Damnoen Saduak Chang Puak Elephant Camp, Thailand

I won't deny that I enjoyed the thrill of riding the elephant in Damnoen Saduak Chang Puak Camp but it was my least favorite from the whole trip to Thailand.





The only times I have seen elephants were in Manila Zoo (maybe about 20 years ago!?) and in my town's very own zoological park, the Avilon Zoo.

Before coming to Thailand, I saw one friend posted a photo of him being carried by an elephant using its trunk! I also saw another who was in Chiang Mai washing an elephant in what seemed to be a small river. I thought I wanted to experience the latter.

It may be true that a trip to Thailand is not complete without seeing or experiencing the elephants, but I sincerely wish that people would think twice and hopefully shun the idea. (I am maybe just saying this because I had experienced it already and won't be left wondering about it, but I mean it.)

Just recently, a man in Thailand was crashed by his elephant resulting to his death. The elephant was reported to be in "musth—a state of high aggression accompanied by hormonal surges. A male elephant in musth has six times the usual amount of testosterone flowing through its body."






    Damnoen Saduak Chang Puak Elephant Camp



    The entrance to Chang Puak Camp, Damnoen Saduak

    Directly from Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, we went to the Damnoen Saduak Chang Puak Camp.

    The elephant ride cost 600 Baht (~Php 930) per person, by the way, and would take around 20 minutes.


    Elephants at the station where the tourists embark and disembark.

    They also take and print a photo of you but for a separate fee, so we just instead asked our tour guide Eche to use our cameras:



    Only now I noticed that part of the tusks of the elephant that we rode were cut off! I can only guess it's for safety reason.

    Did you know that only some male Asian elephants have tusks? Female Asian elephants don't have tusks, but their cousins in Africa, both male and female, have tusks.


    The Elephant Ride



    A mahout (elephant trainer) uses a sharp tool such as the elephant goad or bullhook to train an elephant.

    The elephant would sometimes stop and pluck and eat some leaves from the trees on the way. The rider would then, of course, force the animal to move and carry on by poking it with a bullhook or elephant goad.

    A bullhook may be used behind the ears where the skin is paper thin, around the eyes where the skin is also very thin, and on the feet, trunk and around the mouth which are highly enervated. These areas are all extremely sensitive to the touch. - elephantvoices.org



    The mahout's foot, the wooden handle of the elephant goad (bullhook) to command the elephant, and the elephant's ear with some discoloration.



    Selfeet? Can't remember why our feet were somehow raised awkwardly here.



    The path getting narrower.

    When the ride was nearing the end, we suddenly stopped and I honestly got a little nervous when he slowly turned his head towards us. We stopped in a spot where no one else could see us. After looking at us, he then started to reach for something -- not the bullhook obviously, but probably something smaller.

    He then showed us a handful of jewelries (necklaces and bracelets made of colorful stones) and tried to sell to us which cost a few hundreds of bahts. (Relieved) we refused and we went on to end the short ride. I guess he wasn't allowed to that openly and did it discreetly.



    The rider fixes the umbrella for the next tour.



    Conclusion


    The elephant is Thailand's national animal and has been an integral part of the kingdom's culture and society, and them being part of their tourism industry probably won't end until they're extinct (duh).

    There are now only about 3,500 domesticated elephants in Thailand (still sounds like a big number, but) they are considered an endangered species.

    The next time you find yourself planning a trip to Thailand, please consider this advice: as much as possible, don't avail any packaged tours or deliberately book for anything that involves elephants.

    -
    Travel Period: August 2016

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