Sep 7, 2008

Elephants and Elephants - a trip from Chiang Mai to Lampang

Picture marhas1
Elephant Trekking near Chiang Mai

If you sit in front of one of the music bars on Nimmanhaemin Road in Chiang Mai at night, you can be nearly sure, that a mahout with his elephant will pass by and try to sell you bananas or sugar cane to feed the elephant. More than 200 elephants are said to wander around in Thailands cities, from Phuket to Bangkok and Chiang Mai. And that means stress for the animals: standing and walking on the concrete damages their feet, street- and bar-noise irritate them and the polluted air is poison for their lungs, and sometimes they are injured by traffic accidents (read the report by Cindy Tilney). But since Thailands government 1989 banned the logging with elephants in the wood - to protect the wood and prevent erosion and floods - the elephants and their trainers have to look for another income to survive. The ban let 2000 animals and their mahouts unemployed. But a way to employ elephants has been developped: Many camps have been created in a natural surrounding for a get-together of elephants and tourists. Many treat their elephants well, but some don't have proper working conditions for the animals. So if you want to be sure to do someting for the protection of the elephants, you can head to the National Elephant Institute in Lampang. There are shows presenting the traditional logging work, of course you can go riding on a saddle, but there is a homestay program too: You will stay at the home of the mahout, accompany him during his day with the elephants and learn how to ride without a saddle. And some elephants even know how to play music in an elephant orchestra - read more.

Find your way: Take a bus at Chiang Mai Arcade Bus Station for Lampang (timetable). One way will take one and half an hour. Ask the driver to stop at the elephant center. Another possibility is to travel by train, but the trains to Lampang leave Chiang Mai only in the afternoon (see timetable), so you will have to stay for a night in Lampang to go to the elephant shows in the morning. In Lampang you take the bus for Chiang Mai at the bus station and ask the driver to let you out at the elephant center.

Discover more:
Your Guide to Chiang Mai