One of the best days we had in Thailand was the day we spent at Elephant Retirement Park (http://www.elephantretirementpark.com/) near Chiang Mai.
Thailand is famous for dozens of Elephant parks and homes, most of them claiming to be providing a safe place for these beautiful beings to live. Well, if making these elephants work for continuous long hours every day, having people ride on them for hours and hours with short or no breaks and training them so they showcase those skills in commercial shows was a part of "providing safe place in the natural habitat"....we did not want to do anything with it. We did a lot of research online and talked to locals and travelers before deciding which place to visit. Fortunately, we found out about Elephant Retirement Park - a genuine place that provides a natural and healthy living environment for elephants.
Elephant Retirement Park is genuine because they keep rescued and retired elephants....and some of them have had a real tough life. When we went, there were five elephants - one of them 45 years old female with a cute baby elephant of 8 months, and three young kids ranging 3-5 years. The female was a retired one and spent her whole life in a commercial place, having people ride on her continuously....to a point that she could not take it anymore and one day decided not to even stand up! She is living a real healthy life now at this park and her main task now is to just eat :) And her baby was soooo adorable and playful!! Another young elephant got mentally unstable because she was always kept in a cage her size and she could only move back and forth....it was sad to see her still doing that. She has come a long way though....developing trust with her mahout and other volunteers.
It was a real treat to see these five elephants having a time of their life in this safe haven....we fed them bananas, had a mud bath with them and them scrubbed and cleaned them....it was so much fun!!!! And believe me, that is what they do pretty much everyday....eat, take mud bath, shower and get pampered and sleep....what a life! :D
We were really glad to see there are places like this where elephants are really taken care of. We are proud of ourselves that we did not blindly go for any elephant park and chose to spend our time and show our support to a non-profit that actually means well being of elephants. Can you imagine, if all of us did our little part and made a conscious choice of what/who to support, even while on vacation?? After all, every action counts and every small step leads to a big change :o)