Some people invest on material things, my family and I on memories. One of my unforgettable days in my brief, solo-backpacking trip from Penang to Chiang Mai was spent entirely inside an elephant camp and a few more itineraries. I wished I could share the fun with Tina and Gabby that day but then again, my wife has vertigo and will surely not enjoy the long and rough rides. Tina really didn’t want to go and preferred to enjoy the remaining days of our Yuletide holiday with more relaxing moments and simply allowed me to experience everything I had on this trip. And for that, I cannot be grateful enough. Getting a green light from my wife for this trip was one of my best Holiday gifts to date.
No debate on having Do-It-Yourself-Travels better than availing of a touristy package tour.
I did both on this trip.
I thought I could save a lot of time and money particularly in transportation fares
so I contacted a licensed tour operator in Chiang Mai via email and reserved a slot for
And I’m happy I made the right move.
28 December 2012. Friday, 8AM sharp. Just in time when I came down from my room at the second level, I saw the Thai tourist guide, Mr. Oak flashing an A4 paper with “Gelo Santos” written on it, to a group of backpackers at the gate of our guesthouse. I raised my hand while walking towards him and said, “Here” while everybody else waiting uttered with disappointment, “Oh, that’s him and not us!” “OK, take your ride and have fun! We’ll continue to wait for ours.” I guess everyone that day was extremely excited to explore & discover Chiang Mai.
I found out I was the very first tourist picked up by the van driver and Mr. Oak. There were 9 others to be fetched from guesthouses and hotels that day. There were mature couples from Australia, Japan and Hong Kong plus a young and lone backpacker from China. Everything went well until we waited for almost 30 minutes for the group of young Indians whose passports were from New Zealand. All of us, particularly the tourist guide were pissed off by such insensitive and inconsiderate tardiness. In fairness to the late comers, one of them apologized to us for making us wait but cliche as it sounds, I believe “the damage has already been done!”
After that waiting game, it took us around one hour ride from downtown Chiang Mai to reach our destination. En route, I saw a number of Elephant Camps; there are actually a volume in that Northern part of Thailand! It was almost 10AM when we set foot at Maetaman Elephant Camp. People in our group forgot the hassle of waiting that morning and became instantly thrilled to experience everything we availed from this package tour.
It was probably one my best indulgences ever with no regrets of shelling out 1300 baht (USD 44) for this tour that included the following :
- Shuttle airconditioned van
- Pick up and drop off at hotel/guesthouse
- All entrance fees
- English-speaking tour guide
- Elephant show
- Ox-cart ride
- Elephant ride
- Buffet lunch of Thai specialties
- Bamboo raft ride
- Visit to village of Long Necked Women
- Visit to Orchid and Butterfly Farm
- Bottle of distilled water
It’s a steal actually! The day was worth it for each baht spent. The memories gained were absolutely enriching!
If my memory serves me right, the very first time I laid eyes on an elephant was 3 decades ago in Manila Zoo back home. Imagine the excitement of the child-in-me to first appreciate performances from these huge Asian mammals even for half an hour only! FYI, elephants here differ from African elephants for having smaller sets of ears and tusks. They may be smaller in size compared to other similar species but their skills and talents were overwhelming!
The show started with a cute and appropriate flag raising ceremony.
Soon followed by the parade of the “big” stars.
Frontliners were the babies holding
hands tails and snouts while strolling. Sweet!
The tourists’ enjoyment began and the kid-in-me was left in awe during its half hour duration. I was smiling widely when they walked forward with hoola hoops while playing jofyful tunes on harmonica too! Amazing, isn’t it? Can you do both yourself? It takes more than skills but pure talent!
They performed tricks to the audience’s delight.
Yeah, the show went on in between instant bladder and bowel breaks! Because of that, I considered these skillful mammals as few of the most professional entertainers I’ve ever met! They’re more than amazing!
So they played and throw balls at the goals, made tunes on harmonica while there’s hoola hoops on their snouts, demonstrated that they can do massages, but above all those talents and might, my favorite part of this short but amusing elephant show was this…
If only money was not an issue to me, I could have bought that painting for 1000 baht or 100 ringgit (USD 34) from their gallery. They sell the elephants’ paintings in a small gallery-gift shop immediately after the entrance to the camp. Proceeds, of course goes to mahouts, maintenance of the camp and care for these elephants.
