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’.
I love elephants! I would love to visit a Elephant rescue facility one day! I love how you can feed they their favorite treats and even get to give them a mud bath! Sounds like an unforgettable day!
Hi Emily! Thanks. It was indeed memorable. I’d love to come back and check on Lanna again. 🙂
Chiang Mai is one of my favorite places in Thailand to visit, and Elephant Retirement Park is the main thing to visit where all elephants are staying together at peace and spending their life. I did not know the meaning of Bonsung before. Is this a Thai word?
Hi Shreya. Yup! Bonsung is a Thai word 😉 Chiang Mai is a hub for digital nomads so it’s a good place to stay to meet people from all over the world 🙂
This looks like quite an interesting experience! I think it’s important for people to see that they can still interact with elephants in a way that doesn’t involve riding. How did you choose this sanctuary over the others in Chiang Mai?
I met someone through Couchsurfing and he recommended an elephant park that don’t involve riding or harming the animals. That’s my main reason for choosing this one. 🙂
I did a similar experience when I was in Chiang Mai myself and also enjoyed it a lot! Unfortunately, once I was back I started thinking that maybe this is another type of explotation, since any “bad behaving” elephant will be punished or killed. What do you think about this?
That’s an unfortunate tale and I could only hope that the Thai government could do something about it. As for this park however, they made sure that each elephant is their family so whether they’re behaving or not, they’re treated with care.
This is so wonderful! I visited an Elephant Sanctuary in Chiang Mai a few years ago and it was such an amazing experience. Elephants are such impressive yet gentle creatures. This sounds like the best birthday party ever!
This is the great responsibility for animals. There are so many kinds of animals should be taking care of after theirs retirement. The elephant park is the place of recommend to do so.