For several years I'd dreamt of traveling in Thailand. I'd dreamt of meeting and playing with elephants in the jungle. After years of putting this dream on the back-burner it was time to finally make it happen.
In May of 2016, the plane touched down in Chiang Mai, Thailand and I knew it would be a place I would fall in love with. I'd already heard many stories about Northern Thailand, but there was an energy that I felt drawn towards without even having stepped foot off the plane.
There is a small village approximately 60 km north of Chiang Mai that rescues and cares for abused elephants. Unknown to many, elephants are used as props and attractions for tourists in places like Thailand, where they are used for rides. Elephants are not meant to carry weight on their backs. Their spines protrude upwards which means that they are only meant to carry weight suspended below their spine. When pressure is placed onto their spines, it is not only painful but can cause harmful and long-term damage to these kind creatures.
At the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary, the people of the Karen hill-tribes rescue abused elephants that are often used for tourists to ride upon. This sanctuary has five spacious compounds for the elephants to roam, eat, bathe and play. Each handler that works at the EJS has a number of elephants that they watch over, teach, bathe, feed and interact with on a daily bases.
My experience at EJS was one I won't soon forget. The first day was spent feeding the elephants, making them natural medicine, and giving them mud bathes. After a day of fun with the gentle giants, we made our way back to the village accommodations where we had dinner, played games and laughed with new friends from around the world.
Waking up to the sound of an elephant's happy hollers just a mere 20 yards away is the best alarm clock I've ever experienced. The morning was spent admiring the giants in their habitat. In the afternoon, we made our way to a small waterfall and natural pool where we jumped off cliffs into the water and basked in the sun. Later, we enjoyed a hike to a local swimming hole and talked with some of the locals.
If you ever get the chance to visit Thailand, I encourage you to visit the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary.