Playing with Elephants and Walking Around Chiang Mai City Center and Night Bazaar

Chiang Mai Travel Blog

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Elephants getting bathed

What an amazing day in Chiang Mai! This place is great! I like it a million times better than Bangkok. Though Bangkok was full of tourists and relied on the tourism just as much, Chiang Mai absolutely caters to tourists.

On Wednesday morning, I woke up early and went down to the breakfast buffet bar. I had made to order eggs, with toast and fruit. The food was delicious again. Everyone was so friendly and accommodating at the breakfast bar.

Then I went to wait in the lobby for my tour guide. My tour guide, Thas, was so friendly. She was the first female tour guide I’ve had on all my trips. She was young and knowledgeable, though her English was a bit patchy.

Bath time!
In our van, there were already several other tourists that had paid for the tour. There was a retired couple from Japan that had been living in Chiang Mai for 7 years now, a younger couple, two girls from London and another solo traveler, Keiko from Japan. It was great because Keiko and I became friends and we were paired off on many of the activities. She was very friendly and we got to know one another well.

I signed up to go an Elephant Safari Excursion today. I had initially wanted to go to the Elephant Nature Reserve, based on a friend’s recommendation, but when I found out they didn’t have any tours there until late March, I found another tour to another elephant camp.

My friend had recommended the Elephant Nature Reserve because she said it’s the most humane. I can understand now why she thinks that.

Done bathing

I decided to go on a full day tour, which included a trip to an Elephant Camp at Mae Taeng where we would see an elephant show, participate in an ox-cart ride through the village, go elephant riding, enjoy a traditional Thai buffet lunch, go on a bamboo raft ride through the river, and visit an Orchid Farm.

Though I was excited to see the elephants at the camp, I could tell the elephants provide the source of income for many of the villagers in this area so I wondered if the elephants were being exploited.

When we arrived at the elephant camp, we got to see the elephants being bathed. Then they paraded out for an audience of about 100 tourists welcoming all of us to the camp.

The elephant got so close... it also snatched one of the tourist's camera, which the trainer was able to retrieve
The elephants showed off all of their talents to the tourists. They played soccer and basketball, they laid on their sides, they painted (yes - they actually painted drawings that were better than anything I could ever paint myself), and showed us more tricks and skills. Then the elephants got to greet people and some of us got on the elephant backs (the elephant trainers made it very clear tips were appreciated). Keiko and I took turns taking pictures of each other on the elephants. This particular elephant camp has 57 elephants and in February a baby elephant was born. Actually the baby was born on Valentine’s Day, so they named him Valentine.

Thais told us Chiang Mai relies heavily on tourism. She said people in Chiang Mai either live off of farming, or tourism. One of the things she mentioned was that Thai women want to be fair skinned; for them being lighter was more desirable, so she didn’t like being in the sun, because she didn’t want to get any darker.

It's so close
It made me think of all the women I know in the US who pay to go tanning. One always wants what they can’t have. She said it was shocking to her to know that people paid to get darker. Ha!

After the elephant rides, we got to ride a cart pulled by oxes. We went through the village and got to see how people live in the village. We then rode elephants for about an hour. The elephants walked across rivers and through villages with us on their backs. Each elephant had a mahout (elephant trainer) riding on the front on top of him to ensure the elephant took us exactly where we were supposed to be dropped off. We visited a souvenir shop afterwards. Then lunch was served. It was a buffet style lunch that had all kinds of foods. The meal was good. There was a little bit of everything to suit anyone’s taste.

From there, we got to ride on bamboo rafts through the river.

Getting ready for their audience
The bamboo rafts were pretty sturdy too. Each raft held four to six tourists and then one tour guide paddling in the front and another tour guide paddling and steering in the back.

I was on the raft with Keiko and the two girls from London. The ride through the river was so relaxing. I could have easily fallen asleep on that raft.

When we finished riding the rafts down the river, we were taken to an Orchid Farm. The flowers there were so pretty.

