Highlights: Elephant Park, Wat Doi Suthep Temple, Ladyboy Show
What an incredible day, ranging from nature and majestic animals, to religion, to outrageous singing and dancing. I think that is Thailand in a nutshell where everything comes together in a hot mix of contradictions that somehow work together.
Let’s start with the visit to the Elephant Park. Thailand is notorious for elephant parks run on the cheap that exploit their workers and harm their elephants for the entertainment of tourists. Luckily these practises are on the way out. Now there are refuges springing up and ethical parks that take in elephants that used to be in circus, or logging elephants, or mistreated in some way.
At the park I attended today, which wasn’t cheap at 2,300 baht (around $90 Australian dollars which is a lot in Thailand), follows into the more ethical treatment for both the elephants and their handlers. Over the course of 4 hours we got to feed the elephants multiple times, go on a walk with them so they got exercise and enjoyed the countryside, and later help bath and clean the elephants. The elephants loved the bathing and cleaning and had great fun at this point, I got strayed at one point, not doing a good enough job I guess. We were very lucky with the rain which only came at the end when we were bathing and cleaning the elephants. Give how slippery the walk turned out to be, and the number of times I almost lost my shoes to the mud, we were very lucky indeed.
We arrived back around 4 pm at the hotel, quickly dropped our gear, changed our shoes (in my case anyway) and headed out to the Wat Doi Suthep Temple high on a mountain overlooking Chang Mai. The ride up is via a winding road which apparently is 14 kms from top to bottom. We were lucky enough to arrive just as the monks were praying via song in the temple.
The emerald Buddha was a particular highlight as was the view of Chiang Mai from so far up.