They say elephants never forget. It seems like I will never forget this day, too.
My first day in Chiang Mai consisted of a hot sunny weather. The warmth of the sun hit our skin mildly, not to the point of burning, and it made for a kind of special atmosphere out on the park and in the air as we strolled around.
The day of my visit, April 5, happens to be Lanna the elephant’s third birthday celebration. Nestled about 45 minutes away from the city center is where you’ll find the Elephant Retirement Park, the home of Lanna and five other free-to-roam elephants who warmly greet guests day in, day out.
Here, guests are able to feed the elephants with bananas and hard pressed meal consisted of sugar cane, banana, and sweet potatoes wrapped in banana leaves, specially prepared by themselves. After eating, it’s time to bathe and play with the elephants in the mud.
What proceeds after is a special kind of party. With flower garland around her neck, Lanna stood in the middle as we sang her a happy birthday –a bit out of tune maybe but still nice to listen to, hopefully. In front of her was a feast: a table full of corn cobs, watermelons, pineapples, and bananas, which she munched on slowly and giddily, her ears and tails wagging left and right. That moment was nothing but pure bliss for us visitors. Soon after, other elephant party guests started joining Lanna in her feast. It was a such a sight to behold.
At the end of our visit, we figured maybe this is why elephants have such good memories. They take all the good and radiate it to the world ten times, even more. These gentle giants deserve nothing but kindness and love, as evident with how they act when there’s a stranger near them — warm and welcoming like they’ve found a new family.
Tip: Say ‘Bonsung’ while feeding the elephant. It means ‘open your mouth’.