Adventures as Miss Saigon

Archive for the ‘animals’ Category

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I woke up this morning at 5:30am to be able to watch the sunrise and see the park come to life. It was incredible sitting on the viewing platform, pretty much alone, as the sun began to shed light on the beautiful park.

After breakfast, we met our new guide, Adam, for another morning walk. We started out visiting the 2 month old baby elephant and his mother. I could watch these two for ages…the mother had been injured by a landline and has a deformed foot, but is so sweet and I fed her all of my bananas…the baby is so playful and curious, rolling around, playing and nursing, and really just being a baby! Our walk lasted about 2 hours, in which time I fed an elephant directly into her mouth, bought an elephant carving from one of the mahouts, and got reasonably close to Hope (one of the naughty boys, whose mahout has to ride him – he’s the only one allowed to ride – in order to kept control of Hope, and the mahout hasn’t had a day off in 3 years because he’s the only one able to control Hope) and to Jungle Boy (another naughty boy, with big white tusks, who is currently in heat and chained up because of it, as he will apparently hump everyone!).

After lunch, I volunteered to help chop fruit (with a machete!) for the elephants…Adam stuck with us, and we had many laughs while chopping pumpkins, watermelons and pineapples. A quick visit back to the dogs was followed by a bit of ‘trekking’ with Adam through some fields, across a bridge and around a village. Adam had us trying fruits that he was picking off the trees that we passed…so fun!

The day was wonderful and relaxing and I didn’t want it to end. I’m sad that my time at the elephant park has ended, but so happy to have had the experience! I have so much respect for these amazing creatures and the people who work everyday to protect them. I cannot believe how close they allowed (and encouraged) us to get, how many positive opportunities I had to engage with the ellies, and how graceful these massive creatures really are. And, as a side note, the training principles used at the park are all positive behaviour strategies…so amazing to see what I do on a daily basis being implemented with elephants!!

Back in Chiang Mai, I grabbed a quick shower, dropped off $3 worth of laundry, changed a bit of money and had a bite to eat. On the way back to my guesthouse, I ran into one of the guys from my hostel in Bangkok! Such a big city, but small world 🙂

Off to bed soon, as this girl is exhausted! One more day in Thailand!!

This morning it was difficult to get out of bed…it was so cold! I was extremely thankful I showered last night and didn’t need to risk a cold shower on top of things! I changed quickly and made my way out to the elephants by 7am. Breakfast (as with all of our other meals) have been vegetarian, quite tasty and eaten in view of the elephants. After breakfast, I snuck off to have a little one on one time with the 2 month old baby elephant before the crowds of day visitors arrived. At 8:30, we met Bee, our guide, and began our 2.5 hour walk around the fields and property here at Elephant Nature Park. We visited with group after group of elephants and their mahouts. At times, we stood and watched from a distance, sometimes we got up close and personal with the ellies, and other times we had to quickly get out of the way of on coming elephant traffic! The whole time Bee was answering questions and telling stories about each elephant and their relationships with others at the park. We arrived back at the main building in time for the elephant’s snack and our lunch.

Bath time this afternoon at the river was just as amazing as yesterday. I jumped right in with my bucket and got a little wet in the process. Lots of time was spent observing these amazing creatures in such a natural setting.

After bath time, our group walked over to the dog part of the park, where about 400 dogs and puppies are kept. Some have tragic stories of abuse, some were rescued from the Bangkok floods, and some were born at the park. We met Cody (him and his wife are both from Canada) who showed us around and introduced us to all the dogs. On their website, you can sponsor a dog for 1000B (about $35usd), so I’ve decided instead of buying treats and toys for my dog, I’m going to sponsor a dog here (seeing as I don’t think I’d be allowed to bring one home!). I’ll post their link here soon.

I’ve just come back to my hut for a shower, and will head to dinner shortly. Tomorrow, our new guide, Adam, is going to take us on another morning walk and then I think I’ll be helping out in the elephant kitchen washing and chopping fruit! And then sadly, tomorrow afternoon, I’ll have to leave this amazing place.

I’m up to about 500 or 600 pictures, so as soon as I get some decent wifi (likely while I’m back in Chiang Mai), I’ll start uploading some pics. I’m so privileged to be having this incredible experience!!

Elephants only sleep for 4 hours a night…so it’s been no surprise that I’ve woken up to them trumpeting and to dogs barking! It’s truly surreal!

I’m struggling to get out of bed right now because it’s so cold!! But I’m so excited for the day to come!

What an incredible first day at the Elephant Nature Park!! I was picked up from my guesthouse around 8am, and we drove for about an hour or an hour and a half, in what I can only guess to be a northward direction. Along the way, I chatted to the other park goers and we watched a short show that focused on Lek, the woman that runs the Elephant Nature Park, and all of her work here. I couldn’t help but get caught up in the stories of the elephants, and I found myself crying in a car full of strangers.

Upon arrival into this lush green mountainous area, we were led straight out into the elephant’s field. There are only 5 of us in our group (all staying over for 2 nights), and we have a guide all to ourselves. Bee, our guide, introduced us to some of the elephants up close and showed us how to feed them. We were encouraged to get close and to touch these incredible creatures. We had the absolute pleasure of watching a 2 month old baby elephant and his mother. The baby was nursing and running and playing. Adorable! The elephants here ranged from the 2 month old baby to 90 year old grandma elephants. Shortly after the elephant’s snack of watermelon, bananas and pumpkins, it was time for our delicious vegetarian lunch.

After lunch, it was bath time!! The elephants were waiting in the river for us to arrive. We took turns splashing buckets of river water on our elephants and rubbing the dirt off, only to watch them go and get muddy again afterwards!! We watched them from “street level” and above on a viewing platform.

Lek herself arrived while we were watching 3 or 4 elephants get treats from one of the handlers. I was lucky enough to have my picture taken with her and the elephants. She is an amazingly kind and gentle woman, and the elephants all seem to know her. After another snack, we went to watch another video about elephant conservation and the difficult lives most of these elephants start out with. Yet another tearjerker for me.

We were then allowed to check into our rooms. Up a few steps, looking out onto the elephant field, I have a single room with private bathroom. It’s basic, but everything that I could ask for. I had a quick shower before dinner was served. We sat with beers and delicious food, and watched the sun set on the elephants and their park.

The elephants at this park all seem to have sad stories and beginnings. Lek has rescued these creatures and is allowing them to live out their lives the way they should be…as friends of humans, and as naturally as possible. All of the elephants have mahouts, men that bond with and take care of the elephants. It was amazing to watch each mahout with their elephant. You could clearly see the bond between the two.

It’s now 8pm and I’m tucked in for the night. Breakfast is served at 7am before we set off on a walk around 8am. Such an amazing day, so many fabulous pictures already, and 2 more full days of elephant fun!! Can’t wait to see what is in store for tomorrow…!!

Just got spooked in the bathroom by a little gecko. There are worse things, like cockroaches (ahm Wendy and Laura!) but he still startled me by poking out from behind the bathroom mirror!

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This is not the little guy that spooked me…I saw this one coming!

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