I have a confession to make: I’m taking up a masters course and I’ll also be moving out of the country by the end of the month, which explains why I haven’t been posting as much. I’ve been doing assignments and reports, as well as packing all my things before I say goodbye, to my little city, for good. IT’S BEEN A CRAZY MONTH, I tell you.
Published first on Tripzilla on July 19, 2017
Elephants – this is what comes to mind when many of us hear “Thailand,” right next to temples and street food. I love elephants; they’re such intelligent and majestic creatures. Unfortunately, these extraordinary traits can’t save them from being used for the country’s entertainment and tourism purposes. Thankfully, there are many organisations in Thailand that have dedicated their full-time efforts to saving and nurturing these acclaimed creatures. And they let tourists help for a day!
These said organisations run their facilities in such a way that can help you get close with the animals without having to ride or see them perform.
“But riding elephants is kind of a-once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
I know how exciting it is to tell your friends that you’ve ridden an elephant. However, elephant sanctuaries bring a more fulfilling experience because, not only can you see the elephants act in their natural environment, you can trek with them and bathe them yourselves! So if you’d also like the option of going the more ethical animal-loving route, please continue on scrolling down.
On the very first page of their website, Elephant Jungle Sanctuary emphasises their no riding policy. Located about 60 km from Chiang Mai, this sanctuary is focused on taking care of formerly mistreated elephants. They currently have a little over 30 elephants on their watch. The place offers half day, full day, and overnight visits where you can feed the elephants, give them medicine, and witness their mud spa sessions.
Address: 119/10 Thapae Rd, Chang Klan, Chiang Mai 50100, Thailand
Also located about 60 km from Chiang Mai, this sanctuary’s been operating as a rescue centre for elephants since the 1990’s. Alongside these elephants, many other rescued species are also taken care of. Elephant Nature Park also offers elephant feeding, bathing, and trekking in their day’s activities, which are suitable for all ages.
Address: 1 Ratmakka Road, Phra Sing, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand
For those of you who can’t go up North, Phuket actually has a couple of sanctuaries of its own. The Phuket Elephant Sanctuary calls their preserve as a retirement home for the sick and injured elephants. They work together with the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, in participating in ethical elephant tourism programs.
This sanctuary allows their guests to interact with their elephants for half the day. Bathing and trekking are part of the itinerary, however, people can only observe the animals from the distance, during these activities, since the sanctuary emphasises on “natural” socialisation.
Address: 111/116, Moo 8, Saunneramit 1, Thombol Paklok, Amphur Talang, Phuket, Thailand
Wildlife Friends Foundation not only focuses on rescuing elephants from exploitation, they help every kind of animal affected by deforestation, illegal trade, and pollution. WFFT is constantly looking for volunteers, but if you can’t stay for good, you can help out at their Wildlife Rescue Centre. There they’ll give you a guided tour, let you walk with the elephants, and inform you of their stories. You’ll come home much educated about Thailand’s efforts in saving their elephants.
Address: Moo 6,Tambon Thamairuak, Amphoe Thayang, 76130 Petchaburi, Thailand
But if you do have time to stay in Thailand and volunteer to help the elephants, BLES is the place to call. Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary welcomes guests for their homestay program. Not only will volunteers get to feed the elephants, but they’ll actually gather the food themselves. And aside from walking with the elephants, visitors are encouraged to camp with them in the middle of the jungle! Sounds like an enlightening experience to me.
Address: 304 Mu 5, Baan Na Ton Jan, Tambon Baan Tuek, Si Satchanalai, Sukhothai 64130, Thailand
So, on your next Thailand getaway, STOP riding elephants and start taking care of them, will you?
Here it is! Day 3 of our Thailand Trip. FINALLY.
This day was meant for the kids. Previously, we’d mostly been doing adult stuff like shopping (obviously), and the children had been quite patient throughout those days. I guess you could consider this as a reward for good behavior. So on this day, we went to one of Bangkok’s amusement parks called Dream World.
1. They’ve got a “puppy room”
At least that’s what I call it. For 100 Baht per person, you can go inside their little airconditioned room and play with their diverse collection of puppies! This room is located inside Dream World’s Animal Corner. Don’t worry, the ticket counter will give you a map of the place!
2. The Food Pavillion
This is where all scheduled group tours are assigned to eat – that is, if you include lunch in your tickets. The food’s not bad at all, plus it’s a buffet!
3. The Mini Market
They have boutiques that sell souvenirs, shirts, and other necessary “amusement park items.” But more importantly, they have an entire hall that sells items that you would normally see in Thailand’s weekend markets. They’ve got elephant pants, key chains, and Thailand t-shirts. These are clearly important if you’ve failed to buy a few items during your previous market visit. Also, the price is more or less the same as they would be outside, which is impressive.
“The Highest Stage in the World,” that’s what greets guests at the doors of the Siam Niramit Theater. They hold a Guinness World Record to prove it.
