After spending time in Bangkok, we took a flight up north to Chiang Mai. We spent the first three nights up in the northern hills at the Sibsan Luxury Resort Maetaeng. It was a rather remote location next door to the Maetaeng Elephant Park along the Maetaeng River. We woke up to the sound of elephants in the morning before we went over to the park for our scheduled tour. We began with an ox-cart ride before meeting our elephants and their Mahouts. The highlight of the day was our long elephant ride meandering along and through the river. The elephants filled us with awe as these majestic creatures chose to gently interact with us.
After we returned from the ride, we watched the elephant demonstration and learned about the elephants in residence. My daughters loved getting to feed the elephants and were absolutely delighted when they were graced with trunk hugs. They asked to go back just to feed the elephants everyday we were there.
Side note: Wild animals are wild! If you choose to interact with these amazing creatures (hopefully only in a humane setting), please offer them respect and remember your manners. It’s a rare privilege when an animal chooses to interact with a human. In this case, the elephants could have walked away at any time, yet they were choosing to interact with their human guests. I was appalled to see one woman willfully approach an elephant who she had just seen wrap his trunk around another individual for a hug while posing for a photo. The minute the elephant gently reached out with his trunk, she screamed and began smacking him. Being an emotional being, the elephant got his feelings hurt and started trumpeting his displeasure at her insult, and he then proceeded to stomp off in a huff at the encouragement of his Mahout. She’s lucky that’s all he did, having the power to cause her serious physical harm if he had chosen to retaliate.
When we were finally able to drag ourselves away from the beautiful elephants, we took a ride down the Maetaeng River on a bamboo raft. The boat captain allowed my older daughter to steer the raft for a while, much to her delight. My younger daughter was content to sit back and let her sister and the oarsmen do the work while she took in the view. We were dropped off at a restaurant for a delicious Thai lunch before returning to the hotel that afternoon for a swim.
The next day, we went to the Maetaeng Hilltribes Village, a market where members of the seven local hill tribes set up stalls for visitors. The people were welcoming, and their handmade crafts were beautiful. They had games set up for the kids in one corner. We felt blessed that they encouraged photos, as we were so intrigued by their unique cultures.
While we valued every minute spent there, three nights in this remote location was more than enough to cover just about everything there was to see in that area. Two nights probably would have been fine. Also, the smoke from the fires in the hills near us became pretty oppressive and actually began to rain down ash by our final morning there. After three days, we were ready to move to a more central location in order to explore the city of Chiang Mai.