Elephants are very complex and sensitive creatures. They are well respected in Thailand for their grace and intelligence and serve as symbols of the much-revered Thai monarchy. In fact, the annual week-long King’s Cup Elephant Polo Tournament in late March raises funds for elephant charities. You will see representations of elephants and references to these majestic creatures throughout your travels in Thailand.
There are quite a few elephant camps open to visitation in the northern areas of Chiang Mai , Chiang Rai and the Golden Triangle. These are not all created equal. Some are working camps where you can see elephants rolling and hauling lumber, others are education centers offering supervised interactions. And yet other sanctuaries provide rescue and rehabilitation for sick, injured or abused elephants.
Now that our new pachyderm friends were fed, we had to take care of another need. We followed the elephants and their mahouts over to what I call The Elephant Spa, their bathing area. We were each given a coconut husk loofah and bucket of sudsy water with which to scrub down our personal elephant. Then we rinsed them off, hosing them down gently with a garden hose, before they strolled over to the pool to “play” in the water even more. This feeding and bathing ritual is just a part of the daily care that they receive here.
We had now worked up an appetite ourselves and returned to the camp to clean up for our own supper. We would be staying overnight and try to squeeze in one more activity in the morning.
Elephant Hills is a solid 3-star moderate camp with good basic tent accommodations and generous basic meals. It is a good value for what it provides. However, it is NOT the luxury tented camp experience it advertises itself to be. Anyone who has traveled to an upscale or luxury camp in Asia or Africa will instantly know the difference. See my Kenya Tour/Day 9/Joy’s Camp next month for a comparison.