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Riding Elephants in Kanchanaburi
Riding Elephants in Kanchanaburi

I had always wanted to visit Thailand – it’s such a beautiful and exotic country, with such a vivid history, but in the past my husband and I have never been able to afford to visi

Post by : BenHogan

Post Date : January 1970

Trip Summary

Travel Date : August 2010

Destinations : Kanchanaburi

Activities : Elephant riding

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I had always wanted to visit Thailand – it’s such a beautiful and exotic country, with such a vivid history, but in the past my husband and I have never been able to afford to visit. Last year was our tenth wedding anniversary and my husband surprised me with airline tickets to Thailand! Flights have become a lot cheaper in recent years and he had discovered that it’s possible to find cheap direct flights to Bangkok online, so he had started saving up for us to make the visit. I was beside myself with joy, but even more so when he revealed we would be riding elephants through the Kanchanaburi jungle and the river Kwai.

I was concerned about the welfare of the elephants, having heard a lot about animal abuse from a few sources, but my husband assured me he had done his research. For those concerned about the animals’ welfare, there are a number of mahou (elephant trainers cum tour guides, to you or I) who forgo the usage of whips and hooks when training their animals and instead train them to recognise commands. Our mahou, Mrs Tong, was very kind, but firm with her animals and was a licensed guide with impressive credentials, so I felt perfectly comfortable.

Normally on elephant ride tours you are packed into a mini-bus with dozens of other tourists and you have to share space atop the elephant with at least half a dozen others. This isn’t comfortable for anyone, much less the elephant! With Mrs Tong everything was catered to us – we were given a choice of routes to take on our tour, as well as when and where we would stop for lunch. When it was time to head out, we were taken in a private van: just the three of us and when it was time to ride the elephants we were given the same treatment. We sat on the animal near its ears and it was given verbal commands only; no nasty hooks or whips here.

The River Kwai is amazing and its famous bridge is a sight for sore eyes. The lush jungle landscapes took my breath away and the experience of riding through them on the back of an elephant is a very primal one. We visited the ancient ruins of Prasat Muang Singh, which marked the lowest point in the Cambodian Khmer Empire and they, along with many history exhibits found in Kanchanaburi, lifted the lid on Thailand’s chequered history for me.

If you decide to take a chance on this amazing experience, bear in mind that a car ride from Bangkok to the river will take about 3 hours and a further 3 back, so you will need to set six hours of your day aside for travelling. I would recommend staying at the Royal Orchid Sheraton hotel overnight, as you will not be in any rush to get home once you have seen everything that Kanchanaburi has to offer.

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Elephants

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Cambodian Ruins

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