Of cats, dogs …. and elephants!

Day 18.

Confession time.

I have been traveling in northern Thailand for the last while. Without access to decent wifi – mostly NO wifi. Combined with the desire to really be ‘in the moment’ in my adventure, I haven’t posted for awhile.

And now I’m back at my home base. I’ve stayed sober.

I think you’ll forgive me for not posting. Won’t you?

It was easy, so so easy to stay sober in Thailand. It is not a culture of drinking – and with all the rules and regulations in place, and zero tolerance for rule breakers there, it’d be hard to have a beer or glass of wine in your hand very often. The Thai just don’t drink much beyond a few ice cold Chang beers. The foreigners — a different story. Especially in the seedier areas in the south of Thailand.

So I arrive at Day 18 sober, and also having just had an amazing trip. A dream trip. A tick-one-off-the-bucket-list trip.

I went to volunteer at the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, in northern Thailand. I took the photo shown above. I spent a week volunteering, which included shovelling elephant poop (yes!), washing and cutting up fruit for the 90 elephants roaming the sanctuary, cutting up bamboo stalks, and walking with elephants. Each one of these elephants saved from abuse and lives of misery, including begging on the streets of Bangkok, circuses, enduring tourists climbing on their backs for ‘fun rides’ (anything but), hard labor such as logging (even though its illegal).

I also visited the Cat Kingdom at the Park. Over 300 cats (all spayed and neutered). Each one saved from the streets, from the tsunami or from the illegal meat trade.

Plus the 400+ dogs (all spayed and neutered) on the premises also saved from the streets (some are victims of car accidents), from the tsunami and from the illegal meat trade.

Plus a herd of Water Buffalo, saved from slaughterhouses.

All animals at Elephant Nature Park are clean, sparkling and so happy to roam around and greet visitors. A sight to behold, a feel-good for the heart.

The trip includes further education for us visitors about the plight of elephants. The details of which COULD destroy your faith in humanity, if you let it. (The Chinese have a lot to answer for. Their view on animals and the exploitation of them is sickening. And yes, there is an awakening amongst their younger generations that are giving me hope for the future of places such as China.)

Instead, we’re encouraged to choose to be hopeful and get out there and educate.

So let me educate you a bit – and maybe inspire you too to book a trip to ENP

rsz_lek_darrick_thomsonElephant Nature Park  (ENP) is an absolutely fabulous organization, headed by two extremely committed individuals Lek and Darrick Thomson who save elephants from the horrors of poaching, being shipped across the globe, killed for ivory, street begging, logging, circuses, tourist traps such as elephant rides and trekking, etc.

Lek and Darrick are also promoting the hope of a future for elephants – instead of extinction, which is a real possibility at this moment in time.

Most of the elephants at the park are female, mid to older age, and in varying degrees of sick and injured.  ALL of these ladies have gone through the most horrible ‘tradition’ when they were young to kill their spirit and make them do whatever the ‘masters’ wanted. (Along with the use of the bull hook). Called the Pha Jaan or the ‘crushing’ (hard to read but important) baby elephants are stolen from the wild (and mother and aunties always killed to get them) and are put through this process of cruel barbaric methods. To give you just a small insight into how horrible this process is, they keep suicide watch on the babies during the process, because the babies often stand on their trunk so they die, rather than go through the process. I mean barbaric. To break them… utterly break them. It’s a worldwide phenomenon. US circus break the babies in this way too.

Husband and wife Lek and Darrick work tirelessly throughout Thailand and the rest of Asia to educate people, to save elephants from extinction, and save them from a life such as I’ve outlined above.

And. After all the elephants in the sanctuary have been through – the majority of them are kind and tolerant of all us visitors. And I don’t blame the ones who distance themselves from humans. To stand in front of and close to an elephant – in all her grandeur, is a life-changing experience.

I highly recommend this adventure. It helps the park, it’s fun, you get to see elephants all day every day. Book directly with the Park. They don’t pay commission, so no travel agencies offer the Elephant Nature Park packages (accept no substitutes!). It means all money goes directly to the Park. See packages and register here.

I’m feeling good, feeling strong, and the days there flew by – and here I am at 18 days wine-free! I’m back in my routine. Which means the next couple of days I will need to stay very mindful of triggers.

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