While being in Thailand, and especially in Chiang Mai, one thing that most people want to do (and I get it, believe me!) is to meet with elephants! From my hotel in the mountains, I could hear them every day (from a nearby sanctuary), and I have also heard that there was a coffee place close by where you can hang out and feed the elephants, the Elefin Farm & Cafe, so I decided to check it out.
Now let me say that obviously, not all places are treating the animals well, and I try to find as much articles as I could about it but the information was not so easy to find. I read some place’s names that consistently come back, but I will let you do your own research.
I had no desire to ride one, as I know that this can hurt them, but I was dying to see one from close, and in a place that treats them well. I loved this place because for one thing, the elephants are free to roam around, and they come to see you if they want, in search of bananas and pieces of sugar cane.
Basically, when you get there (you’ll need to arrange your own ride, usually your hotel might be able to provide a transport and a pick-up for a fee), you can walk around, go the the coffee shop, the garden or, of course, go check the elephants right away! If the elephants are around, so are their handlers. Each elephant has a care taker nearby.
The handlers (or Mahouts, as they are being called here, which means elephant keepers) were nice and they will take photos for you if you want and maybe show you a little trick their elephant can do (like giving you a hug or a kiss). Make sure to leave them a tip!
Note that there is no show here, no spectacles like I have heard about other places or painting of things like that. That’s usually not a good sign, as far as animal welfare goes.
There is no cost to hang out here, no obligation to buy anything. You can get a generous basket of bananas and pieces of sugar cane for 100 Thai baht (about 4$ cad), or 4 for 300 baht. Quite reasonable!
I was worried about the elephants getting so much bananas and sugar cane every day from the tourists, but a quick Google search informed me that Asian elephants can eat 300 to 400 pounds of fruits, plants, bark and other vegetal in a day! Wow!
At the cafe, you can get all kind of yummy things to drink or to eat. We went from 10am to 2pm because I wanted to have lunch there. The food is good and not too pricey, the staff is helpful and super pleasant.
There are a few packages you can buy. They do offer to ride some of the biggest elephants (bare back, which I read that’s how they do it in the most ethical sanctuary), but I was there all day and I can tell you I did not see that many people doing it, I think people are here mostly to see them up close. I myself had absolutely no desire to ride one, as I don’t believe it’s good for them to do it all day long.
The package we got was the photo one.
For 790 baht (so around 30$ cad), you’ll get up to 50 photos from a local photographer. You can share this package with up to 4 people. There was 3 of us so that worked out pretty good!
At the end, we got more then the promise amount of pictures and the photos were actually very nice and excellent quality. What a beautiful memory!
They have a nice photo spot next to the cafe and a few pre-planned poses (feeding, hugging, sitting and lying down). I might try to do it again but ask for a different, more natural kind of interaction. To be followed!
I am here for another 11 days and it’s so close by that I will certainly go back!
When we got there at 10am there was a few people and more around lunch time (but not overly crowded, it was a good balance and people come for 1-2 hours and go). When we left at 2pm, there was much less people, as it gets much hotter in the afternoon.
I thought 4 hours was a nice time frame, enough to enjoy the moment and all that the place has to offer.
That was an a-ma-zing experience and I am very happy I got the chance to do this!
Elefin Farm & Cafe
54 Moo 5 Baan Mae Ha T. Baan Pong, Amphoe Hang Dong
Thailand, Chiang Mai