Travel Thailand (volunteer in chiang Mai) – Elephants and Christmas in Mince-Pieland

After a lazy day and a half in Chiang Mai, we were having to get out our lazy beds at 7 and await pick up to head North to the Elephant Nature Park. At 7 on the button we were picked up along with several other volunteers and heading to the registration office, where we were advised of what the next steps were. Everything signed we were handed our water bottle (had a feeling we would need it) and bundled back in the van headed North.


Admittedly we were both unaware of the truth behind what happens to the world largest land animal and were shown o full documentary of exactly why and what we were volunteering for.

The Phajaan is a device used by the Mahouts (elephant handlers) to ‘crush’ the elephant, and what they call, breaking its spirit. The poor beast is forced into this enclosure and tortured for 7 straight days. Watching this its hard to believe that Thai people, Buddhist in practice, can subject these Chang to this, especially as the elephant is a worshiped and revered creature. You can feel yourself getting angrier that this is allowed to go on, The Shahmen will say that it is tradition….so was witch burning but I highly doubt it would hold up in court if Istarted burning people and advised the judge and jury that we used to do it. We will spare you any the details but here is a link to a video if you would like to see for yourself (hard viewing advised) –


On a happier note, we arrived at camp and cast our eyes over what would be our view for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the next week. The park was beautiful and set in a cauldron of mountains and a nice 33 degrees splitting the sky. We were shown our quarters for the week which were nice enough but very basic however we never once thought we were going to be offered cologne by a well tailored concierge every time we washed our hands

The Sanctuary is home to some 71 elephants, an abundance of cats and over 450 dogs…and I’m pretty sure that someone was feeding the spiders there too, as one of them asked if he could borrow my razor…told him he could take what he wants and offered Megan as a sacrifice.


The volunteers do various jobs around the camp including, prepping the food for the elephants, cleaning the camp and feeding them as many are now blind from abuse and human interference (mostly bright flashing lights in cities and circuses) We were happy to know that this is strictly a rescue sanctuary and no riding or abuse comes to these elephants, they can live out the rest of their days in peace which is the least we can do considering.



The food there was awesome (despite being possibly the only two non-vegans there) which resulted in a few kilos going on, I never realized how much weight was going on until I seen Megan talking to one of the large male elephants and asking if it could put sun cream on her back and then asking why it wasn’t talking to her….there’s you new years wake up call right there.


We always had a lodger every night in the form of Memphis, the dog who was abandoned by his owner after he found out he had kidney problems, human compassion knows no bounds, but fortunately he is well looked after here along with all the other animals but do rely on volunteers and outside funding. To put it into perspective, it costs around 40,000 BHT (£900 circa per month, only slightly less than what i eat) to just FEED an average elephant, we are advised the medicine is about 1.5x more…the sanctuary has 71 elephants and counting. We had the chance to visit the local schools where I laced up my flip-flops and got taken to the cleaners by 5 year old schoolkids at football….when asked where i was from, I told them i was welsh and retreated behind Megan who was helping out the girls with arts and crafts.


We would definitely recommend Lek’s camp and put a link below for anyone who is interested but will try not to preach anymore than we have.

Back to Chiang Mai on Christmas day to spend the new year, not going to lie, does not feel like Christmas apart from maybe the odd song now and again and feeling like a big turkey. Hope the one reader who actually is reading this 🙂 had a great day and will update you on new year.

Merry Christmas & Auld Lang Syne