Tourism in Southeast Asia has been huge for many years and when people think of Thailand, they generally assume Elephant Trekking as a tourist attraction. I had many reservations about taking part in this type of excursion because I know many of these companies will do anything to make a dollar – regardless of the elephants well-being.
However, I still wanted to see what the hype was about. After my experience at the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage in Sri Lanka, I made it my mission to research as many hours as needed to find the best organization.
My friend Adrienne and I planned a day trip with Eddy’s Elephants in Chiang Mai. I read multiple reviews, contacted a few companies, looked at the calendars and this was the best option for us. I can truly say I was pleasantly surprised at how this whole day went.
We were picked up from our hotel around 9am and drove about 2 hours outside of Chiang Mai. Chiang Mai is in the northern region of Thailand. It’s known for it’s jungles, mountain trekking, elephants, food, and culture. Going far outside the city center eased my mind. Like I’ve previously written, elephants should NOT be wandering around a busy city.
We stopped at a fruit market and bought so many bananas for these beasts before we changed into our less than attractive mahout attire. If you want to take cute pictures with elephants, remember that no one looks cute in a shirt 5x too big and fleece capri pants. Not one single person.
We learned basic commands we should use while trekking. Stop, go, turn right/left, and the one phrase I wish I remembered: GET ME OFF THIS THING!!!!
We practiced climbing on the back, walking around for 2 minutes, and then we fed them all the bananas in the world. They eat quick too – not very picky about fresh fruit. They eat it all.
Next was the 45 minutes of trekking aka praying to Buddha that I don’t get thrown off a cliff. One of the criteria for a good organization was riding the elephants “bare back,” which is better for them. Sometimes you’ll see elephants carrying 2-3 people on benches tied to their backs. But, with bare back riding, there isn’t anything to hold on to. So, if you’re on the biggest elephant in the entire place and you’re doing the splits, you will have many thoughts about how you’ll end up on the show “1001 Ways to Die.”
After sheer panic and a sore bum, we made it to the river. We were taught that the elephant will lower to it’s knees and you’ll slide off, THEN it’ll lay over on it’s side for you to splash it. That was not the case for our sweet girl. She saw the water, and fell over in one full motion. Here I am, sliding underneath a full grown elephant and landing on another elephants face while it’s being splashed. As I went underwater, the other elephant got startled and tried to get up quickly. PURE CHAOS! The mahouts were yelling and running to me and Adrienne to get us out of the water, and it was then that I made the decision to never ever ever go elephant trekking again.
After the shock wore off, I went back in the water and splashed the elephants for about an hour. This hour was much needed because it made up for the trauma I experienced the rest of the day.
Overall, I highly highly recommend Eddy’s Elephants if you’re in Chiang Mai. These elephants were SO well taken care of. They were playful, happy, extremely loved, and force was never used to make them do anything. The mahouts truly love their elephants. You could see it. They were territorial over their elephants and were very picky about how they wanted their elephant to be treated. You really can’t ask for much more than that when visiting these kinds of places.
I will never ride an elephant ever again, but it’s something I crossed off the bucketlist and was worth the bruises and tender tush.