May 1, 2014
Article by Global Pre-Meds
Hospital doctor shadowing & global health experience programs.
If you’ve never visited an elephant camp, a medical placement in Chiang Mai offers you several opportunities to get up close and personal with these majestic beasts.
At one time, the landscape around Chiang Mai was covered in teak tree forests. Timber loggers logged these forests and the elephants and their handlers were responsible for dragging the felled trees away to be processed. When teak tree logging was declared illegal, the handlers and their elephants were left without a means of income.
Numerous Elephant Camps have since been established to help protect the elephants in the area. The camps put on elephant shows and various activities for tourists where the elephants display their various skills. Most camps have elephant rides where you can ride an elephant for an hour or two through the jungle surrounding the camps.
The revenue raised by the Camps is used to provide an income for the families of the handlers plus sufficient funds to care for the elephants. Moreover, with these camps, the work load on the elephants has become far less demanding as compared to hauling logs all day in the forests.
Some of the camps around Chiang Mai are the Patara Elephant Farm, Mae Sa Elephant Camp, Mae Ping Elephant Camp and the Thai Elephant Conservation Centre.
The Mae Ping Elephant Camp is just 60 kms from Chiang Mai and is your best bet for a day out.
One of the most popular attractions at the Mae Ping Camp is the Elephant Show where trained elephants show off their incredible skills. These elephants have been trained by their mahouts to play soccer, dance and even play musical instruments. If you’ve never seen this done before, you’re in for a real treat. You’ll be surprised to see how far an elephant can kick an oversized soccer ball. If you dare, you can volunteer for an unforgettable massage where you lie on a mat on the ground and an elephant uses its foot to give you a massage. It’s sure to make for an unforgettable experience!
During the show, you will also see elephants delicately painting pictures on canvas while holding a paint brush in their trunk. The finished paintings are available for sale in the souvenir shop.
These mammoths also display their ability to respond to the commands of the Mahouts. Despite their size, these huge beasts are surprisingly agile. After the show, it’s worth waiting a while to get a photograph with the Elephants.
Just as popular as the Elephant show are the elephant rides where you go up to the mounting platforms and hop on the back of your elephant and experience an unforgettable one hour ride into the surrounding jungle. Along the way you will come across Lisu hill-tribe villagers selling sugar cane stick, which you can buy as a treat for your elephant.
Rafting and Ox Cart
If you still have time, you can hop on to long bamboo rafts for a leisurely trip down the Ping River watching the local life along the river banks. At the end of the raft ride, you arrive at an oxen transport compound where can go for an exciting but bumpy 20-minute ride on a wooden cart pulled by two strong oxen.
You can expect a full day of activities on a day out to the Mae Ping Elephant Camp but if you want to add in a little extra, you can stop off at the butterfly and orchid farms or a snake farm on the way back to Chiang Mai.