The Baanchang Elephant Park is a visitor-funded sanctuary for exploited, abused and orphaned elephants. Many of their elephants have been treated cruelly in the past, and through education and awareness, Baanchang hopes to improve the lives of the elephants in their care. None of their animals are treated cruelly, or painted or trained for tricks. All elephants are chained, though this is for the safety of visitors and other elephants. The park is situated in the natural habitat of the Asian elephants, so they may live in a comfortable environment.
No we are not in prison uniform, just in the uniform required for working with elephants. Nan and Pop came with us on this trip.
Riding through the forest on elephants, how cool is that!
Both the elephants and children relax and the elephant believe it or not was actually quite happy.
We got a taxi, then we got dressed in shorts and shirts. Then we fed the elephants. We learned the commands; bai means to go forwards, how means to stop, non long means to lie down. Then we had lunch, and rode our elephants. We got changed and got a t-shirt and went back to the hotel.
Ava elephing around
We went in a taxi and picked up another family. When we got there we saw 24 elephants and one coming that night. We changed into some uniforms filled with pockets. Then we got to feed the elephants sugar cane and bananas. We saw a hyper baby and we got a kiss from it. Then we fed a blind elephant. We learned the commands for the elephants. They are bai (forward), how (stop), non long (lie down) and quai (left or right). We had lunch, then we rode on them through the jungle for one hour. We gave the elephants a bath and to say goodbye, they squirted us with water. Then we got dressed in our normal clothes and went to the hotel. Pop had a great birthday.
Max feeding and riding the elephants.
We were picked up by a minivan at the Secret Garden Hotel. Once we arrived at the Baanchang Elephant Park, we saw many elephants, 24 to be exact, with one more coming that night.
We got dressed in our uniforms: button-up shirts and shorts. Our guide, Sumit, led us to big baskets of sugar cane and bananas. He said to be careful with some elephants; a 40 year-old female and an elephant with a machete cut on her trunk.
We fed them food and I felt inside one’s mouth – squishy! A small baby elephant gave us kisses with its trunk.
After that we sat down at a bench and Sumit ran through the commands for riding elephants. Non long was for the elephant to sit down so you could hop on and off, bai was to move the elephants forward, and to turn you said quai and lightly kicked the left ear to turn right, and the right ear to turn left.
Later we had lunch; soup, sweet and sour, bread-crumbed chicken and rice. We threw all the bones into a pond to feed the fish.
After lunch we rode on elephants through the jungle. I went with Dad, who sat on the back and I sat at the front, so it could steer. We noticed the words Baanchang Elephant Park carved into the skin. I wondered if it hurt; probably not, as the elephants have thick skin. The elephant seemed very unstable, up so high, especially when going downhill.
Then we scrubbed all the elephants in the bathing hole. The elephants sprayed us, then we got dry and went off to get out of our uniforms. Nana and Pop bought us some t-shirts and we went back to the hotel.
Tristan enjoying his opportunity to pet, ride and bathe an elephant
When we arrived at the elephants we got changed into strange uniforms, denim long pants and a shirt. We then went to the feeding where there were twenty-four elephants. We also petted elephants and received a kiss from an elephant.
We were then sat down and explained the commands: non long = lie down, bai = forward, how = stop and quai and kick opposite ear = turn. We then had a turn of doing the commands.
After lunch we rode bareback on the elephants and found out how uncomfortable they are.
After that the elephants went for a swim and we got to spray them when they sprayed us.
Josh enjoying riding the elephant and petting him with Max and Pop
Tourist Information for Baanchang Elephant Park:
The cost varies depending on which course you take; we took the one day Elephant Mahout training. These costs vary from as little as 2,000 baht for kids and 2,900 for adults, up to 15,900 baht for a single adult. There are many pricings, visiting times and courses available; see website for details.
Research by Tristan, journals by Ava, Max, Tristan and Ava, photos and captions by mum