A Thrill Seeker Limitation: Controversy in Thailand

If you’ve read Pictures and Plane Tickets for a while, then you know that I’m a thrill seeker. Swim with Sharks in the Bahamas? Yes, Please! Jump out of an airplane? Can’t wait for my second time! (just kidding Mom and Dad…) 😉 Cliff Jump? One of my favorite past times. So when I started researching all of the adrenaline-inducing, once-in-a-lifetime activities in Thailand, Riding an Elephant was presented time and time again.

Most of those close to me know that I’m a softie when it comes to animals. Sarah Mclachlan damn near brings me to tears every time I see one of her ASPCA commercials 😉 and over the last two years I’ve been on a personal journey to change my lifestyle towards that of a Pescetarian and hopefully one day, a Vegetarian. With this transformation, I am trying to be more conscientious of the impact that I have on those who cannot speak for themselves, although I am far from perfect. It’s a complete lifestyle change and I’m constantly trying to learn and deepen my understanding in order to make smarter decisions in my daily life.

So, back to that elephant riding thing… when you think about it, riding an elephant sounds fascinating, right? Perched atop a ten ton wild animal as you trot through the jungles and rivers of Thailand… who wouldn’t deem that bucket-list worthy?

Elephant Nature park

As I began researching opportunities to ride an elephant, I found many articles discussing the horrific abuse of elephants in Thailand. As babies, these animals are sometimes stolen from their mothers out in the wild; they are then tortured, abused, starved, and placed in tiny cages and holes in order to mentally “break” the animals so that they will obey. And as someone who is incredibly afraid of small, confined spaces I cannot even imagine the mental anguish they suffer. (If you’re interested in more detailed information, Google: “Riding an Elephant in Thailand” and you’ll find many articles about the abuse).

I asked myself: What is the difference between riding an elephant in Thailand and riding a horse back in the ‘States? Is there a difference?

A few years ago while visiting St. Maarten, I decided to skip a bucket list activity of “Riding a horse on the beach” due to the many reviews about the poor treatment of the animals; however, when I lived in Idaho I rode horses quite often–horses which were well cared for and looked after. For me, it all comes down to the ethical treatment of the animals. And at the end of the day, my love for animals drove me to pursue an alternative to supporting an unregulated tourism industry with so much abuse.

Elephant Nature park

I still dream of interacting with these majestic creatures and on our next visit to Thailand I would love an opportunity to see Elephants up close at the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai. This park is a rescue and rehabilitation center located in Northern Thailand which offers many volunteer opportunities for those looking to interact with these fascinating creatures.

I guess when it comes to experiencing all that an area has to offer and trying to push the adrenaline junkie limit, I finally found a limit. Not because it was too dangerous or too scary, but because I did not want to contribute to the abuse (perceived or actual). I am not political here on the blog as I like to keep things happy and uplifting, and I completely understand that another traveler may have the opposite stance on this subject. At the end of the day, I realized that while riding an Elephant could be a beautiful experience, this time around it was not for me.

Elephant Nature park

All photos in the post were found on the Elephant Nature Park website. Go check out this amazing website for yourself.

How cute is that baby elephant in the last photo?

10 Comments

  1. November 20, 2015 / 7:18 AM

    as a world traveler and zoologist, i really appreciate this post! i’m looking to backpack southeast asia soon and plan to volunteer at an elephant sanctuary. it SO much more rewarding helping animals than doing the typical tourist thing–i’ve made a career out of sanctuary work! tourists will never know the truth without people willing to educate, so thank you for taking the time to share this.

    • November 22, 2015 / 10:54 AM

      Thank you so much! 🙂 I really appreciate your comment. I didn’t want to come across as “preaching” but I did want to try to inform my readers about a topic that was important to me.
      Have so much fun volunteering at the Sanctuary. I can’t wait to visit and volunteer on our next trip.
      Have a great day!
      Krystle

  2. November 21, 2015 / 10:46 AM

    If you ever get to Kenya, I highly recommend a visit to the Nairobi Elephant Sanctuary where they look after rescued/abandoned elephants and try to return them to the wild.

    We saw 2 groups being fed – first group was about 9 months and older and the second group was the babies. You get really close with only a few stakes and a single rope separating the public from the elephants and handlers.

    • November 22, 2015 / 10:56 AM

      Andy & Judi,
      I will add it to my list. 🙂 Thanks for the recommendation.
      Your experience sounds remarkable, thank you for sharing it. Baby elephants have got to be some of the cutest animals on the planet. 🙂
      Have a happy day!
      -K

  3. November 23, 2015 / 5:42 AM

    We made the same decision when we visited Thailand, Krystle – good for you! Thanks for this post!

    • November 23, 2015 / 3:30 PM

      Thanks for sharing, Karen. It’s good to know I’m not alone. 🙂
      xoxo

  4. December 6, 2015 / 2:55 AM

    Ah elephants are so beautiful, I hope I get to see them on my travels soon 🙂
    By the way, I stopped eating red meat around 2 years ago after attempting to read read a true story book the first wave of Lithuanian immigrants who worked in a slaughter house in Chicago. The book was so detailed that I couldn’t finish it and made the decision to stop eating red meat the same day.

    • December 8, 2015 / 9:46 AM

      Kristina,
      I had a similar experience. I was on the PETA website for far too long one afternoon, and after educating myself I decided to take the steps to change my lifestyle. I still eat fish right now, but everything else was pretty easy to cut out.
      I hope you get a chance to see the elephants when you go to Thailand. I’m enjoying reading about your trip to Malta. Looks so beautiful!
      xoxo
      -K

      • December 10, 2015 / 12:08 AM

        I eat fish too, but looking forward to all that lovely veg in Thailand :)Glad you are enjoying post about malta 🙂

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