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Chiang Mai: the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary

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In the eyes of the elephants there is an ancient life force, delicate and powerful, impressive and magical. In Chiang Mai, for the first time, I have seen them from close. Fear has left the place to emotion and to the awareness, that these animals must be respected and protected.

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The first time that I saw the elephants in Thailand has been in Ayutthaya: they were saddled with canopies where tourists have sat down to admire, from Their backs, the beauty of the archaeological site. Also they were ridden by animal trainers, equipped with pointed stakes, Which did not hesitate to goad them. Have you ever heard the trumpeting of a bruised elephant? it’s heartrending.
The second time when I saw them was at the zoo in Chiang Mai.
They were chained and supervised by animal trainers prepared to ask you if you wanted to climb into the saddle to make small tours for a fee. Animals were sad-eyed and skin marked by iron chains.

Noting how these creatures are exploited to entertain tourists, I found an excursion that would allow me to approach to the elephants without hurting them, and I found the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary
These reserves not only help small rural tribes to keep their land, but also host old, diseased or exploited animals that, in this way, regain a bit ‘of freedom. In Chiang Mai there are six “camp” and every day you can choose from three types of tours: half day (1700 baht each); a full day (2400 baht each); two days (4900 baht each). In all three trips you can feed the elephants, caress them, bathe together and walk in the jungle next to them. The tour can be booked in the agency authorized situated Tapae Road 119 in Chiang Mai.

I choose half the morning tour, and was one of the craziest experiences I’ve ever done in life.
Arrived at “Camp 6” a remote village in the jungle of Chiang Mai, we were greeted by a local guide who, after giving us the jackets with pockets to hold the food, gave us a few simple instructions: “Don’t panic if the elephants come out of the jungle with a run, keep yourself calm”
I thought he was joking. Instead, from the dense vegetation, are came out six adults and a small elephant. I was about to scream with fright. The great beasts knew very well why they had been called: the contents of our pockets!And so docilely they approached extending the long proboscis in search of food. They had a rough skin, but, as explained by the guides, were fragile animals: in fact, the large canopies with which they had brought` tourists, before being hosted at the camp, had deformed their back. 

The highlight of the trip was bathe with elephants. Imagine to throw mud on an elephant crouched in a muddy puddle from which you can admire a green valley surrounded by terraced hills and exotic forests. It ‘a unique and incomparable experience.
In my life I never imagined doing such a thing, but has happened and the experience ended with a dip in a creek and a shower made with the water sprayed from the trunk of an elephant. If I could, I’d do it immediately because happiness, at times, can be found in simple things and in nature.

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