If you've been reading our blog for a while you'll know we have a few adopted Chinese kids and that Justin is our longest standing child. :) Adopted as in, they come over, eat our food, play, learn English and then go home where their birth parents do all the raising children hard stuff. Justin, being the longest standing child, also has the privelage of coming over whenever he wants by rapidly knocking on our door, using our internet and calling at 8 in the morning to see if Zachary wants to play. Its precious and we love it. We love having these little ones apart of our life. We especially have found such joy in helping "raise" Justin.
Jenny and Justin
Jake, Justin, Gary and Simon
While in Chiang Mai we visited Baan Chang Elephant Park to spend a day with an elephant. All the elephants at Baan Chang have been rescued from the logging trade, where they were worked for over 8 hours a day, or from other terrible situations. We were happy to support Baan Chang Elephant Park with our business & were excited to learn about their care and love for their elephants. There are so many 'elephant encounter' experiences available in Thailand and with them comes many that are abusing their elephants. We did our research and were pumped to hang out with some happy, healthy elephants.
Οur elephant day started at our hostel, where a van with our group and tour guide, came to pick us up. Our excitement grew as soon as we got into the van as we met our awesome and funny tour guide, Off and the great group we were getting to spend the day with. After lots of laughs & an hour ride outside of Chiang Mai, we finally pulled up to the quiet Baan Chang Park.
After we all unloaded from the van and marvelled at a whole yard of elephants we were given a Baan Chang elephant uniform and introduced to the vision of the park. After some instructions, like don't hold your camera in the same hand you're holding a banana because that camera is going to get eaten, we finally got to carry over 6 huge baskets of sugar cane and bananas and feed the elephants.
These guys were hungry and not because they are underfed. Our guide told us they eat 220 to 440 pounds of bananas, sugar cane and sweet corn everyday. It seems that elephants have a sweet tooth. They also drink 225 liters of water each day. After feeding time we were taught how to get on and off the elephant and the basic commands for riding and leading an elephant. We then one by one got a chance to try what we learned before they assigned us our own elephants after lunch.Basic Commands in Thai
"how" for stop
"dee" to tell your elephant good job with a pat on the forehead
"noon lung" for sit
"pai" for go forward
"baen" for turn, while pulling the opposite ear in the opposite direction
We waited on a bench while a small herd of elephants and their keepers or mahouts walked over to us. Then one by one each person was being called to their elephant and introduced. I was waiting patiently but noticed all the big ones were already assigned. In my head I kept thinking, well also out loud I kept saying to Zachary, "I don't want a baby one! I don't want a baby one!" I mean, come on, a big elephant, they make you look good, practically a model next to the huge beast. But a baby, now come on. You don't want to be riding an elephant that is almost the same size as you. I waited and waited and waited. Zachary was called to his.
And then, last but not least, I was called to my elephant. The baby. Well an 8 year baby, but baby in elephant terms. I got the smallest of all the elephants.
But it turned out okay. He was pretty cute actually and one of the only 3 males in the park, so he had the beautiful tusks. He was also the leader of our caravan, so I had a great view of the trail.
On the trail I ended up really enjoying my little guy. He had a personality and kept grabbing dirt and water to spray on his body, and me, which was fun. And he had a special talent.
He gave elephant kisses! Which just made his baby cuteness go up. So, ya. I guess I got pretty lucky. ;)
After a trek on the trail we stopped at a pond at the front of the park for some bathing time. This was one of the best experiences while at the park. We jumped off, well climbed down after we told them to sit, the elephants, let them plunge down in the water, and then jumped back on for some scrubbing. The guides gave us buckets and scrubbers to clean the elephants with.
I highly recommend bringing a water camera!
They really are gentle giants (that is if they're not freaked out by something and running in a stampede) and I really felt that when in the water with them. It was just such a cool experience to sit on them, lay on them, touch their face and just be up close and personal with them. We love it.
My guy once again stole the cute card by constantly sucking water off of my clothes. He did it the whole time! And you know because of that long trunk, anywhere I'd go he'd reach out and suck the water off. It was cute.
We had such a fantastic time at Baan Chang Elephant Park. If you are ever in Chiang Mai we highly recommend it! Thank you Baan Chang for allowing us to have such a great time with your elephants!
Interesting Tidbits we learned while at Baan Chang & about Baan Chang
Elephants really do have great memories. They never forget any person that rides on them. If you come back a few years later, they will remember. Please don't ask me how they know this.
Elephants are afraid of things they can't see. Off told us a story about one of their elephants getting scared by a lizard on a tree and causing a whole stampede as he ran away and the other elephants followed.
Each elephant has a care giver that it has chosen. The caregiver and elephants relationship is extremely close. We could definitely see this while at the park. The caregivers were so comfortable with their elephants and the elephants often looked to their care giver for approval and direction.
The elephants are chained by one leg for their safety and human safety (see the stampede story over a lizard above). These elephants are not wild elephants and are not "wild smart," if you will. Get it, you know like "street smart." Ha haaa. If they get loose they often come back with deep cuts on their faces & bodies. Also, if any of the elephants get loose and wonder off into a neighbors property there is a hefty fine for every tree that they break. The only times the elephants can roam free are when their caregivers are with them. Caregivers often walk them and tend to them throughout the day.
The baby elephants wear cow bells around their neck so that when they get loose in the forest they can hear them.
Riding in a basket on an elephants back does great damage to elephants who are in the tourism trade. One elephant that Baan Chang rescued could no longer stand because of the countless times too many people were loaded into the basket on his back. Baan Chang had to harness him up in a standing position until he recovered.
2 People, Full day, 1 elephant per person