet and behavior.
After learning all the rules and getting to know more about elephants, we were finally ready to meet the majestic gentle giants. We walked down the hill and found ourselves in a small valley.
We were given small chunks or sugarcane to feed the elephants. I must admit, it was a bit scary when they started charging towards us. they are also quite smart and can fish out the sugar cane from our pockets. Overall, they were huge but quite gentle.
We got to take photos with them but you must always be careful especially if you have children with you. The elephants are friendly and playful. Because of their size, even f they mean no harm, small children must be attended to at all times.
After feeding the elephants their sugarcane appetizers, it's time to feed them some real food. Each of us had to carry a bundle of corn fronds down the hill. we laid them out for the elephants to feed on while we took even more photos!
After the elephants have had their fill, it's time for the humans to eat! We headed back to the camp, where our nipa hut was laid out with a sumptuous spread of local food. We had rice, chicken, vegetables and fruit. Everything was tasty and very safe even for the pickiest eaters. Bottled water is also provided for everyone throughout the day.
In the heat of the midday sun, we stayed cool by conducting a short workshop under the cooling roof of our hut. We learned how to mash bananas and pound rice. These ingredients along with other nutritious elements are turned into yummy medicine balls for the elephants. We made a batch of vitamin "pills" for the elephants and went back down to feed it to them ourselves.
After the elephants take their vitamins, it's time for some fun! They run towards a small mud pond where they lie around to cool off. Humans and elephants alike get completely covered in mud as we all frolic in the cool water and soft mud. The kids in the group particularly enjoyed this activity.
Again, the elephants tend to suddenly lie in the mud so keep small children at a safe distance away from the elephants' feet. Approach them from behind as they lie on their side. They will happily have you smear mud all over them.
After getting ourselves covered in mud, all the elephants and humans headed straight to the flowing river nearby. Here, we did our best to wash the mud off the elephants and ourselves. We also had brushes to help us get the mud off our new friends.
Once the elephants were as clean as we could get them, it was time for the humans to clean up. We headed upstream to have a quick dip in the river basin. We washed ourselves off and interacted with our tour group. a lovely ending to a fun and educational adventure!
There are also showers in the premises where you can really rub yourself clean with soap. I needed to do this since we were swimming around in mud and some elephants let loose with some round gifts to show gratitude for their lunch.
Either way, come with your swimsuit under your clothes and bring a towel and a fresh set of clothes to wear home.
After getting ourselves cleaned up, we headed back to town with our hearts full and our cameras filled with amazing memories to last a lifetime!
Spend the evening relaxing in the city or the hotel before your next adventure begins the next day.