Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Mae Ping Elephant Camp (Chiang Mai)

Most Elephant Camps usually put on Elephant shows where the Elephants show off their various skills, and most even have Elephant rides where tourists ride the Elephants for an hour or two through the jungle surrounding the camps. The work load on the Elephants now is far less demanding that what it would have been hauling logs all day in the forests, and the monies raised by the Elephant Camp entrance fees and sale of food, drinks and souvenirs provide the families of the handlers with an income plus funds to care for the Elephants.

One such elephant camp just a short drive North of Chiang Mai is the Mae Ping Elephant Camp.

On a typical day, your tour operator will pick you up from your hotel and drive you out to the Mae Ping Elephant Camp some 60klms North of Chiang Mai in the Chiang Dao District. On arrival you can check out the canteen and souvenir shop (ps. they also stock film and camera batteries in case you need some). Have a wander around the facility and then get seated for the Elephant show.

Elephant show. The Mahouts have trained their Elephants to show off their incredible talents. They can dance, play musical instruments and play soccer and basketball. You should see how far an Elephant can kick an oversized soccer ball. Volunteers are taken from the audience for an unforgettable massage where you lie on a mat on the ground and the Elephant uses his foot to give you a massage. (TIP, lie face down).

Then watch as an Elephant puts paint brush to canvas to delicately paint a picture. The finished paintings are available for sale in the souvenir shop. The Elephants display their ability to respond to the commands of the Mahouts. The agility of these huge beasts is something to see. After the show you can take photos with yourself and the Elephants.

Elephant ride After the Elephant show you go up to the mounting platforms and hop on the back of you Elephant and experience an unforgettable ride on Elephant back into the surrounding jungle for one hour.  Along the way you will be greeted by Lisu hill tribes villagers perched up in tree platforms selling sugar cane sticks for the Elephants. (TIP, make sure you have a few 10THB notes or coins in your pocket). You visit the Lisu village on your ride.

Rafting and Ox Cart. After enjoying the company of the Elephants and your ride through the jungle, you return to the camp and hop on to long bamboo rafts for a leisurely trip down the Ping River watching the local life along the river banks. The raft ride ends at an oxen transport compound. Here you climb aboard wooden carts pulled by two strong oxen for a 20 minute ride to the Royal Ping Garden and Resort where you stop for a drink and a late buffet lunch. You will also find here for sale a collection of photos of you on the back of your Elephant that were taken by the Elephant Camp photographers during your earlier ride.

After your meal your tour operator collects you from the resort and you head back to Chiang Mai. Along the way back, depending on your tour package, you can get to stop at butterfly and orchid farms or a snake farm.

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