Happy Travel Tuesday! I am coming to you from Singapore today. We made a last minute (literally the day before) decision to book a flight for me to join Travis on his work trip. Clearly my time in Asia was not quite over.
Before I tell you about our experience at Elephant’s Word I have a short PSA:
Before I started reading travel blogs and researching for our trip I had no idea the controversy surrounding riding elephants or elephant trekking.
It’s actually very harmful to the elephants physical and mental health. The tactics a lot of these places use to train the elephants are really appalling. Even though they are large animals their backs are actually very weak and the weight of people plus the wooden chairs they often strap on is very bad for them. If you want to read more, here are a few articles that I found on the subject.
I share these not to shame anyone who has ridden an elephant, but because I feel like it’s not well known information and I’m sure if people were educated on the effects they wouldn’t choose to continue to support this industry.
SO back to our trip- I came to the conclusion that if we were going to be spending time with elephants I wanted to make sure we did it in an ethical way. I researched and researched trying to find an ethical elephant reserve but everywhere I found was located near Chang Mai (further north than we were going). Finally, a week before our trip Shane wrote about her experience on her blog and included a link to a website that listed Thailand’s most ethical elephant camps. That’s how I found Elephant’s World, which is located about two hours outside of Bangkok.
Elephants World is a sanctuary for sick, old, abused and rescued elephants many of which were victims of the tourism industry. They take care of and nurture the elephants for the remainder of their lives. Their motto is “we work for the elephants, instead of them for us!”.
We signed up for a day program but they also have an overnight option. If you are staying in Kanchanaburi they will pick you up from your hotel, but since we were in Bangkok we had to arrange our own transportation. On their website they have a taxi service they recommend, you just have to e-mail (Jonney_taxi_guide@yahoo.com) ahead of time and set it up, which is what we did.
Going along with their motto, as a visitor to Elephants World you spend the day helping take care of the elephants in their natural habitat.
First we got assigned an elephant to feed and we were given a huge bucket of fruit and corn. Not surprisingly, elephants eat A LOT.
We were so giddy getting to be so close to such a magnificent animal.
I am not a fan of slobbery animal mouths, but Travis loves it.
We watched the elephants bathe in the river with their mahouts (elephant cowboys) and learned that the correct way to ride an elephant is up on their neck practically on their head. It’s a lot stronger than their back.
We made a GIANT batch of sticky rice to feed the elephants which we stirred with canoe paddles. Later we got to make them into giant balls mixed with vitamins to give to the older elephants. In the wild they would have eventually died because they have trouble chewing their food. But here we got to hand feed them just what they needed!
Next, we rode in the back of a truck to a farm to gather banana trees (after the mahouts chopped them down with a machete) for food as well. This was my least favorite activity since it was pouring rain during it and we were quite muddy #highmaintenanceprobs.
Our favorite part was at the end of the day. We got to get into the river with the elephants. With the help of the mahouts, we climbed on top of the elephants and carefully sat on them where it was safe. They asked if we wanted a calm or playful elephant and we both chose playful. Trav’s elephant was very playful and kept trying to buck him off which was pretty entertaining.
Honestly, it was just so cool to be surrounded by all the elephants in their natural habitat and learn about how Elephants World was taking care of them. Each one had their own story and own personality.
After spending the day loving on them it broke my heart to think about what a small percentage of all the elephants in Thailand were getting such fair treatment.
On the way home, we managed to communicate with our driver that we wanted to stop at the Bridge over the River Kwai. The bridge was built during World War 2 by Japan to connect Thailand to Burma. Many lives were lost during the construction of the bridge and the story has been featured in books and movies. There isn’t too much to do there so we just hopped out for a few photos.
To end the day, of course, a selfie over the River Kwai.
In conclusion, I would like to adopt an elephant (but I don’t think we could afford to feed one).