Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Ride elephants and listen to elephant music

Elephant, playing a drum, picture of Thai Elephant Orchestra by Reno Taini

"As responsible travelers, especially in developing countries like Thailand, we often find ourselves caught between our consciences and our curiosity. Fortunately, I discovered one place in Thailand that satisfied both my elephant curiosity and my desire to protect this endangered species." Michelle McCue writes it on Transitions She writes about The National Elephant Institute in Lampang (Kilometer 28-29 on Lampang - Chiang Mai Highway, Hang Chat Lampang), also known as Thai Elephant Conservation Centre ศูนย์อนุรักษ์ช้างไทย. It takes care of the animals and, with its eco-tourism, gives jobs to mahouts, the professional elephant handlers. There are two elephant hospitals, one run by the institute, one by a private person. For elephants, who have been injured by land mines along the Thai/Burmese boarder or others who have been nearly worked to dead. Read also this background on

Two daily shows (10 and 11 am) present the work in the logging of teak wood and the elephants ability to paint pictures with water colors.

But the institute offers also a homestay program. You will stay at the same house as the mahout. You can learn to mount and ride an elephant - with no saddle, nothing to climb, just the elephant helping you up with his leg, ears and patience. In the morning and evening you will accompany the mahout to the forest, to take and bring the elephants. Then you help cooking Thai food, dine in Kantoke style and listen to music played by the mahouts. It's also possible to just stay in the mahouts home and not take part in the elephant training. Read more on

Of course you can also go elephant riding on a comfortable saddle. There are rides from 10 minutes to one hour, every day from 8 am to 3.30 am. Read details.

Elephants can even make music. This was demonstrated 2001 by Dave Soldier and Richard Lair in collaboration with the animals at Thai Elephant Conservation Center. Provided with oversized instruments - a large harmonica, gong, synthesizers, and numerous drums - six elephants between the ages of 6 and 17 were allowed to create whatever they wished. The result was Thai Elephant Orchestra - listen to it on And if you don't believe, look at this film. Read the blog of Dave Soldier.

And did you know, that elephant dung is used to produce paper? That an elephant produces 50 kilos of dung a day and that you get 115 sheets of paper from that? Read about it here.

How you get to the institute? Read here. And see videos and pictures.

See pictures of the institute by

See the location of The National Elephant Institute on Google Map and Google Earth

1 comment:

1avatar38 said...

i really liked that post.