Saturday 19 August, showers, mainly fine, 27°
Warning: this blog post contains lots of photos of cute and cuddly Elephants!
We were up early at 6:30 this morning, down for breakfast then waited in reception for our Elephant Sanctuary van to arrive. We were picked up at 8:15am in a pickup truck bus. This pickup took us all the way to the Elephant Camp, arriving at 10am. On our truck was a family from California and a couple from Leeds. When we arrived at camp there was another truck load of people there; so about 20 people in total. The road up into the hills where the camp was located was pretty windy and the last part down into the camp was a wet muddy dirt road.
We had a brief talk about the elephants in the herd, elephant safety and what we were going to do for the day. We were in Camp 4 for the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary organisation, they have 9 camps in total. There were 10 elephants, including 4 pregnant females, and a 4 month old baby. This baby was the only male in the group; the others had been sent away because they kept getting the females pregnant, and they didn't want any more pregnant ones at the moment.
We started by feeding the elephants some bananas and sugar cane then we just had time to mingle and interact with them. Lunch was at 12pm ( 4 dishes cooked on site ) and then we had free time before some people chose to bath with the elephants in the mud spa and the river. Some more free time followed before it was time to say goodbye at 3pm and head back up the track and back to Chiang Mai.
Spending a few hours with these big gentle creatures will probably be the highlight of the trip ( and certainly one of the highlights of my life), no matter what else happens. Having a baby to play with was even more special as he was just happy running around interacting with people, shaking hands with his trunk and trying to put peoples arms in his mouth. And the mahouts seemed to care a great deal about the elephants and their welfare which was reassuring after all the horror stories you read about mistreatment of these animals.
What struck / surprised me the most about our interaction with them was how aware they were of us and how careful they were when they were around us. A couple of times an elephant tried to walk through me but as soon as I reached out and put my hand on it's forehead it just stopped and moved around me.
So here are some elephant photos.
Anyway we found ourselves back at our hotel in Chiang Mai at about 5pm, so we had a rest until about 6pm then walked to Wat Saen Fang to have a look around, then on to the Night Bazaar to look around the market stalls and then we grabbed some dinner in the food market area ( yummy skewers, and then some crepes ), watched a bit of Thai dancing, and then back to the hotel at about 8:30pm.
It is noticeable how much cooler it is in Chiang Mai in the mornings and evenings, as the temperature drops to 24/24°, as opposed to Myanmar and even Bangkok where it stays around the 28/29° mark.