So it’s Wednesday, but I had to put Wedding Wednesday on hold for a week or 2 until I have more photos! So, in place of wedding talk I have honeymoon talk for you – almost as good right?
Today I wanted to tell you about the wonderful time we had at our 2nd stop of 3 in Thailand – Chai Lai Orchid! Many people asked us “why Thailand?” when we would tell them we were going there on our honeymoon. Well, Thailand has actually become a very popular honeymoon destination due to it’s beauty and relative affordability. Flights are pretty reasonable (though very long) and luxury resorts, food and entertainment are cheap. The second reason we chose Thailand is because I really, really wanted to ride on and play with elephants!
Chai Lai Orchid was our stop to fulfill this dream of mine. There are countless places in Thailand where you can ride elephants, but some treat the elephants better than others. When I started researching where we wanted to go I came across Chai Lai Orchid. It is a social business that supports sustainable tourism. They are working to provide a better life for both the elephants and their care takers as well as providing jobs to at-risk woman, helping to lift them out of poverty. They have nature bungalows you can stay in at a very reasonable rate, day-long excursions as well as a delicious restaurant with authentic Thai food.
The immediate goal of Chai Lai Orchid is to buy the 11 elephants that work at an elephant camp across the river. I did not fully understand this before we visited and it can be pretty confusing. Chai Lai Orchid actually pays to rent the elephants at the beginning and end of their work day, none of the elephants are owned by Chai Lai Orchid (yet). By renting them they give the elephants a break from the back-breaking work of being ridden all day with chairs strapped to their backs. The long-term goal of Chai Lai Orchid is to show the elephant care takers, who are called Mahouts, that people will pay money to ride elephants bare-backed, bathe and play with them and that they can sustain an elephant tourism business without treating the elephants poorly.
We opted for the full day “Amazing Mountain Adventure: Elephants + Trekking”. We woke up early so we could be ready for our bare-backed elephant ride at 6:30am before the elephants had to head over to the camp. I was jealous because Walter got to ride the elephant with the baby! Her name is Chai Lai and she is just 6 months old and very dependent on her mother. I rode on Thong Wan, who’s name means “golden ring”. She is the most beautiful of all the elephants because of her coloring and long tail, but she sure like to take her sweet time! We moved quite slowly, which was fine with me because I didn’t want the ride to end 🙂
After breakfast we headed out with our guide, he said his name was “Chicken”, but we are pretty sure none of the Thai people we met actually told us their real names, but we went with it. He was in his early 20s and carried a backpack full of food he would cook us for lunch and a machete that he put to good use. He took us on a trek through passion fruit farms, rice paddies and up a mountain to a large waterfall where we took a break for lunch.
The waterfall was freezing, which was a blessing because it was over 100 degrees out. All the while we were trekking Chicken was carving us cups (pictured below) out of a piece of bamboo he cut off a tree during one of our water breaks. We were touched by his gesture and very impressed by his carving skills.
Chicken also cooked us a delicious lunch of chicken, vegetables and rice! He was a very talented guide and made the whole trekking experience memorable.
After lunch we finished our trek and went on a short bamboo rafting trip, but since it was the end of dry season there was little water to actually raft in so it was interesting to say the least.
The highlight of the day came when we returned to Chai Lai Orchid and had the pleasure of bathing and playing with Deedee. Deedee is 6 years old and her name means “lucky”. She is the most playful of the elephants and is the best with people. She loves to get as dirty as possibly so people can bathe her, scrub behind her ears and on top of her head. She pays you back in kisses!
Getting kisses from Deedee was like nothing I have ever experienced. The suctioning power of her trunk was pretty amazing! The picture above is one of my favorites because of how excited Mook, Deedee’s Mahout, was about the kiss Deedee had just given Walter.
The half hour we got to spend with Deedee was the highlight of the trip for me, I would probably endure the 20 hour flight back to Thailand just to play with her again. She was so sweet and so were all of the Mahouts and people who worked at Chai Lai Orchid! If you are traveling to Thailand in the near future you should definitely check them out, they are located just about an hour outside of Chiang Mai so you can even just make it a day trip.