Although I live in a big city back home, I think deep down I’m just a country girl. When I spend too much time in any city, I start to crave the outdoors, the quiet, the solitude, and the landscape.
After a few days in Chiang Mai, I headed a few hours north to a jungle area known as Mae Wang where it’s bloody cold in the mornings and evenings (think anywhere between 0C and 10C) and sweaty hot during the day (think 25C).
I stayed at the Chai Lai Orchid in order to be able to spend my days bathing, feeding, riding and playing with elephants. I also appreciate the social mission behind Chai Lai Orchid which is to empower women to fight human trafficking. They provide English language and computer classes, a living wage, training in the hospitality industry, medical supplies, food/housing expenses and other services to at-risk women and girls who are living below the poverty line. They also create a humane environment for elephants to help protect and conserve the elephant population.
There are quite a few activities offered at the Chair Lai Orchid where you can no doubt spend a week. There are hiking trails, waterfalls, tribal village visits, bamboo rafting, cooking class (not offered during the time that I stayed but the food provided in the canteen is phenomenal and I would have gladly signed up for a cooking class to learn from their chef!).
Back to elephants…You can feed the elephants (they particularly like sugar cane pieces), pet them, take them down to the river for a bath (and to cool off), take them out for exercise, etc.
They are such interesting creatures with their own personalities…who eat 200 kg of food per day. I spent time getting to know various members of the herd and feeding them chunks of sugar cane.
One elephant was particularly cheeky. She could take the piece of sugar cane from your hand with her trunk and then immediately come back for a second piece (having not eaten the first piece) so that she could toss two pieces in her mouth at once. Bit of a piggy…She ate an entire basket of sugar cane, and when I ran out, she started searching me with her wet trunk nose looking for more food. Yes, this means I got a giant glob of elephant snot near my eye and all over my shirt. She should apply for a job at the airport – she is a thorough frisker when searching for food.
There was also some excellent hiking in the area and then you can take a bamboo raft back down to the jungle huts. The bamboo raft is exactly what it sounds like – several pieces of bamboo tied together into a raft that you balance yourself on and float your way back downstream. Expect to fall off, get soaked, and have fun. Bonus! It helps you remove elephant snot from your clothes.
Let’s talk about how quiet it is there…No city sounds, no WIFI, no hot water… In the evenings you can hear rushing water and the jungle come to life with the calls of various birds, insects, and other animals.
Oh, and in case you forgot that there were elephants, you can always count on a couple members of the herd to let out a mighty trumpet to remind you.
What do you do for a break from city life?