I’d never heard of this attraction until the moment we were brought to their complex/ theater. I didn’t know what to expect, but I relished not knowing. It gave me a good opportunity to be surprised. So instead of googling the moniker, I followed my family to the banquet hall that stands adjacent to the main building of the complex. Our tickets included a free buffet dinner, which was what I was looking forward to. When we went inside, it looked like everybody who bought a ticket had access to the food.
It was busy
in the other side of this room.
But all was good since refills for food came in like rapid fire. Nonstop. We were all there from 6 p.m., just scooping food after food onto our plates until 15 minutes to 8 p.m., which is when the show started.
Before it did though, we were treated to a cultural dance presentation by some of the group’s performers, outside the venue. If I hadn’t known that we still had to go into another building, I would have thought that this was THE show already. The dancers didn’t hold back on their skills and their dresses. They all looked so elegant.
When 8 came by, the guests were then allowed to go through the (now open) glass doors to the theater. Inside, we were asked to deposit our cameras and ipads to avoid any disturbances during the show. Sadly, yes; I don’t have a single picture of the production. I wish I did, because it was the craziest theatrics that I’ve seen and it would have been nice to share it with you through visiuals.
And let me tell you, I’ve seen a myriad of stage shows: Matilda on Broadway, Cirque du Soleil in Vegas, an Opera in Vienna, local musicals! I’ve also seen intense and daring demonstrations like The Great American Circus as well as China’s version of that. None of those came close to the Siam Niramit Show.
I wish I could fully explain to you the dynamics of the performance and its development, but I can’t for three reasons. The first one is that my poor writing skills won’t give the production justice. Second is that I was too focused on the props and the costumes, that I failed to follow the story. The third reason is that there was too much movement on the stage at every scene, and absolutely zero speaking lines, that it was hard to keep up.
So please, if you’d like to know more about the group, visit their website 🙂
The fact that I saw an adult elephant and a baby elephant, not even halfway through the show, just blew my mind. They even had the two walk on the big aisle, in between the lower and upper seats of the audience. They also had at least four goats and a couple of chicken running on the stage in some scenes. It was adorable, but I can’t help but think “animal abuse.”
And that’s a topic for another post.
At some point in the show, water appeared on the stage to form a river. I’m still not sure how I missed that during the performance. I guess I was too distracted by the bright lights and the overwhelming chaos of movement, that it was easy for me to miss the water accumulating on stage. It still confuses me though, because I didn’t even notice the reflection of the lights on the water, which was difficult to unsee after I did. This river was deep too, since one character was able to jump into the water, his whole body lost in the submersion. It’s either that, or he just sat down at the bottom to make it seem so.
But I couldn’t dwell on that thought for long, because by then a huge – no – a behemoth of a ship came passing by from one end of the stage to the other. This is why I wished I could have taken a video of this show, because I can’t possible explain to you what I saw. I’m not exaggerating. This ship might as well have been the real deal. It’s height took up the entire the stage, from its “ground” to the ceiling. It’s length just as equally long. I wondered how they were able to fit it backstage, or even at the sides of the stage for that matter.
To top that all off is the background; how it changed so quickly once the lights blacked out, how enormous pseudo mountains and houses could be moved so smoothly, how the materials were layered to create depth, and how said materials could act as screens to simulate rain or lightning.
And just like that, I knew that The Siam Niramit was a show like no other. Nothing that I’ve seen can compare to Thailand’s greatest production, especially in terms of beauty, complexity, and elaborate backdrops. Not even Cirque du Soleil can compete with Siam Niramit’s crazy.
July 2, 2017
My day started earlier than the rest of my family’s. I woke up at 4 a.m. for no particular reason, checked my phone, and couldn’t go back to sleep. There’s the one lesson that I can never learn: not checking any electronic device in between groggy stirs. Oh wells, the damage has been done.
I got out of bed at 5:30 to shower, and by 6:30 I was ready for our hotel’s buffet breakfast. Our tour guide wouldn’t be arriving until 7:30 to pick us up for our day’s trip around Bangkok, so I took my precious time in the restaurant.
There was no such thing as Filipino Time in Bangkok, as our tour guide was already waiting outside with our van, even before the scheduled pick up time. I say this because, regardless if I have been exposed to countless cultures, I still falsely believe that it is a South East Asian thing to be late for a couple of minutes. But I digress.
So all 11 of us – me, my family, plus the tour guide and the driver – hopped on the van and proceeded to interject into Thailand’s traffic. Our destination for the day was the Grand Palace, where the body of Thailand’s Late King is still housed, and where the Temple of the Emerald Budhha is conveniently adjacent to.
After seeing these glorious structures and that majestic green god, I was surprised to hear that there was one more place we needed to go to. We stopped by a jewelry manufacturing company to see how Thailand assembles their most prized gems into necklaces and rings.
We were then herd into a room full of displays, in the company’s hopes that we would buy a few shiny things. No such purchases were made. Thankfully, we didn’t have to stay long in such a tempting place. We needed to hurry back to the hotel, for a few hours rest, before our next activity that was to happen at 7 that evening – of which events you will hopefully read in my next post.