Our daughters, who have grown up in Asia, have ridden many animals but never elephants, so we wanted to give them the chance. However, we were shocked when we arrived today to find that the prices where six times what we expected (our fault to some extent, theirs to the rest of it!). They were asking 1800 Thai baht per hour elephant ride and we ended up paying 1000 each. Had we known it was that expensive we would not have gone but once we had paid an expensive van ride to get there we felt compelled...
We mounted the animals from a platform. Each held a bench type seat that would hold two adults or an adult and two small children. I'm told that sometimes they allow children to ride in front of the driver on the heads of the animals. The ride took us on a path up a small rise, through a bit of jungle, back around through a horribly stinky channel of water full of elephant feces back to the same platform. We felt the advertised hour ride was dishonest. If the animals had walked at a steady slow pace, it could have taken fifteen to twenty minutes. Instead, the elephants kept stopping. The appearance was that they were balky and unwilling to walk forward when, in fact, if the elephants had not stopped the ride would have come nowhere near an hour. So they advertise an hour "ride" when they give you a 20 minute ride and a 40 minute "wait". For the price I thought it was a rip off.
At the end of the ride they gave each of us a water and a bit of fresh pineapple and offered us the chance to purchase photos of our trip in frames of elephant dung. Nice photos but we passed. At the end of the ride they also offered to sell us bead bracelets and necklaces, which we also passed on.
They also offered a package deal which included various animal shows, none of which interested us.
The facility entrance was an attractive pavilion with stools and tables. The restroom was clean enough. All of the buildings appeared well kept and attractive. However, even though I am not overly sensitive about animals, I thought it was nothing short of abusive to make these animals walk through the narrow canal filled with filthy, buggy, repulsive, elephant pee/poop filled water. I almost vomited riding through it and I've smelled some disgusting things in my life. ;)
At the end of the day, we'd had a unique family experience. The sky was blue; the clouds were puffy; the sun was out; and I'd been with my loved ones. It's not that it was a total loss, but I felt the dishonest packaging of the experience mixed with the unpleasant circumstances for the elephants made this some place we would never go again, nor would we recommend it to friends.
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