~Featured Writer: Carla Reinisch~
I admit, I don’t even have a bucket list, but if I were to have one, riding an elephant would certainly be on that list. But after you cross elephant riding off your bucket list, can you add it in again? And again? And again? Because a couple of weeks ago, I got to do exactly that: one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences that I want to do it more than a just few times in my life.
My husband and I are living in the Philippines for 2 years, thanks to the State Department, and since we arrived in April, we have been exploring Asia as much as we can: we got our scuba diving certification, and in the process, went to gorgeous beaches in the Philippines (and have almost 30 dives under our belt!); we visited Hong Kong, Macau, Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and already have a trip to Indonesia and Palau planned for April (who even goes to Palau?). We’re even swimming with whale sharks next month!
A year ago, I didn’t even know where I would be living, much less that I would get to not only step in Asia for the first time, but travel around this amazing continent.
So when my parents planned their visit here, and we put Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam in our itinerary, I hadn’t even heard of Chiang Mai. But once I found out that there was such a thing as elephant riding in Thailand, and that we would have to go to Chiang Mai for that, it went on our travel plans right away.
Now that we’re back after prancing around those countries for 2 weeks shopping at more street markets than we can remember, seeing the amazing temples in Bangkok, the gorgeous ruins of Siem Reap and Ayutthaya, playing with tigers in Chiang Mai (that was pretty cool too!), and dodging crazy motorcycle traffic in Ho Chi Minh (ok, so maybe this part wasn’t that much fun), we all agree: the elephants were the best part.
I knew that I didn’t want to be riding while sitting on a wooden seat (you mean I can ride bareback and lean over to give them a hug? Yes, please!), and I DEFINITELY knew I didn’t want to watch elephants paint or play soccer, so I researched places where I would get to spend the day with them without having to watch them perform. A place where we would be able to interact with them in a more natural environment. After a lot of research, I decided on Ran-Tong Elephant Training Camp. It wasn’t cheap: the money you pay helps feeding the elephant and caring for them (and they eat a LOT). But for 2,400 baht/person (about $80), it was totally worth it!
We arrived mid-morning and left late-afternoon. During that time we fed the elephants, rode them not once but THREE times (each time for about 30 minutes to an hour, honestly, I lost track), played with them in the water, and even had lunch surrounded by them.
If you’re around Southeast Asia, make sure to stop by in Chiang Mai and give them a hug for me (from my research, there are two other places that provide similar experience as Ran-Tong: Patara Elephant Farm and Thai Elephant Home – check out which one would suit you best). I’ll definitely be back one day, but until then, I’ll keep reliving that experience by looking at my pictures. Right now I’m still all giddy for being lucky enough to do this. (Oh, and don’t mind our fancy clothes, we all had to wear those snazzy outfits.)
Check out more posts from Carla at http://www.CarlaRunsTheWorld.com