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Chiang Mai Elephant Home, photo by Chris Tweten

A First Timer’s Visit to Chiang Mai Elephant Home

Chiang Mai Elephant Home Will Spark Joy in Your Life

There are quite a few elephant sanctuaries to visit in Chiang Mai, but Bodega’s trip to the Chiang Mai Elephant Home was a truly fulfilling experience. We gathered as a group around 1 pm (I mean, you have to give people time to recover from last night, don’t you?) and packed into a red songthaew truck, swapping stories and laughing throughout the hour-and-a-half ride.

I’ve had a lot of good experiences in my life: I’ve trekked mountains, climbed waterfalls, gotten my little cousins to laugh, gotten my dream job. But damn it, none of that mattered when I laid eyes on a baby elephant.

Upon arriving, we had a filling lunch (with vegetarian options, woo hoo) and then covered ourselves with covered clothing. Now, at the time I didn’t know why exactly we did this…but it became clear later.

Introduction to The Tour Guide and Orientation Time

We met our guide, Goi, a sweet and funny woman who sat us all down in an open-air hut and told us everything we may want to know about the elephants: their names and ages, their rescues, their diets, the differences between Asian and African species.

Fun Fact: Asian elephants have two humps on their heads instead of one. Totally knew that before.

Goi instructed us on making vitamin and nutrition packs which we would then feed to the elephants. We smashed our ingredients together with a mortar and pestle, and let me tell you, it was cathartic. Take that, Tim from Ancient Philosophy class.

Chiang Mai Elephant home is an ethical elephant sanctuary in Thailand.

We picked up bowls of bananas and sugar cane, and then the moment came: we walked over to the elephants. There were three adults, one teenager and one baby, and I couldn’t have been happier to see them. As we fed them, we laughed and began to pick up on their preferences (one, a male elephant who had some female-presenting characteristics, did not like bananas).

Then we headed over to a pond to cover them with mud, and as they splashed around, we began to realize how helpful these outside clothes were. When we (read: we) were all sufficiently covered with mud, we walked them over to the clear-water pond and washed them off, and they thanked us in a variety of ways: trunk pats, sprays of water, you name it. Personally, I thought all the spray-ees were loved by them more. But maybe that’s just because I got one.

Saying Our Goodbyes to Our New Elephant Friends

We showed the elephants a little more love and had a mini-photoshoot with them, before showering and wishing them goodbye. We ended the day at Maewang Waterfall, diving, swimming (or in my case, reading on a rock with my feet in the water) and soaking in the last of the sun, before our ride home. As the sun set, I smiled one more time at the spray I got, which just happened to be from the baby elephant. I think he liked me. Chiang Mai Elephant Home, I will be back!