Do you love watching kittens or puppies? Or, maybe baby panda videos are your choice entertainment—they’re mine! Aren’t the baby animals adorable rolling around on the ground? Now imagine an animal 100 times larger. Standing on the boardwalk near the mud hole and above the river, I watched baby elephants entertaining themselves and rambunctiously playing during my time in Thailand. I haven’t visited a zoo in years, but I don’t recall elephants having so much variety of terrain for playing as they do at Elephants World.

Baby Elephants are Adorable

Baby elephants living at Elephants World in Thailand are just too cute for words! Sometimes they slip and fall and all the human onlookers gasp as the huge baby falls onto its back. Of course, the baby is just fine, although its mother and friends rush over to help it get back up. Just like a young human, baby elephants learn balance and social interaction.

baby elephants in Thailand rolling in mud IMG_8810

Look, mom! I can flap my ear while lying in the mud.

Elephant Sanctuaries: Are They Trustworthy?

There are many elephant sanctuaries in Thailand and in other southeast Asian countries. I was very reluctant to visit this or any other animal sanctuary—there are also tiger temples. With so many under-educated tourists who just want a fun day (like me!), I worried that any place could call themselves a “non-profit” and take advantage of poor animals and unsuspecting tourists. In fact, when I visited an elephant place in 2008 in Laos, it probably wasn’t the best place—but I was not aware of elephant’s needs back then, especially regarding riding an elephant.

Nowadays, many elephant sanctuaries do not allow tourists to ride elephants. Even the mahouts (elephant caretaker) ride bareback, since the saddles and baskets can harm the elephants back—their spines are not built to support the weight of a person, even though they are among the largest mammals on Earth.

14 baby elephants in Thailand climbing out of mud hole IMG_8844

Ok, mom. I’m getting out now. I want to run around on dry land.

 

No Elephant Rides

Not riding an elephant disappointed me, since I had really wanted to ride an elephant during my tour. Of course, I didn’t complain, since I had no intention of harming an elephant—I just didn’t know before arriving that I would have to walk on my own 2 legs all day. However, I still got to interact with the elephants and learn about their individual personalities.

baby elephants in Thailand kissing mother IMG_8883

Good job getting out of the mud hole, baby!

I made my reservation for a 1-day tour (6 hours) via Visit.org before leaving home and discussed the tour with friends, family, and even with the British woman I met and shared a hotel room with in Kanchanaburi. It’s hard to know who to trust on the internet, so I was pleasantly surprised with my visit to Elephant’s World.

Baby elephants jumping on each other in Thailand IMG_8681

Haha! I’m jumping on you! You can’t get away from me!

Information

Place: Elephants World has 1- and 2-day tours.  Make a reservation.

Location: Kanchanaburi, Thailand. 2 hours west of Bangkok. 1 hour from Myanmar border crossing at Htee Kee.

Cost: $71 per person, including tourist van transportation to and from any hotel in Kanchanaburi.

Volunteering Opportunities: Yes.

Accommodation: Kanchanaburi has hotels ranging from backpacker budget through resort.

Recommended Guidebook: Rough Guide, for off the beaten track places. Fewer people purchase the Rough Guide than Lonely Planet, so I find that its recommendations are less frequently packed with tourists. Also, it was published in 2015.

Recommended Reading: Elephants – Elephant Memories; Historical background of railway running through Kanchanaburi – Last Man Out: Surviving the Burma-Thailand Death Railway: A Memoir.

Other Activities and Food in Kanchanaburi: While in Kanchanaburi, I visited Erawan Waterfalls, about an hour from town on a paved road by bus or rental motorbike. In town I rented a bicycle and visited the Bridge over the River Kwai, a train and pedestrian bridge. A vegetarian Thai cooking course at On’s Thai Issan with great food! I’m not vegetarian, so she mentioned when meat could be added. For dinner the night market has soups, sushi, fruit shakes, and so much more!

Myanmar Border Crossing: The crossing from Kanchanaburi to Dawei (closest Myanmar city) is a full-day trip through the Htee Khee border crossing (also spelled Htee Kee). Read about the border Htee Kee crossing here.

Keep in mind, you’ll need to have obtained your Myanmar visa for entry in advance. Click here for detailed information regarding the visa.

Would you rather watch baby elephants play or ride an elephant?

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