After 5 days in the city of Chiang Mai, it was time for us to head outside the city to an area called Mae Wang, where we would be staying at Chai Lai Orchid – a guest house in the jungle close to an elephant camp. The Chai Lai Orchid works to promote sustainable tourism, kindness to elephants, and helps at-risk women take the first step to get out of poverty and see a future of hope. The eco-lodge is located adjacent to an elephant camp which still uses chairs on the backs of the elephants to provide rides for tourists. This camp, like so many in Thailand, is reluctant to change its business model because they fear tourists will go elsewhere to find cheap chair rides and elephant shows. Chai Lai Orchid is hoping to raise enough money to run the elephant camp, showing others that tourists are happy to spend time watching and bathing the elephants, and thereby set an example for the humane and ethical treatment of both elephants and mahouts.
In addition to helping the elephants, Chai Lai employs young mothers and at-risk girls who have been denied education through circumstance. Chai Lai Orchid teaches the women about working in a hotel so when they graduate, they can find stable employment in Thailand’s growing hospitality industry. They also attend English and computer classes, seminars on women’s health, nutrition, trafficking and their rights.
This was one of my favourite places to stay so far on our journey. It was nice to be in the jungle. The boys loved the river, which was a great way to cool off in the tropical heat. We were also able to hire a bamboo raft and go rafting down the river rapids. We enjoyed watching the elephants walk past us. To top it off a new baby elephant had just been born the week before! It was also great to know that our money was going to support a good cause.
The boys on the river, just outside our room.
Proud Momma with her new calf.
Visiting with the elephants.
The bridge across to our “Jungle Lodge”. We only brought our backpacks here. Good thing! Wouldn’t want to have to roll a big bag across this bridge! (Although people drove across on their motorcycles!)
Barb working at the lodge restaurant.
The river we rafted on, and swam in. (Fortunately it wasn’t until our last day that we noticed the very large water snakes on the river bank!!)
Good bye, Chai Lai Orchid! We loved staying here!
Wow! So close to the elephants. What an amazing memory to take away!