Patara Elephant Farm was THE MUST DO in Chiang Mai as per my friend Nanda (same friend who suggested 137 Pillars House and awesome cooking class). And she bugged me (rightfully so) until I booked it, as it must be done way in advance (sells out rapidly). I purposely didn’t do a ton of research (very unlike me) as was hoping for an element of surprise. All I knew is that we would see and hang out with elephants for a day.
And it turns out it was one of the most fun days we’ve had and an absolutely memorable experience. Patara Elephant Farm is one of a few places where you get to interact with elephants this way. Most tours allow you to see the elephant from a distance, maybe at most pet one. At Patara you become the elephant’s caretaker for the day. They are an amazing organization; they rescue elephants (two were rescued that week from the Bangkok circus) and care for them. And we tourists are the help, and we pay them money to do that. At first $BAT 5,800 seems pricey (US$180) but it is more than worth it as they use those funds to care for about 50 elephants (two babies were born recently).
The day starts with a briefing to explain the agenda for the day. Then you are assigned your elephant (I had a 28 year-old mom and baby) and first step, feed them a big basket of bananas (with skin) and sugarcane. The elephants immediately starts liking you of course, as you fed them yummy sweets (I function the same exact way). The Thai diet doesn’t seem to follow the “sugar is evil” trend , and that is why food is so tasty (more on the topic from my cooking class post, to come…).
You then get a lesson on how to analyse your elephant’s overall wellbeing:
- How did they sleep
- Poo texture and what it means
- Sweating patters and health implications
Very human like……
You then brush them and remove the dirt from their back and proceed to ride them to a waterfall where you bathe them and hang out in the water with your elephant and others in your group (we were 8).
And the day continues with more riding and finally feeding the caretakers (aka us tourists) with a feast, in the jungle) of all yummy Thai foods. Fried chicken, many varieties of sticky rice (purple, coconut, with egg custard) and tons of other Thai treats such as steamed cakes, fried cakes and fruits.
Our lunch (and the Elephants wanted some of it soon after we finished)
We got on our elephants again (and they don’t seem to mind, or so we are told) to the last stop, to see the two babies and hang out with them.
It was a magical day!