By far, my favorite activity in Asia has been riding elephants in Chiang Mai. I had one it before with my parents, so back in June when Michelle’s plans to go to Chiang Mai almost fell through, I jumped in as a replacement friend!
Nothing like having 2 days notice and riding elephants, no?
I tried booking the same spot I went to last time, but they didn’t get back to me until after another place had replied, and being last minute, I had already paid the deposit, so we went with Thai Elephant Home instead. (If you’re curious which place to choose, I compared them at the bottom of this post.)
Now for the pictures! That’s the fun part no?
Thai Elephant Home was considerably more expensive than Ran-Tong Elephant Training Camp, that I used back in January. And months later, I still don’t know which place I would recommend over the other. There are considerable differences between the two places, but is it worth the extra money? I’m not sure.
Ran-Tong was definitely more bare bones, more rustic, a much smaller company. It was also 2 people per elephant vs one person per elephant. The trail was shorter, and the spot you went to swim in the water with them much smaller, not fitting more than 2 elephants at a time. At Thai Elephant Home, you spend all day away from camp, but it was a much more grueling hike (for my parents who decided to walk more than ride – they’re old and more afraid of heights, probably because a fall would do more damage to their bones than mine – Ran-Tong was much easier for them to tag along with us).
At Thai Elephant Home you also took a mud bath with the elephants which was a blast, but to be honest, being covered in wet mud on top of an elephant who was also covered in wet mud, was not a good combo. I was slipping and sliding, and while on the way there I was having a great time, on the way from the mud to the river (all downhill) I was quite terrified, as I literally almost fell twice (my elephant liked grabbing plants from the side of the path and the jerking of her body, just made me slip a lot).
At the end? They were BOTH worth it. I don’t think you can go wrong with either of the places. And the lunch at both spots was amazing Pad Thai, so you can’t go wrong!
All I hope is that this was not my last time riding elephants. I think 2012 would be a year I’ll always look back to fondly: I rode elephants twice, went diving with sharks and manta rays in Palau, and went to so many new places! The year is not even over and I’m already nostalgic!