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elephant camp Anantara

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elephant camp Anantara

We will be staying at the Anantara over Chinese New Year. They offer various elelphant treks -- through rice paddies, along the river, up to the hills where you can see Laos and Burma. Has anyone done any of these? Have a favorite? Is it worth learning to 'drive' an elephant?

The cooking class is expensive, but sounds like fun. Again, I'd love some feedback.

Thanks for your help.

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Colorado
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1. Re: elephant camp Anantara

Hi Jgmc:

I've stayed at Anantara a few times. I love the place, but it is expensive.

Elephant Camp: I have never ridden the elephants at Anantara. We usually got up early in the morning and went down to the elephant camp (5 minute walk from the hotel rooms) and fed the elephants and hung out with the elephants for awhile. When you stay at Anantara you can go down to the elephant camp at any time at no cost. When we were there in 2008 they had a new baby elephant. Just amazing. We did our elephant riding at Ruammit, which is about a 45 minute boat ride from Chiang Rai and in a short neck Karen village. It was a lot cheaper than Anantara and we enjoyed the boat ride to get there. It too is a jungle ride.

However, the area around Anantara is certainly condusive to a jungle ride also. There is a lot of area to ride along the river, through jungle etc. It is a lot more expensive than other areas, but it has a great reputation as an elephant camp. It is also in a very small town and the jungle around it is very large. We had some friends who did the half day ride/bathing elephants and we also talked with some folks who did an all day mahout training. Both of them loved it.

As for the cooking class: Anantara is really expensive for food. I love spending an entire day doing nothing but hanging out on the Anantara grounds, lounging by the pool, having a drink at the bar, but after my first visit, I started heading into Sob Ruck for dinner. I know Anantara has a great reputation in a lot of areas and I'd easily stay there again, but on my last trip at Anantara, all four of us agreed its Thai food in the restaurant was the most disappointing Thai food we had on the entire trip.

That said, the Thai cooking classes in Chiang Rai are limited. My adult kids did the one at Naga Hills. It cost 900 baht per person and it was not good. Nothing hands on, the chef didn't speak English, they just got to watch and ask questions through an intepreter. However, the food the chef cooked while they watched was really good. Palm Garden Hotel will schedule private cooking classes with their chef for about 3,000 baht per person.

Hope that helps you with your decisions.

Broder

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Chiang Rai
Chiang Rai
Chiang Rai Province, Thailand
Taiwan
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2. Re: elephant camp Anantara

Thank you -- that was very helpful. The cooking school is pretty expensive, but might be worth the fling. And it sounds as though we perhaps should do -- at most -- a short elephant trek through Anantara; we can go down to watch them bathe in the morning free of charge! I appreciate the tips about looking outside the hotel for food.

Chiang Rai, Thailand
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3. Re: elephant camp Anantara

Dear Jgmc & Broder

Greetings from the Elephant Camp at Anantara and thanks for your interest in our little camp!

I am unsure of the protocol of this so I hope you don't mind me dropping into the conversation, however I thought I had better weigh in and try to explain why we are more expensive than other elephant camp options as there are good reasons for this.

When setting up the camp we did so putting the elephants and mahouts first - we worked out what it would cost to keep the elephants properly with comfortable and limited working hours whilst providing the mahouts and families with a decent standard of living whether we have guests of not, most camps work piecemeal so if the elephant doesn't work for one day the mahout gets nothing and, with the cheaper prices, the elephant has to work many hours a day just to sustain itself.

We prefer to keep both elephants and mahouts (including their families) fat and happy as well as providing extras such as a full time vet. insurance for elephants and mahout and then go about trying to recover the cost by providing what has proven to be a unique and fun service through our mahout training programmes to help us pay for this all.

On top of this, under our Thai registered Foundation (www.helpingelephants.org) we have taken on (currently) seventeen non-working baby elephants from the streets of Bangkok who cost the same to run (about US$1,000 per month) as the adults who do the mahout training - the money for this comes from guest donations as well as from the eight elephants who perform mahout training duties for us.

So while we are more expensive we hope that people choose to come and take part in our activities because they know they are helping the elephants, both those they ride and the unseen others and, lofty goal that it may be, setting the bar for other elephant camps to follow when it comes to elephant and mahout care.

Mr Broder is correct in saying that all guests are welcome to the baby and main camps to see the elephants at any time, or to see the silk weaving business we have set up for the mahouts' wives - for bathing I would recommend visiting the afternoon bathing rather than the morning (usually around 2.30 but be at the baby camp by 2pm to be sure) because the babies come too during the dryer months (which would include your stay).

I hope this helps and sincerely hope it doesn't fall outside the community guidelines.

