Dumbo Elephant Spa (no riding!), Chiang Mai
Pink Elephants on Parade (Dumbo reference:)
If you're in Thailand you cannot escape elephants. They are embedded in their culture both literally and figuratively. Even the Buddha was an elephant during one of his many incarnations before finding enlightenment. Knowing the importance of the elephant in Thai culture and having a long desire to get close to them and see them in person outside of a zoo setting we decided to visit Dumbo Elephant Spa. The elephants lounge about all day getting their nails done, enjoying facials, and drinking $10 a glass cucumber water. It's actually not that kind of spa, though there is a mud treatment the elephants can get whenever they like. The Dumbo Day Spa is home to rescued elephants (the older ones) from around the area. Before rescue the elephants were part of horrible tourist attractions that forced them to paint pictures (it's a thing and it's nauseatingly horrible, check out YouTube), give humans rides on their backs (only supposed to ride elephants at the crook of their necks and without a saddle or platform), or other circus like atrocities. At Dumbo Day Spa you get to feed the elephants some of their favorite "junk food" (they got acorn squash and bananas from us), visit and play with them, and, at the very end, hike down to the river to bathe them. It was an amazing experience. It's hard to imagine just how large and intimidating these animals are until they run up to you with a smile and their trunks raised waiting for you to throw a piece of squash in their mouths. If you don't acquiesce fast enough their trunks will snake around you and try to sneak a treat out of your plastic bag without you noticing. It's hard not to notice a two ton animal trying to be stealthy though. We were also very lucky to visit when we did. One of the oldest cows had just given birth almost two weeks ago. A thirteen day old elephant is one of the oddest and cutest spectacles to behold. It's also amazing that they're born weighing more than a full grown man. Amazing. It was an experience like no other. If you ever have the chance definitely visit an elephant sanctuary. However, please make sure the elephants are not show pieces that are forced to carry you on their backs and paint pictures with the threat of abuse around every corner. P.S. The hour and a half journey up the bumpy mountain in the back of a truck is an adventure all on it's own..