Elephant Camp!

Chiang Rai 327 We flew from Bangkok north to Chiang Rai, Thailand, for a few days highlighted by elephant camp. Elephant Camp?!?! Well, we stayed at a great spot, the Anantara, which has a great facility and a family of some fifteen elephants, complete with skilled Mahouts, or trainers. And there were lots of other great things to do in the area.

Chiang Rai 052 We learned a ton (well, 2-3 tons, the weight of an adult elephant) about Asian elephants during our stay in Chiang Rai. They are smart animals, with remarkable agility. Just watching their trunks was an experience in itself. They had so much dexterity in their trunk, and feeding them bananas or sugar cane was fascinating to observe.

Chiang Rai 259 Elizabeth, Gibson, and Sterling not only rode the elephants, they learned how to command, wash, and train them. I, meanwhile, opted to be the family photographer, since I’m not sure my legs and back would ever be the same after trying to ride one of these beasts! But the kids loved every minute with the elephants, and Elizabeth showed remarkable agility in getting on and off of them.

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At the end of one trek, all riders and elephants also went swimming, an unexpected (or, to see Elizabeth’s face, shocking) development at the end of one trek. The elephants often disappeared beneath the surface of the water, leaving the rider soaked up to the neck, and hoping the water wasn’t too deep!

Chiang Rai 298 While our time with the elephants was the highlight of Chiang Rai, we did other great things there, and loved our stay in this beautiful area of Thailand. The area is called the Golden Triangle, because it’s where three countries — Thailand, Laos, and Burma — adjoin. One morning, we managed to spend time in all three countries, including making our way through immigration to and from Burma (no easy matter these days!). We were struck by how different the people are in each country despite the clear proximity.

Chiang Rai 287 While in Chiang Rai, we visited a great non-profit focusing on children at risk due to the child slave market in Thailand. All too often, parents or guardians will sell young children to unscrupulous parties, either for slave labor or sex trade. These “caretakers,” either through ignorance, desperate poverty, and unfathomable greed, will sell children to perfect strangers, sentencing these kids to a life miserable beyond words. The non-profit we visited identifies family situations where, for all sorts of reasons, have children likely to be victimized. They have a great school for these kids, educate them, give them great life skills, and take pride that many return to their communities to become leaders. It was a ray of hope in a very dark side of life in this part of the world.

Chiang Rai 335 The Golden Triangle historically has been a center of opium production. The government here has been successful in getting many farmers to switch from poppy to other crops. And they built an amazing, but perplexing, museum here called the Opium Museum. We visited it, found it educational, architecturally gorgeous, and . . . deserted. We were almost the only people there, for a museum that was larger than Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. But if you’re in this area with kids, and you want an effective way to educate them about the dangers of addictive drugs, this is a must stop.

Chiang Rai 317 One morning, we went on a great nature hike, covering a couple of great spots in the Chiang Rai area. We saw 53 different bird species in a morning, including the elusive Hoopoe (a truly bizarre bird) and a Coppersmith’s Barbet. The kids continued their quest for finding snake’s in the wild, and again came up empty-handed (a mixed blessing!).

With some sadness, we left Chiang Rai to move to Chiang Mai, also in northern Thailand. But this area is really a great place to visit. The air is crystal clear, it has beautiful plant and animal life, mountains, and the people are so nice. Thailand is a great destination, and we’re thrilled that we are still spending another week and one-half here!

Check out our Thailand photos and videos on Thailand, including some great elephant videos. For instance, you can see an elephant’s amazing trunk, Elizabeth mounting this beast from the side and the front (my favorite!), Gibson climbing aboard including the side mount, Sterling climbing aboard, and the one video not to be missed — the afternoon swimming party!!

One Response to “Elephant Camp!”

  1. Amy McGreevy Says:

    HOW BOUT THOSE Red Sox?? I am sure that y’all are celebrating even if it is from a far. The blog has been great and really interesting. Hope everyone is doing well and stay safe!! love to all, amy

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