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“Nothing is worth the risk they put you through to get out there”

Woody Elephant Training
Ranked #2 of 24 things to do in Mae Taeng
Certificate of Excellence
Attraction details
Level Contributor
9 reviews
4 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 22 helpful votes
“Nothing is worth the risk they put you through to get out there”
2 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 8 January 2013

We went to Woody's last week for a half-day tour, based on a recommendation by our hotel concierge. Things started out on the wrong foot right away. We were not given a set pickup time, only a pickup window (from 8:30 to 9 a.m.). Sure enough, the van (driven by a member of Woody's staff) only showed up around 9, so we wasted almost half an hour standing in the lobby waiting.
We then stopped at another hotel to pick up some other guests, who weren't there. The driver was completely confused and left us waiting in the van for over 20 minutes as he used his cell phone and approached random people coming out of the hotel to see if they were the ones he was looking for. Only after we insisted many times that we should leave (we couldn't afford any delays because we had a flight that afternoon and they were made well aware of that by our concierge at the time of booking) did the driver get back in the van and we started on our way.
Now this is where it gets unacceptably dangerous. The driver tried to make up for the lost time by driving like a madman throughout the one-hour drive down to Woody's elephant farm, weaving through traffic and speeding at upwards of 130 km/h through alternating stretches of divided highways and two-lane roads through villages. On top of that, there were no seatbelts for the passengers (only for the driver, of course), even though the van was ironically fitted with custom trimmings and speakers (I guess that's where the money for the seatbelts went).
Fortunately, we did get to the farm in one piece, even tough we were all rattled and sickened by the ride. When we reported the delay and the way the driver drove us there to the guide who was apparently in charge, he laughed it off, refused to lend us a phone (so we could make a local call to our hotel to discuss alternative transportation for the way back), and then got borderline threatening, saying that we were in his family's house and that if we didn't want to go on the tour we should get out.
Luckily, Woody himself showed up and was more polite and understanding. He apologized and said he would talk to the driver to make sure we had a safe ride back.
As for the experience itself in the farm, I had very mixed feelings. We did get to interact with the elephants, feeding them, riding them, and bathing them. But I couldn't shake the feeling those animals should be free in the wild, instead of (literally) shackled under captivity for our entertainment. The briefing we were given in the beginning was particularly disturbing. We were shown the "training tools" they used to train the elephants, and these were a machete and a stick with a metal hook on one end (somewhat akin to a small scythe). They tried to sell us the idea that these were necessary and that the elephants did not get hurt because they had very thick skin, but it was clear that the training method they employed was harsh negative reinforcement. And even though the staff tries to frame the whole experience as a conservationist effort and show themselves as friends and helpers of the elephants, I couldn't help but wonder if this kind of place isn't in fact doing more harm than good and if us tourists aren't encouraging more elephants to be captured in the wild and brought to places like this.
On the way back, the van driver did drive much more responsibly and within the speed limits -- evidently because of Woody's intervention. That does not, however, change the fact that they put their customers' lives at risk in vans with no seatbelts, driven by drivers with a very casual approach to driving and passenger safety. All in all, the dangerous and wreckless transportation and the questionable ethics of the experience made it an experience I wouldn't recommend.

Visited January 2013
2 Thank Gustavoh
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Level Contributor
41 reviews
13 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 14 helpful votes
“The most suprisingly fantastic day of our trip”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 8 January 2013

I was very skeptical of this attraction. I just didn't know what to expect from the one day Elephant Training. I didn't want it to be silly or gimmicky. I was planning a trip for 13 people, and was most nervous about this day excursion. Luckily we got the exact opposite. It was amazing. It is hard to describe it - but you just have to go to Woody's. Woody and Tom are characters and they make you feel like a native Thai. It was great fun and a true adventure. We left that day saying "did we really just do that?". I highly recommend. It is a must do if you are in Chiang Mai.

Visited January 2013
Thank Candann
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Montreal, Canada
Level Contributor
38 reviews
7 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 25 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 3 January 2013

I would book directly with Woody (speaks english) and save Reg 2400bhat - direct 1800bhat
see their web site for contact info
Had a great day. I would recommend it
Time on the beast is limited, though.

Visited December 2012
1 Thank john_the_traveller50
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
2 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
“Well worth it for an unforgettable day”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 24 December 2012

We were originally trying to book with BaanChang elephant park, but upon recommendation by the owner of our guesthouse we booked a one day trip with Woody instead. Woody himself picked us up from our guesthouse in the morning, and spent most of the 50 minute drive chatting with the people with us. The place itself is a bit smaller then some of the others, but everyone is really nice and Woody has heaps of character.

The morning was spent learning the Thai words to talk to the elephants and practising them with a mahout helping out, and we also got to feed and touch the eleven elephants which at the time of our visit included a four month old and a one year old.

After a nice lunch we got to head out for our ride, which was a lot of fun and such a great experience. Definitely make sure you bring a change of clothes, as the swim with the elephants afterwards is possibly the best part. The mahouts have so much fun playing with you and the elephants, and make it such a memorable experience. You can also leave your camera with one of them and they will gladly take photos of you in the water with the elephants, and we got some great photos.

Over all we can definitely recommend this to anyone, it's such a unique experience and Woody and his team make it so personal and enjoyable.

Visited December 2012
1 Thank Max K
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Newport, Wales, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
3 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
“Amazing experience with staff who actually care !!”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 18 December 2012

Had the best day at Woody's training camp :) we got to feed all the elephants, learnt how to control them and then got to ride Christina bareback ( with no saddle) through the mountains, river, bathed and swam with her :) She also had her baby sky tagging along beside us :) so cute!! Such characters, she was loving the trees, ripping out all the branches and flicking them around, was great to watch from above. Woody and his team were brilliant and they gave us a lot of information about the elephants and their past as well as his own.

We've heard some horror stories of elephant training in south east Asia, where they get them to perform tricks etc, and to think so many people pay to go and watch this sort of thing when elephants are blatantly abused, you should pay that little bit extra to go somewhere like this and watch them roam through a more natural habitat, where the people really care for the elephants and basically class them as family.

An amazing experience loved every minute!!

Visited December 2012
Thank Kirsty P
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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