A Journey Through Baan Chang Elephant Park

When you think of Thailand, what comes to mind? Is it the dazzling and majestic temples, the soft sandy beaches that connect to clear seawater, or the gentle and intelligent giant friends - elephants? If you happen to be an elephant enthusiast, then you must not miss Baan Chang Elephant Park in Chiang Mai! Here, there are no elephant rides or performances. The elephants live in the most comfortable and natural way possible.

You can get up close to our giant friends, learn about the personality and past stories of each elephant, feed them their favorite bananas and sugarcane, make easily digestible desserts for them after meals, take walks with them, and even help them bathe in the water!

Baan Chang Elephant ParkBaan Chang Elephant Park

Located in the lush and serene suburbs, Baan Chang Elephant Park is approximately an hour's drive from the city center of Chiang Mai. The park adheres to the principle of prioritizing animal welfare in its operations, and as such, it does not offer any performances or riding activities that go against the natural instincts and desires of elephants. The majority of elephants living here have been "rescued" and brought to the park. Some of them bear distressing memories, having been used for tourist rides or purchased from animal show traders. Others have happier pasts, but their owners, unable to bear the pressure of caring for more elephants, specifically sought out this park, hoping their beloved elephants would receive attentive care from professionals. Each elephant has its own story, and just like humans, they possess distinct personalities.

Since all the elephants at Baan Chang Elephant Park are domesticated rather than wild, they require human care. The park assigns one caretaker, known as a "mahout" in the local language, to each elephant. These mahouts play a parental role and employ suitable methods based on the elephants' personalities and backgrounds to teach them proper and healthy behavioral habits. Here, elephants and humans rely on each other while also respecting one another.

1. Feeding the Big Eaters!

With their massive bodies, elephants require a significant intake of energy. As the guides in the elephant park explain, elephants spend around twenty hours a day feeding, which means they are constantly munching away during almost all of their waking hours! You, as the park visitors, to some extent, can be considered one-day volunteers at the park and can naturally participate in feeding these "adorable giants." But don't worry! Although the elephants are gigantic and may use their strong trunks to reach out for food, they will never harm you. The elephants here are accustomed to friendly interactions with humans, and their mahouts are also present to ensure your safety.

The park staff will provide you with enough bananas and sugarcane for each elephant. At this point, all you need to do is follow the guide's example, hold the food horizontally, and offer it to the elephants. They will gently extend their trunks and skillfully snatch the items from your hand. While you feed them, the guide will also share stories about each elephant, their temperament, and preferences, introducing them to you as if you were meeting new friends. During the feeding process, you can gently stroke their large trunks and take photos with them. If you happen to come across elephant calves, you can also try using a hose to feed them water and playfully interact with these water-loving youngsters. You can help them refresh from the heat by spraying water onto their skin.

2. Walking the Elephants!

After eating their fill and quenching their thirst, elephants also need exercise. At this point, you can follow in their footsteps and venture into the depths of the grass, experiencing the elephants' daily activities while listening to the guide's explanations to learn more about these magnificent creatures. There's no need to fear that these gentle giants will step on you - they are remarkably intelligent! If the walking route takes you through the neighbor's bamboo grove, the guide will provide you with some sugarcane to carry along, allowing you to feed the elephants on the way and prevent these playful, food-loving creatures from devouring someone else's bamboo. Once the elephants realize you have the tastier sugarcane in your hands, they won't be interested in anything else. They may even intentionally separate you from the other elephants, ensuring that all your sugarcane is exclusively for their own consumption. You can't help but marvel at their intelligence and think, "What clever creatures they are!"

Sometimes, the elephants will pause and search for mud, using their trunks to toss it onto their heads and bodies to protect themselves from flies and mosquitos. After a leisurely stroll in the sunshine, the elephants will willingly make their way to a small pond, instinctively seeking refreshment by immersing themselves in the water. Once they return to their "homes," they can't resist leaning against the walls and rubbing their backs up and down, enjoying a delightful moment of relaxation. It seems that they love such a leisurely time as you do!

Walking the ElephantsWalking the Elephants

3. Making "Dessert" for the Elephants

Just like humans need to replenish their vitamins, domestic elephants here also need to supplement their diet with nutrients they may lack. That's why you need to prepare these post-meal treats, sticky rice balls, for our big friends, along with the guidance of the tour guide. The tour guide will prepare a steaming pot of fragrant and tender sticky rice, bananas, digestive aids, and other supplements. You just need to follow the guide's lead and mix these ingredients together, shaping them into fist-sized rice balls. This a friendly reminder that sticky rice and other foods may stick to your hands. But don't worry, you can easily wash them off with soap in the nearby sink. So go ahead and confidently mash the bananas, crush the medicine, and mix them into the sticky rice!

After making the sticky rice balls, the tour guide will take you to feed the elephants with the sweet treats you've made. However, unlike feeding them bananas and sugarcane before, this time, you need to feed the sticky rice balls directly into the elephants' mouths! Yes, you read that right. You'll feed these goodies directly into the mouths of these gentle giants, ensuring they willingly consume the rice balls that might not smell appealing but are beneficial for their health, thanks to the medicine mixed in. You might feel a bit nervous and surprised, but rest assured, elephants are gentle creatures and show no interest in your hands. The guide will demonstrate how to give a command, signaling the elephants to lift their trunks and open their mouths, and then how to place the rice ball on their tongue. Once you've made your first attempt at feeding them, any fear will vanish. Although your hands may touch their tongues, once again, there's no need to be afraid. These well-trained elephants know exactly how to cooperate with your feeding.

4. Bathing Elephants in Cool Waters

As the hot afternoon sun shines, the elephants seek respite by indulging in a refreshing bath. You can choose to join their mahouts and go into the pool, which is about waist-deep, to bathe the elephants. The staff will provide you with brushes to clean elephants' skin and small buckets to pour water on. The mahouts will be by your side, guiding you on how to wash off the dirt from these magnificent creatures. If you prefer not to get into the water, that's completely fine. You can sit by the edge and capture photos of your companions bathing the elephants.

At this moment, the elephants will relax, obediently standing in the water to cool off and enjoy the bathing service provided by humans. However, this doesn't mean that elephants won't do any "mischievous" things. It's possible for them to defecate in the water. But there's no need to worry. The diet of domesticated elephants is very clean, which means their feces won't cause any discomfort for you. Additionally, there are showers available on the shore, and shower gel is provided. After coming out of the water, you can clean yourself as well.

Bathing ElephantsBathing Elephants

To ensure a comfortable experience, you are highly recommended to prepare the following items: sunglasses, insect repellent spray, bathing suits / a change of clothes, and suitable walking shoes (both flip-flops and sports shoes are acceptable). If you opt for sports shoes, you can leave them on the shore before joining the elephants in the water. Alternatively, you can wear them throughout the activity. Staff in the park will provide you with towels, shower gel, straw hats, and a set of park clothing. However, if you prefer to use your own personal items, please feel free to bring them along.

The park offers various facilities for your convenience. These include comfortable rest areas, well-equipped showers and changing rooms, restroom facilities, and an area designated for lunch. Complimentary iced water will be available for you to stay hydrated during your visit. If you wish to have other beverages, please remember to bring some cash to purchase them.

By following these recommendations and taking advantage of the park's amenities, you can fully immerse yourself in the experience and make the most of your time at Baan Chang Elephant Park!

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