Charlotte’s mum came to visit us for a week in Bangkok – it was brilliant to see her and gave us a real boost as we were starting to become a bit homesick by that point. Whilst Catherine really enjoyed the madness of Bangkok, elephants have always been a passion of hers and so we headed to Chiang Mai for a couple of nights…
It was such a treat to visit Charlotte and Sarah in Thailand, so when Charlotte suggested we spend a day at the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai I was ecstatic. We boarded the overnight train from Bangkok’s busy station around 6.00 pm on Sunday evening and arrived in Chiang Mai refreshed and happy around 10.00 am the next day. Before heading for our hotel we paid a visit to the official office of the Elephant Nature Park in the centre of Chaing Mai and booked the last two places for the next day.
We were collected from our hotel at 8.00 am by the tour guide in a very smart mini bus and were introduced to the rest of our group (about 10 of us). The journey was just over an hour’s drive up into the hills and we were given an overview of the Park’s mission – to protect, nurture and rehabilitate rescued elephants in a natural, loving environment.
The Park was founded in 1996 by a local woman named Sanguden Chailert (or Lek to everyone who knows her) and is the only one of its kind in Thailand. ‘Lek’ means ‘small’ in Thai so it’s ironic that she is so akin to these magnificent giants! The elephants under Lek’s care come mainly from private owners and she has had to negotiate fees to enable them to join her herd. Some had outlived their usefulness to loggers, whilst others were no longer of any use to trekking camp owners.