Riding Elephants in Chiang Mai, Thailand!

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?

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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!


Filed under Asia, Pictures, Travel, Travel Review, Traveling in Asia, Trips!

7 responses to “Riding Elephants in Chiang Mai, Thailand!

  1. feckthisshit

    That’s a pretty good year alright!! What was it like diving with sharks?

  2. Michelle

    Love this Post!!! About time it went up 😉

  3. Melissa Lowe


    To those travelers who might be concerned about the suffering and cruelty to elephants “trained” for tourists to ride, please take a moment to read the above information. I, too, thought it might be “fun” to ride an elephant when I visited Thailand, but quickly decided on more humane, compassionate alternatives.

    • Considering elephants in Thailand used to be used for logging, and when that was banned many died because they stopped being fed, riding elephants at humane places (not at places where you watch shows like elephant painting and soccer playing), it’s keeping them well fed, healthy, and they still roam around in the wild at night, getting to graze, and not being killed by the locals or starving to death.

      If you have never spent a day riding elephants at one of the places I have, I would not judge without actually seeing how the elephants are being treated. I’ve been to two different places and there was no sign of anything inhumane. All the places were very much bare bones, and you could see that all the resources they got from the tourists were being spent in taking care of the elephants. With a maximum of 1-2 people PER elephant a day, you can’t possibly tell me they’re being treated inhumanely, specially if you have witnessed it yourself.

  4. Great blog post, Carla. I’ll never forget my own day at Thai Elephant Home! I picked them for their focus on sustainability. You weren’t paired with Kapong by chance? She’s quite fond of ripping trees from the ground in the banana orchard. I also had a terrifying descent, but the experience was amazing. Also love seeing “Easy” again- he’s my fave!

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