For 30 baht each, tourists can purchase a bunch of bananas or a pack of sugar cane to feed the elephants. Unfortunately, I forgot to break my limited bills that left me no chance to buy.
I was also on facepalm mood when I didn’t give a tip to the mahouts when one of them generously guided one elephant to offer me a huge hug!
More so, when one of them asked me to experience what this man on the next photo enjoyed. Yes, I was also literally raised by an elephant through its snout. Tipping was not compulsory but shame on me, I had no small bills to hand in as tip to the mahouts.
I wondered if Gabby would like to ride a baby elephant even just for a photo-op.
Let’s do this!
After the 30-minute Elephant Show, we were ushered to the waiting area for Elephant and Ox-Cart Rides.
OX-CART AND ELEPHANT RIDES
We met the cows that will bear our weights from the camp to the fields. Seriously, some people might pity the cows (and the elephants) for being used for Tourism but then again, I looked at it in a positive way that it’s better for these animals to have shelter where they can roam around rather than caged in zoos (OK, so I also went in zoo the next day) or left in the wild (of course, it’s their natural habitats but like in the real world, it has a lot of uncertainties) without ready prey or food. At least in a camp like this, they’re being fed on a regular basis and care is provided by the authorities.
Four people per cart x 2 cows. Let’s go!
We were told the Ox-Cart Ride will be very rough and dusty and will take around 20-30 minutes. I had fun looking at the road and the scenery more than the bumpy ride. The rural scene was beyond marvelous! The weather was at its finest! Mother Nature at her best!
The Ox-Cart Ride took us to a hilly area where a drop-off point is located. Tourists were greeted by Lesu tribespeople and the handcrafted commodities they sell.
Those are the Australian couple who were on our group. They were touring Southeast Asia and came from Bangkok prior to Chiang Mai. I admire their zest for adventure and how they celebrate LIFE. Wait, at this point, I’m next in line!
I was paired to ride everything in this tour with the young Chinese lady who came to Chiang Mai as part for her vacation from her 2-month-studies in Bangkok before she returns back to her schooling in Holland. Enough with the introduction, HERE WE GO!!!
Kapit!!! (Hold on!) I told myself silently.
Look at my grip! I’m holding the handle bar for my life and my family’s sake! lol.
So that’s how it feels like to ride an elephant! The child-in-me was happiest to feel the wind on my face as my heart was pounding like hell! lol. One hand on the handle bar, one hand capturing the moments with my camera. At 36, I never thought I’d feel like 6 again! Unbelievable!
I was enjoying the whole time until my world ceased for a sec. I saw the elephant about to step down the stairs to the river. Goodness! Imagine one little step it made to go down those stairs was one giant bump that made me feel one wrong step we”ll fell to the ground or worse, drowned in the waters. But the great elephant we’re riding made every step as precised as ever. Incredible! Definitely, one for the books! :P
Into the river! Here we gooooooo! (If I could only speak Thai, I’ve told the mahout, “Kuya, I cannot swim!” lol)
Those elephant steps on the stairs to the river were totally EXHILARATING!
While the elephant we’re riding was walking through the river, I continued uttering my prayers quietly for the fear of falling into the waters where few areas had giant stools from these amazing mammals! lol.
If the descent to the river via elephant ride made my heart to contract faster, the ascent wasn’t exceptional. Good luck to us, our mahout and our elephant! *prayers were uttered again at this moment* lol
Glad to survive the happy-ordeal.
Would you consider riding an elephant in your lifetime? I never thought I would but it happened.
Then the glorious moment came. Time for buffet lunch!
LUNCH BUFFET OF THAI SPECIALTIES
The table reserved for our group…
The spread tasted better than it looks on my photos. Well, they’re not super delicious and not bad-tasting either. It had the chicken curry that fell fine on my taste buds for it somewhat like cooked the way Filipinos do that dish; not too spicy with no overpowering flavor. Everything’s appreciated for the meal was included in the tour package.
