There are pros and cons of visiting elephants in the tourist trade, but if you have decided to head to one of north Thailand’s camps for a show and or elephant ride, then Lampang province’s option, the Thai Elephant Conservation Centre, is certainly one of the better ones we’ve come across.
The Elephant Conservation Centre is located right next to Lampang’s famous Elephant Hospital, although the two are not otherwise connected in any way, and the hospital does not offer rides or shows. Being somewhat off the main tourist route the Lampang camp sees far fewer visitors so is consequentially smaller and we reckon much pleasanter than the huge camps north of Chiang Mai.
The actual show itself — or at least the one we watched — omits some of the more over the top elements you find elsewhere, such as football matches or basketball, and did make an attempt to introduce more pedagogic activities such as a demonstration of old logging techniques. Yes, sure there were still cutesy baby ellies wiggling their ears and curtseying and the obligatory musical interlude, but it was overall in much better taste than some shows we’ve seen over the years.
Aside from watching the shows — at 10:00, 11:00 and 13:30 — you can ride elephants at any time of the day between 08:00 and 15:30 and watch the elephants being bathed from 09:45 to 13:30. There are also spacious, pleasant grounds to wander around in and an elephant hospital (in addition to the neighbouring one) to visit. The show costs 200 baht per person and 150 baht for kids. Rides start at 200 baht for adults, 200 baht for 10 minutes, 500 baht for 30 minutes or 1,000 for one hour. The 10-minute ride is per person while the longer rides are per elephant, so for two people. A shuttle bus ticket around the vast site costs an additional 25 baht and allows you to hop on and off at will.They also offer a comprehensive range of mahout courses, from a one-day programme for 3,500 baht, a one-week programme for 20,000 baht, right up to a one-month course for 100,000 baht. You can make your way up there by public transport though if you book through a Lampang agent or guesthouse return transport will be included.
How to get there
Located between Km 28-29 Lampang-Chiang Mai Highway in Hang Chat, Lampang. You can catch a bus either way, book a roundtrip through a guesthouse or travel agent in Chiang Mai, or go by your own steam -- it's a lovely motorbike ride or drive.
By Mark Ord.
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