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  • Writer's pictureTina McLain

Chiang Mai (Pt 2) – Hug Elephant Sanctuary

Updated: Apr 19

A journal style look into my second day in Chiang Mai, Thailand where we visited and elephant sanctuary in April 2019.

Elephant Sanctuary

Day 2

We booked our tour for the afternoon so we had a bit of down time in the hotel before we were picked up midday. We were both pretty excited about getting to be up close with elephants. My dad worked at the zoo when I was younger so he’d been up close with elephants before, but he was still excited too.

We ate breakfast and something I ate made me feel pretty nauseous. I was a bit worried I wouldn’t feel up to the elephant tour later in the day. Thankfully the nausea died down before we were going to be picked up.

We had booked the elephant tour online and had chosen for them to pick us up from our hotel. We were waiting 10 minutes after they were supposed to arrive, so we called them. It turned out we were waiting by the wrong entrance of the hotel.

We got in the back of the red truck and there were 3 guys already in the back. It was a hot, bumpy 2 1/2 hour drive to the elephant sanctuary. We ended up talking with the guys and got to learn some cool stuff about them. Two of them worked for an airline in New Jersey and all of them were from Jamaica. I’m guessing all of them were in their 30’s. One of the guys showed me some pictures of his previous travels. He’d been to a lot of cool places. He told me some places I should go and it was a really great conversation.

After driving for what felt like forever, we finally turned off on a dirt road that was ridiculously bumpy. We were all holding on to our seats so we didn’t get thrown out. Out of all the drives I went on in Thailand, this one was by far the worst.

We pulled up to the sanctuary and got out. We were greeted by our guide. He was a friendly sort of fellow. They gave us a history of the sanctuary in broken English and told us about the different elephants and just about elephants in general in Thailand.

They are required to have a license to own elephants just like you have to have a license for a car. There are about 3,000 known elephants in Thailand. After he finished telling us some interesting things we walked about 15 minutes through some rice fields to a place near a river. As we got to the rive, the elephants came out of the forest following the workers. There were 4 elephants: 3 female and 1 male. One of the females was 26 years old and had a bad leg.

First we fed them sugar cane and took pictures with them. Then we gave them mud baths. It was such a cool experience. I expected their trunks to be softer, but it was actually really rough and strong. The elephants are so big up close. They actually have hair all over their bodies. I had thought only baby elephants had hair. Their skin definitely didn’t feel like what I was expecting.

When we were rubbing dirt on them they’d sometimes toss some back at us. When we got in the water, we splashed water on them and then got to see them rinse themselves off and roll around in the water. Two of the elephants laid in the water on their sides. Then they’d hold each other under. It was adorable.

We took a group picture and then we wiped off the mud on us the best we could in the water. We went back up to where we left our shoes. I found a little puppy biting on my sandals. He was covered in mud and had quite the personality. I picked him up and took a picture with him, then let him go back to his mom.

We walked another 15 minutes further down a path that took us to a cool waterfall. We got to swim in the water if we wanted, which my dad and I both did. We got to hang out there a bit before we walked back to where the truck had dropped us off. They had food waiting for us. I ate a lot of watermelon. One of the guys in our group had brought some mangosteen with him and offered my dad and I a piece to try. I decided I’d give it a try and really liked it. It’s similar to lychee except sweeter and it has a white coloring.

We all loaded up in the truck for the long drive back. It was later in the day so it was even hotter. I kept pouring water down my back because I would occasionally start to feel sort of car sick.

One of the guys shirts nearly flew out the window, but I was able to grab it really fast so it wasn’t blown away. I was sort of stunned by how fast my reflexes were for not feeling so great.

We got dropped off at our hotel and crashed. I was still feeling the nausea from the morning, so my dad went out and got us some supper. More yellow curry, of course! I ate as much as I could handle and pretty much just had to lay down the whole evening to avoid vomiting.

Purchases from the day


  • 2 loaves of bread from Crusty Loaves Bakery (36 baht; $1.16 USD)

  • 2 vegan curries from street vendor (75 baht; $1.16 USD)

  • 2 yellow curries from Be Beez Cafe (160 baht; $5.19)


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