I really enjoyed the tour. We were dropped back off at the hotel at around 4 pm. I decided now I wanted to go walk around the city center and the Night Bazaar.

The guy at the front desk told me to catch a “Red Car” to the city center.

Welcoming the audience
I was not sure what a “Red Car” was so he walked outside with me. I learned, there are red trucks (sort of like closed pickup trucks) that ride around and pick people up and drop them off where they want to go. There’s a buzzer on the pickup truck that allows people to ring it when they want to get off. It was neat. It’s sort of an in between a bus, a tuk-tuk and taxi. Neat! You just flag one down, tell him where you want to go, offer him a price and he’ll take you. But he picks other people up headed in that direction along the way. If you’re going somewhere out of his way, he won’t let you jump on the back of his truck. It’s a better version of hitch-hiking, I guess.

So I quickly found a “Red Car” (they’re literally all red) to take me to the city center for 20 baht (not even 1 US dollar). Great!

Wow! What a lively city.

The elephants parading
I walked around and checked out the thousand stands selling food, souvenirs, postcards, clothing and more. I saw a million and one massage stands and shops that offer one hour massages for less than 5 US dollars (I may have to get a massage tomorrow) and then walked through the Night Bazaar. This is just more stands, more tourists, bars, coffee shops, food shops and vendors… in great abundance everywhere!

There were people everywhere. Not once did I feel unsafe. This town is such a tourist hot spot. I stopped at one corner café that overlooked a busy intersection, sat at an outdoor table, ordered an egg roll meal with an iced coffee and took my time eating, people watching and enjoying the warm weather.

Then when I was ready, I walked back towards the hotel, and flagged a red car down. One stopped for me quickly and took me tight back to the hotel for 20 baht.

I had such an enjoyable day! I like Chiang Mai!

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Elephants getting bathed
Elephants getting bathed
Bath time!
Bath time!
Done bathing
Done bathing
The elephant got so close... it al…
The elephant got so close... it a…
Its so close
It's so close
Getting ready for their audience
Getting ready for their audience
Welcoming the audience
Welcoming the audience
The elephants parading
The elephants parading
Laying on his side
Laying on his side
Giving a massage
Giving a massage
Massage time
Massage time
The elephant putting the hat on hi…
The elephant putting the hat on h…
Getting ready to draw for us
Getting ready to draw for us
Our elephants drawing
Our elephant's drawing
Continuing his drawing
Continuing his drawing
Hes drawing so well
He's drawing so well
Looking good
Looking good
Isnt that nice (nicer than what I…
Isn't that nice (nicer than what …
Getting on the elephant
Getting on the elephant
Another elephants drawing
Another elephant's drawing
Hoping I dont fall off
Hoping I don't fall off
All the elephants allowing tourist…
All the elephants allowing touris…
Riding through the camp
Riding through the camp
Ox cart riding
Ox cart riding
The village
The village
Elephant riding through the water
Elephant riding through the water
Keiko and Me
Keiko and Me
The two of us again
The two of us again
More village scenery
More village scenery
Local village
Local village
This elephant behind us was so stu…
This elephant behind us was so st…
Baby Valentine and his mom
Baby Valentine and his mom
Baby Valentine
Baby Valentine
Isnt he cute?
Isn't he cute?
Keiko and me
Keiko and me
Local villager eating while on an …
Local villager eating while on an…
Riding our bamboo raft
Riding our bamboo raft
The four of us with our tour guide
The four of us with our tour guide
Hoping I dont tip us all over
Hoping I don't tip us all over
With a local boy selling bracelets
With a local boy selling bracelets
At the Orchid Farm
At the Orchid Farm
Flowers
Flowers
Walking around in Chiang Mai
Walking around in Chiang Mai
A local setting up his art to sell…
A local setting up his art to sel…
Tuk tuk driving down the street tr…
Tuk tuk driving down the street t…
On the wall at the entrance to one…
On the wall at the entrance to on…
Chiang Mai
photo by: Stevie_Wes