Thanks

John Roberts

Director of Elephants, Anantara Resort, Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation

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Golden Triangle
Golden Triangle
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Chiang Saen, Thailand
Taiwan
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4. Re: elephant camp Anantara

Thank you, Mr. Roberts. My original query was just which of the enticing elephant treks to start with -- we are very much looking forward to our Anantara stay and indeed, your elephant camp's reputation is what is bringing us there.

Chiang Rai, Thailand
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5. Re: elephant camp Anantara

Dear Jgmc

Well, thank you for your nice words and I hope you didn't mind me butting in, I don't think I'm allowed to recommend or advertise here so perhaps we'd better hope other Trip Advisor readers can help!

If you would like more information please feel free to contact me through the hotel - I would recommend booking in advance as, especially with the Lunar New Year and Valentines day coinciding we'll are already pretty well booked and are limited in the number of guests we can accomodate for safety and service reasons.

Many thanks

John

Colorado
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6. Re: elephant camp Anantara

Mr. Roberts:

For future information, the forum does not allow for self promotion by vendors, guides, hotels, restaurants etc. . Additionally it does not allow those entities to advertise or try to obtain business via forum posts. It is acceptable for anyone who uses the elephant camp at Anantara (or any other hotel, restaurant, guide etc.) to post their thoughts, both postive, neutral or negative, on their experience. Since your post seemed more geared toward an explanation of the program, I think TA will keep this one on the forum.

By the way, Broder is a woman....so its Ms. Broder (although that isn't my real name of course).

Safe Travels to All:

Broder

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7. Re: elephant camp Anantara

Dear jgmc,

I have spent time at the Anantara and I enjoyed every minute. The staff are so genuinely nice and the food is delicious (arroy!), and while more expensive than road-side restaurants in town or carts, this is a 5-star resort and the price includes perfect ambiance and service. So a few splurges are worth it. Especially if there is a festival...we were there for Thai New Year and it was spectacular, including the kam loy, details of which I will leave as surprise. The cooking class, also, was wonderful because it was much more than cooking...it is an education in ingredients and culture and the chef takes you to the local market to explore and for local coffee and a picnic near an ancient temple. Really fun.

And I have been lucky to complete two Mahout training sessions. While it is my preference to walk alongside "my" elephant, the training and the extended time spent on the treks was truly life-changing for me. And I am not trying to be dramatic here! These animals are so big and so gentle and, not to be forgotten, super strong, and the more time you spend with them in their environment, the more you learn and start to understand them as individuals. The cost here is for such good return in that this camp provides a safe home for the elephants and their mahouts (owners) and the mahout's entire family. And of course, i recommend visiting the babies any time you can, especially when they are in the river! Hopefully you'll meet one named Am while you are there!

So, I hope this helps and that you have a very rewarding experience. Best,

TM

Dublin, Ireland
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8. Re: elephant camp Anantara

Hi ,

stayed 2 years back. loved the hotel, service and indeed the elephant camp. I took a full hour trip around the hotel itself on the neck of the elephant it was wonderful. Expensive yes. worth it? absolutely. Hi Broder hope the weather is fine in Colorado

Colorado
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9. Re: elephant camp Anantara

Hi Paul:

Nice to see you on the forum. Although it is hard to ever complain about weather in Colorado, or any aspect of living in Colorado for that matter, we are having a rather cold winter that has actually left us with snow on the ground that isn't melting! Except in the mountains, we aren't used to the snow staying for this long, as the sun usually comes out and melts it away in a few days.

As to Anantara, I too have loved my experiences at the resot, except I have never found the food to be 5 star quality in the restaurants at dinner and we had a few service problems with housekeeping on our last trip. I did think the hotel management did a good job of addressing the housekeping issues when I brought the issues to their attention. I do however think they have one of the two best breakfast buffets that I have encountered in Asia. As I have said on several prior posts, I'd stay at Anantara again (and have), I just make sure I have a bottle of wine to take to my room at night so I don't have to pay for their high beverage/food costs.

Broder

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10. Re: elephant camp Anantara

Dear jgmc

Yes, yes and 3-times yes.

The Anantara and the Elephant Camp have become part of our annual holiday for the past 4 years, and each year the experience of being up-close to an elephant - and getting to know your elephant (their likes, dislikes, occasional moodiness and pure delight at going into the river) has brought us a great deal of pleasure.

We've been privileged to have visited the elephant camp from the early days (4 beautiful, ex-logging ladies - the eldest was 62) and to see the camp grow into the success it is today. Not only are the elephants thriving in their environment, but to see the mahouts and their families are too is fantastic.

Whilst the mahout driving course may appear to be expensive - it will be an experience that will stay with you for a very, very long time.

I have posted a photo - which will take a few days to appear - of my ele, Boun-na, with the maekong river, Laos and Burma in the background.

cheers

Mike

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