24.4.11: Maesa Elephant Camp

The breakfast offered by the hotel was limited and we had the same menu during our 4 days there.

When planning the itinerary, I had a hard time deciding which elephant camp to visit. I had read negative feedback by tourists about elephants being abused by mahouts in order to get them to obey their instructions. I also read about elephants being bruised from carrying the heavy weight of people sitting on them. Initially, my tour agent proposed Mae Tamman Elephant Camp, which has an elephant ride through the jungle for 45 minutes. Then have a lunch picnic by the waterfall followed by an ox-cart ride back. It sounded exciting, but I was hesitant whether we should ride on the elephant lest we contribute more to their suffering. Finally, I decided on Maesa Elephant Camp which is nearer to the city and is touted to have the best elephant show. 

After breakfast, the van brought us to Maesa Elephant Camp. There were 70+ elephants living there and they even had their pictures and their names on a large display board.  

We were early, around 8.15 am, and only a few people were there.

Elephants and their mahouts
We bought a set of bananas and sugarcane for 40 baht to feed the elephants. The bananas are of good quality and sweet. The boys ate a few themselves. 
Feeding the elephants
While I was standing beside the elephant for a picture, I was surprised to find my head being tapped 3 times by the elephant's trunk. After that, the elephants placed a hat on top of my head and tapped on it with its trunk again.
At 8.30 am, we went to watch the elephants having their bath in the river. 

To ride the elephant, one had to book in advance at least a day earlier. It cost 800 baht for a half-hour elephant ride. I was glad I didn't ride the elephant. The elephants were lumbering slowly uphill. It had seemed like such an effort

By 8.45 am busloads and busloads of visitors had arrived, and the place was swarmed with people. At 9 am, everyone made a beeline for the elephant show area, where the elephant show was to be held. It was an impressive performance, and I wondered how much time and effort was required for the elephants to learn those skills. Did they have to go through lots of hardship to learn it? I don't know. They seemed like such intelligent creatures. 

Waiting for the show to start
The elephants were well trained and could do various performances, like parading, playing ball,  throwing a dart at balloons, doing the hula-hula with its trunk and many more.

Demonstration of elephants pushing logs

Most impressive were the elephants painting. I found out that not all elephants could paint well. Those that had artistic talent were trained further to specialise in painting. 
The elephants' paintings were later auctioned off. What a good way to raise funds!
After the show, we headed towards the elephant nursery. It was quite a long walk, perhaps 500 metres away. We came across a worker collecting the chunks of elephant poo on the ground. 
While were were walking to the elephant nursery, we passed by this elephant  which was walking behind its mahout.  
Feeding the baby elephant at the nursery. We were advised to peel off the banana skin before giving it to the baby elephant. For adult elephants, they eat the bananas whole, with the skin too. They don't seem to chew, though. They even ate the hard sugarcane sticks easily.  

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