2 years ago, me and Peony went to our first elephant camp somewhere north of Chiang Mai. It was an eye opening experience riding elephants but I saw many elephants chained to the ground and felt the elephants weren’t being treated right. I forget which camp that was but this time around, I was going to check out the Elephant Nature Park, which was supposed to be a free environment for elephants. But it seemed that you need to make reservation way ahead of time and our schedule didn’t fit any of their openings.
Instead, we decided to check out the Maesa Elephant Camp, which is supposed to be the biggest elephant camp in Chiang Mai, Thailand. It was actually a pleasant experience to see the elephants bathing and doing cool tricks including painting. Of course, I did read a ton of horror stories/rumors about how elephants could be trained to paint but I felt like there was actually no proof behind it. It’s still made for tourists but I do also feel that these elephants would hardly survive in the wild unless they were in Africa. Can you imagine running into a wild elephant while trekking the mountains of Thailand?
I do want to visit the Elephant Nature Park next time though and spend a whole day with an elephant but in the meanwhile, Maesa Elephant Camp seemed to be pretty good, at least 10 times better than last elephant camp we went to. The elephants seemed to be having fun, I mean I can tell they weren’t faking it. The trainers do carry bull hooks but that may be necessary since there’s a large crowd involved and you don’t want dead people due to angry elephants. But I did not see any cruelty to animals that some people were talking about online.
As for painting itself, I felt like the elephants actually do follow a set of rules perhaps but they are making the painting variations themselves. And I believe they are perfectly capable of that. It’s amazing what elephants can paint. Just the fact that they can paint the whole thing themselves is amazing.
Overall, I do highly recommend the Maesa Elephant Camp for first timers. I will try to stay out of the rumors about how elephants learn painting though. Seeing them in person and in real life makes me think those are probably just rumors. But if there’s any real proof to that, then it will definitely make me think twice.
Peony also had a lot of fun, the elephants kept playing with her hat and gave her many hugs. Peony tells me elephants are her favorite animals out of them all because they are very intelligent and she’s half Thai. I am so happy to have a daughter who is learning so much about the world out in the real world, not just with textbooks. If you have kids, you should definitely take them out of their safe zone(country) at least once before they hit teens, they will thank you for it later in life (I predict).
Lastly but not least, I feel this is amazing experience in comparison to any zoo in the U.S., to get so close to such massive animals and touch them with your own hand. And did you know you can make paper out of elephant dung?