Riding Elephants: We officially checked this off of the bucket list! I knew this was something I wanted us to do in Thailand so I did my research far in advance. Once I started googling “riding elephants in Chiang Mai”, I quickly realized that this practice could be very harmful for the elephants so I sought an ethical company concerned with the well-being of the elephants.
Thai Elephant Home
After reading hundreds of TripAdvisor reviews we decided on the Thai Elephant home. The owner, Joe, trained at the famous elephant hospital in Lampang, before opening Thai Elephant Home in 2006. Unlike other companies, Thai Elephant Home only promotes bareback riding of 1 guest per elephant which is much better for the spine of the elephant. The alternative, 2-4 guests riding in heavy steel boxes placed on the neck of the elephant, can be detrimental to the health of the gentle giant.
The Thai Elephant Home provided transportation for the 45 minute drive to and from our hotel in Chiang Mai.
So what’s the first step at making friends with an elephant? Give it bananas of course!
After snack time, the mahouts (elephant trainer) taught us several Thai commands to give the elephants while riding. Once we had “go”, “stop”, “kneel” and “pick up” mastered, we politely asked our elephants to “kneel” so that we could climb on board. Kelley’s elephant was a spunky male teenager with beautiful tusks. My elephant was the oldest female of the group and we led the way. We also found out she had just become pregnant and would remain pregnant for the next 2 years!
Every 10 meters she was stopping on the trail to do some munching and finally the mahout just gave her a huge bundle of hay that she could snack on while we walked.
Tips for riding an elephant
- Take the shorter ride
I know, I know. What am I thinking? It’s a once in a lifetime experience and you want the full day ride, right?!
Well…. prior to our trip, our Thai friend, Viwan, had warned us that riding elephants could be a bit uncomfortable and she suggested just doing a shorter 1 hour ride. This was the BEST advice!
In order to properly hold on to the elephant with your legs, you really have to squeeze with your inner thighs. This is a workout that would make Jane Fonda proud and the penguin waddle I was doing the next day was proof!
- Wear ankle length tights
For some reason, I pictured elephant skin feeling like velvet. Ha! That’s entirely not the case. Elephants are really hairy. We’re talking wiry hair that can cause some major chaffage. Now we did get those super cute mahout suits to wear but the knee length pants left my lower leg exposed. Have you ever worn blue jean shorts to an amusement park and rode a water ride and then walked around the rest of the day in wet jeans? Any girl without a thigh gap knows what I’m talking about. It HURTS and the chaffage is REAL! To avoid this pain, just wear tights.
We rode our elephants to the nearby river where we bathed them. Mine got so excited when she spotted the water that she started making these loud purring noises. As soon as we hit the water, she immediately laid down which I was not prepared for! I jumped off just in time to avoid becoming an elephant sandwich. And the next thing I knew she was spraying me with water from her trunk!
Almost the ultimate wet willy!
What an amazing experience! Getting up close and personal with these beautiful creatures was a memory to hold on to forever. Riding elephants in Chiang Mai, Thailand did not disappoint.
Our THAILAND Itinerary
- Day 1 – Bangkok, Thailand: Arrive in Bangkok at 9:45am | Evening Tuk Tuk Tour
- Day 2 – Bangkok, Thailand: Rattanakosin Story Walking Tour | The Grand Palace & Wat Pho
- Day 3 – Bangkok, Thailand: Jim Thompson House | Red Cross Snake Center
- Day 4 – Fly from Bangkok to Sukothai, Thailand
- Day 5 – Sukothai Historical Park | Drive to Chiang Mai | Night Market
- Day 6 – Riding elephants in Chiang Mai | Tree house resort
- Day 7 – Chiang Mai: Tree house resort
- Day 8 – Chiang Mai: Street Food Tour
- Day 9 – Fly from Chiang Mai to Phuket, Thailand
- Day 10 – Phuket, Thailand: Boat tour of Phi Phi islands | Christmas Day!
- Day 11 – Phuket, Thailand: Boat tour of Phang Nga Bay
- Day 12 – Phuket, Thailand: Laguna Beach
- Day 13 – Phuket, Thailand: Laguna Beach | Fly from Phuket to Sydney, Australia
And if you’re interested in seeing the entire month-long honeymoon itinerary click here!
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