Here comes the shameless display of what I feasted in Maetaman Elephant Camp.
I must be so hungry that time that I wrongly paired the chopsticks I picked up from the spread -one’s disposable, the other one’s not. Silly! I only realized it when I was sorting out my photos.
The slices of watermelon were fresh but not the sweetest; nonetheless I was glad to know the restaurant also offered free-flowing coffee and tea. How good to end a meal with it! The diner in me was indeed happy!
After lunch, we were given ample time to go to toilets and freshen up then off we went to the waiting shed for the bamboo raft ride.
BAMBOO RAFT RIDE
Thank God, the weather was so fine that day and I’d say it again, Mother Nature at her very best!
Spot the solitary tourist on the next photo, lol. I was alone but not lonely!
So relaxing to see nature and appreciate all things wonderful. Even more beautiful is to be stress-free and be away from work and monthly bills! This trip was certainly a breather from my daily house-work-house-work-routine! It’s invigorating actually!
Other bamboo raft riders created their own adventure by being the guides to raft themselves! We were actually asked by our guide to do such but I lazily chose to stay on my seat and simply absorb all things visually.
The Japanese couple in our group sat, in front of me on the raft were taking turns in capturing the scenes. I wish to the same with Tina and Gabby in more travels in the future!
I didn’t expect the bamboo raft ride to take around 45 minutes and was surprised to enjoy the long ride on the river!
Smiled when I saw a floating refreshment store.
Mother Nature was overwhelming!
We disembarked from the rafts and returned back to our shuttle van that was waiting for us at the parking lot on a hill beside the river.
VISIT TO THE VILLAGE OF LONG NECKED WOMEN
Our Thai tourist guide provided us free bottles of distilled water each before we hopped in the van and headed to the next itinerary. We were brought to the Kayan Hill Tribe Village of the Padaung Women-refugees from Myanmar; the so called, Long Necked Women (blog post with their portraits and story, HERE!).
After that engaging-once-in-a-lifetime-encounter with those refugees from Myanmar, we went to our last stop for the day.
ORCHID AND BUTTERFLY FARM
What else could be seen in an Orchid Farm but orchids! But hey, I have not seen such enormous species of this flower ever in my life until this trip! Name the variety and the color, they have it! Amazing!
Orchids are ubiquitous in Chiang Mai, they’re everywhere beyond this farm. I even see such floral species in streets downtown. I took nothing but photos because it’s not my nature to pick flowers. Not to mention picking a bloom will cost you a penalty of 2000 baht (per flower? lol).
I asked Mr. Oak to drop me off not to my guesthouse, but on the main road where there’s an ATM machine. I ended my long and happy day in Chiang Mai with this cheap meal from an airconditioned corner food stall located along Tha Phae Road called, Farm Story, Salad and More Restaurant. Wifi’s fast and free, btw!
Creating a solo adventure happens once in a blue moon to a family man like me. It goes without saying that my wife and son are my priority and despite the fact we don’t have everything in life, we know how to count our blessings. And one of my greatest is not experiencing this extraordinary Chiang Mai trip but having a family that so unselfish and loving.
Chiang Mai Adventure to be continued.
*This is NOT a sponsored post.
If you like to experience the same tour package in Chiang Mai or avail of their other tour packages to suit your interests, contact :
Alternatively, you can contact their partner and the tourist guide we had on this trip, Mr. Oak’s Travel Agency, Journey Chiang Mai Tours via their website at www.journeycnx.com
- Padaung / Long Neck Women & Other Hill Tribes in Thailand
- Doi Suthep Buddhist Temple
- Elephant Show, Elephant Ride, Ox-Cart Ride, Bamboo Raft Ride, Orchid Farm
- Chiang Mai Zoo : Pandas, Koalas And More!
- Beyond Boundaries : Penang-Hat Yai-Bangkok-Chiang Mai
- Anusarn Market, Tha Phae Gate Night Market and lots of Thai Food!
*For Ultimate Experience in Thailand, this site also recommends withlocals.com!