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Friday, April 24, 2015

Baan Chang Elephant Park: Chiang Mai Thailand

Happy Friday Y'all! 

Time is flying by for us here in the ROK. We only have a couple more weeks left in Korea, and I still have so much to share with you guys. 

Today I wanted to talk about our adventure at the Baan Chang Elephant Park while we were in Chiang Mai. 

Are you ready for a million pictures of elephants?!?

{Matt and I on our practice rides learning the commands} 

Way back when we were first arriving in Korea I knew I Thailand was on my bucket list and I knew I wanted to play with some elephants. And finally, this last February, that dream came true. While in Chiang Mai, we opted to explore and play with the elephants through the Baan Chang Elephant Park. I had read some great reviews from other bloggers and felt comfortable with this company. 

We were looking for a rescue sanctuary that really looked to help the elephants and treated them kindly. After some research, we landed on this place. 

We opted for the one day elephant mahout training package for 2 adults and 1 elephant. Baan Chang offers 1-3 day programs and a couple of different options for the days, so if you are interested there are many options. If we returned to Chiang Mai, we would probably do the 2 day stay, but to start I think the 1 day program was great. 

We chose the early pick up time and were picked up promptly at 6:30. Our start time said 6, but because our hotel was outside of town we were last to be picked up. Which was fine by me since it meant less time in the van. 

So we arrived to the park and got to change into our super cool mahout clothes. Boys got one room and girls got another to change into. The girls in our group really didn't care too much about privacy, so we just quickly did the 'locker room' change. You know where everyone is together, but no one looks around. :) There are lockers free of charge for you to use. 

{PS- wear sandals. When you ride the elephants- you are barefoot, so sandals make that transition easier.}  

Then it was time to feed the elephants. We were given some introduction and instruction about the elephants. Because all of these elephants are rescued they are not part of the same herd, so sometimes there is fighting among each other. And because a lot of them have been abused they are sometimes not safe for the staff or the visitors of the park. That is the reason behind the chains on their feet. I was a little unsure about this because I had read about one sanctuary that doesn't chain their animals, but the explanation made sense. 

Each elephant had his/her own mahout (worker/trainer) and they are responsible for making sure the elephant gets the proper care, including enough exercise. With the elephants and mahouts we saw- it seemed like they had a real connection and really cared for one another. 

So after we had a our instruction- we went to feed the elephants. 

{Sugar cane and banana} 

 {Our guide, Alex} 

{Getting kisses} 

While we were feeding them, our guide went around and talked about each of the elephants. He told us a little about their story and about their personality. Then we went to see a couple of the babies. We couldn't touch the babies because they weren't protected from our touch like the adults are (ie. any lotions or creams we had on our bodies). There were three babies. All of them were rescued- not born into the park. Baan Chang has only had one pregnancy, but the baby died. 

After feeding the elephants, it was time to learn how to ride them. Our guide and a couple mahouts taught us the commands and showed us how to get on and off the elephant. This is the part I was most looking forward to, but I actually didn't really love it. We rode bareback of course to protect the animal, but man it did not protect my butt! By the end of our ride I was ready to get off. 

Elephants are so big- it was a little unnerving being up so high with just the head to hold onto. 
We learned a few commands- which for the life of me- I can't remember. We did a little practice loop and then we were good to go. 

I started off in front and then we switched half way through. And being up front is way more comfortable just fyi. And of course, Matt was a freaking pro. He was taking pictures- sitting like a natural with no cares in the world. Meanwhile- I could barely smile for the pictures let alone pose or move around while on the elephant. 

I mean for real- look at Matt. 

Our guide was running around the whole time taking pictures of us while we were on our elephants. I thought that was great since elephant selfies don't quite cut it. 

{While we were on our ride- every animal had their mahout walking along with them. So we were in good hands. Here is our lovely lady we got to ride and her mahout. I can't remember her name (I should have written it down!), but she was a sweetie. She got the scar on her head from some loggers in the Thai forest. She was rescued a few years ago.} 

After the ride, we got to bathe our elephant. This was my favorite part by far. It was so fun getting in the water and scrubbing her down. 

After the bath, we took a quick shower to rinse off, changed back into our clothes, and then ate lunch that was provided for us through our tour. And then we were taken back to our hotel. 

It was an amazing day, and one of the highlights from our trip. I loved interacting with the different elephants and then spending one-on-one time with the one. The tour was informative and it looks like Baan Chang is doing some great things for these elephants. 

And that was our elephant adventure. It was an amazing experience.

Would you ever visit an elephant sanctuary?

Basic Information for the One Day Elephant Mahout Training Package: 

Time: *There are 2 starting times 6:00 am or 8:15 am. 
We started at 6:00 am so we would be one of the first groups to hang out with the elephants. 
These tours go until 2:30 or 4:30 pm depending on what you pick. 

Cost: 2 person/ 1 elephant 2,900 Baht 
*You can opt for a private tour for more money. They also have a per person rate and a group rate. Just look around the website for what you are looking for* 

Things to Bring: towel, extra clothes, camera, bug spray, sun screen

*Camera Note* We brought our nice Cannon, but opted to just take our little camera and a cell phone around for the day. We didn't want to be bothered with our large nice expensive camera, and for us this was a good decision. 

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- Alex