Baan Chang Elephant Sanctuary

While volunteering in Thailand, we were expected to work 9-5 during the week, but on the weekends, we were free to do what we pleased. I usually like to stay off the beaten path where crowds of tourists aren't found but one major “touristy” attraction I just had to was the elephant park. There are many different elephant parks to see in Thailand but many of them do not treat the elephants well. After a few days of research, I found an elephant sanctuary that had excellent reviews and history of well-kept animals. When we arrived, a pasture full of big beautiful elephants and joyful tour guides greeted us. I was so taken back by the size of them and began wondering if riding them through the jungle was really a good idea.

After a few riding lessons I was feeling much more comfortable with the elephants. I preferred riding the elders because I thought they might be more reliable when going outside the barriers of the park. The young baby elephants were rambunctious and naughty. They liked to stray away from the heard, steal bananas from the tour guide baskets, and give unexpected suction-cup like kisses on the neck.

After lunch, we began our trek into the Chiang Mai Mountain jungle.  Right when we were all mounted on our elephants and ready to go, it started pouring down rain. If anyone is familiar with the Thailand rain, you know it comes and goes unpredictably. You just have to learn go get a little wet. So, here I am, on an elephant’s back, with my best friend, in the rain, hanging on for dear life as we head up a mountain trail thick with greenery. What a fabulous moment. I will never forget how thankful we were when the rain stopped and the sun came out and warmed our shivering bodies. The rest of the walk was absolutely beautiful, stopping at scenic views to look out over the mountains.

After our walk was over, we stopped at a small pond to let the elephants cool down. I even got to join my elephant in the water and give her a bath! I climbed on her back and poured water all over her head and body. She flapped her ears with joy. I felt such a beautiful connection with my elephant and was so thankful for this day. I will always remember this experience and the enlightenment it has brought into my heart.

All my love and gratitude, 

Krista Wanous
Miss International 2012 


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