Elephants, Scooters, and Temples

We had a pleasant 12 hour train ride from Ayutthaya to Chiang Mai.  Early on the ride the country side resembled northern California with its flat valley full of rice fields.  Similar to driving up Hwy 99, except for the occasional lavish temple.  As we got more north the countryside turned lush and tropical.  The train slowed as it encountered steeper hillsides to climb.  There were rivers, thick jungle, small villages, and scattered rice fields and gardens grown in small plots along the mountains.

Chiang Mai is a good sized city with its center surrounded by a moat.  We had a cute hotel (thanks Don and Marilyn) right in the middle of backpacker land with many bars, restaurants, tourist offices, and guest houses.  This was our first time seeing every menu also containing western dishes, but we continued eating the delicious inexpensive Thai food including exotic tropical fruits such as dragon fruit, minced chicken with Thai basil, red curries, and rottees (delicious crispy pancakes filled with bananas and chocolate).

We visited a temple in Chiang Mai that was located out of town on a hill.  It offered a beautiful view of the city, and once again majestic and lavish Buddhist images and sculptures.  Our second day, however, brought us one of the best days in all our travels yet, elephants.  We spent the day at the Baan Chang Elephant Park.  This organization cares for 21 elephants from all different backgrounds and of different ages.  We fed, interacted, and practiced our riding skills on elephants from the ages of 5 to 37.  These animals were amazing!  They are so strong, big yet gentle, and smart.  It was obvious Baan Chang truly cares for their elephants and does everything they can to ensure they are respected.

The elephant population has decreased drastically in Thailand and they are working to educate people and care for as many as they can.  With an animal that eats around 400 pounds of food a day, that can be challenging.  We spent our day in a group of 15 people from all over the world.  We all fed the 21 elephants bananas and sugar cane, and then learned how to get up and down off their backs.  Many places put large baskets on elephants for people to ride, but this damages their spines.  We were fortunate to learn to ride bare back.  The first time up was a little shaky, but we got the hang of it, and it was totally awesome!!!  After doing some practicing we were provided lunch and then headed into the jungle for our elephant ride.

The two of us shared one elephant, his name was Samong.  We were told he was a begging elephant, working the streets for food before they rescued and adopted him.  It was funny sitting high up on this elephant through the jungle.  You push your hands on his head for balance in the front and hold a rope placed around his body for the person in back.  The guides told us the elephanats enjoy their jungle walk because they get to eat along the way.  Samong proved that and lifted his trunk high up grabbing bamboo whenever he could.  After the jungle ride we gave Samong a bath in the pond.  The elephants loved playing and being splashed in the water.  They seem to even enjoy shooting water out of their trunk at you.  It was truly an unforgettable day that we will always cherish.

We then traveled north to a smaller town of Pai.  We are staying in a small bamboo bungalow right in the center of town surrounded by green hillsides, and near the river.  We visited another temple on the hill, and got great views of the area, but we wanted to see more so we rented a scooter.  The last two days have been a blast driving around through the countryside seeing small towns, visiting waterfalls and checking out different viewpoints.  It is such a great way to see things, because you can cover a good distance, but can stop whenever you want to take a picture.  We couldn’t pass it up especially for only 7 dollars a day!!!  We’ve enjoyed more delicious food here including our Thai favorites as well as burgers from the Thai Burger Queen, and delicious pita and hummus from Mama Falafel.  To top it off we ended the day with a wonderful massage from one of the many local masseuses.  Tomorrow we continue to head north to an even smaller town of Mae Hong Son.  There we hope to start doing some hiking and visit more remote villages.  So far we are having an amazing Thai experience!

Thank you all for your comments!  We love reading them!!

Chiang Mai

Adam Feeding a Baby Elephant

A Little Shaky at First

Still Practicing

With Samong in the Jungle

He Loves to Eat

Fun in the Water


Our Bamboo Bungalow

Pai River

Scooter Duo


Categories: South East Asia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

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7 thoughts on “Elephants, Scooters, and Temples

  1. Diane

    WOW!! WOW!!! AND MORE WOWS!!!! I am speechless. well almost. Seeing you guys riding through the jungle on Samong gave me a thrill I can’t describe. Samong is soooo cute. I want to come to Thailand and take care of the rescued elephants. I think Truman would like to play with Samong.
    Travelling on the scooter sounds awesome. What a great way to see the the country which looks beautiful. Keep those smiles on your faces.

    I love you both so much!! Continued safe and exciting travels!
    love mom

  2. Vince

    Very Indiana Jones, love it. Looks like a great place to be. Nice bungalow

  3. Marilyn and Don

    Glad you enjoyed the Chaing Mai hotel . The temple on the hill is amazing and beautiful to visit. We had a very similar experience at a smaller Elephant preserve – it was a highlight for us too! They are so huge and gentle ! Hope you get to hike in and stay over a night or two at a mountain village – another lifetime experience for us ! Wish we had been younger or more courageous to rent a scooter. Safe and happy travels .

  4. Mary Reding

    Hi Joya and Adam
    I enjoy so much “traveling” with you! I loved reading about your experience with the Elephants. Have you read the children’s book, Faithful Elephants, it is a true story, I read it once to my third graders not knowing the story and I never read it again…it isn’t good for 8 year olds to see their teacher cry reading a book! Safe travels! Love, Mary Reding

  5. don morrow

    You are bringing our trip to Thailand back to life. Really enjoying your posts. Make sure you spend a few nights with a hill tribe. That was a real highlight for me. I think we went to the Ja Bu See (sp?) village. Our guides name was Poo out of Chang Rae. The village spiritual leader was Aku. I think it was a Lahu village.

  6. Kristin

    Amazing adventures!! I love that the baby elephant is gigantic. and your bamboo bungalow is SWEET! Miss you guys, have fun be safe! xoxo

  7. Joe Fischer

    This must be the most memorable experience yet!!!

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