Testimonials 2008

Dear Elephantstay-Team!

Thank you for a week at Ayutthaya that we and our children (Felix, Elin, & Merit – Tukkata) will always remember! It was such a great opportunity for us to enjoy your warm hospitality and live, learn and laugh with you and your grey giants! To play soccer with Santa and Soysalee, to ride into the river on an elephant, to experience these wonderful creatures definitely was  a lesson about our Earth we will never forget. We’d like also to thank you especially for the safe environment that you and all the members of your team provided for our 4 year-old Merit! We felt 100% assured that at any moment Merit, but also Elin (9 yrs) and Felix (11yrs) were looked after when playing or working with the Elephants. We`d like also to tell anyone, who wants to share this very special experience that it`s really worth it. Give it a try and visit Elephantstay!

Yours Antje

Dec. 24 to Dec 26 2008
Elephantstay…The Real Deal

There are experiences in life that are so profound, they change who you are forever… That is how I would describe my time at Elephantstay, from riding the elephants twice a day, such an awesome experience, being atop these magnificent creatures, and with the help of the mahouts, commanding them with our words and our bare feet, finally arriving at the river where they would bathe while we stayed on their backs, scrubbing their heads, a feeling like nothing I have ever felt and caring for them, as we fed them huge stalks of banana leaves, and small whole pineapples and hay, to be part of an entire village that centers around the mahouts and these elephants, a culture being kept alive by the commitment of Ewa and Michelle, and of course my favorites, the babies born there, often like a group of juvenile delinquents so don’t dare leave a book on a table because it will be in someone’s trunk in seconds, and the most unbelievable thing of all, watching an elephant paint, directed by the mahout, but choosing the brushes and color… The comfortable accommodations and tasty food all make for the ultimate elephant experience.

Wendy, Alan and Kyle Kaplan NY, NY, USA

In October 2008, Nick and I went to Thailand to learn about and enjoy a very special time with lephants! We originally were staying for 7 days but extended it to 9 days because it was so much fun. My ‘Old girl’ was Gatin, and I mounted her by holding onto her ears, stepping up onto her trunk, and being lifted up and onto her neck! Wow!! Twice a day we rode our elephants to the river for a swim and we learnt to mix up their special feeds too. We would buy fruit for our elephants (sort of like bribes so they would be on their best behaviour!) each day and watch with great amusement, the babies getting up to lots of mischief, especially leaving footprints in recently laid concrete! Watching the mahouts and their elephant paint was an amazing experience too. I bought two back and they are already framed and displayed proudly on the wall. So, if you love animals and want a once in a life time experience that will also benefit the elephants, we would like to utterly recommend you do it!

Cheers, Nick and Jane (Australia)

7 December 2008

I’ve just come back from my second visit to the Kraal within 12 months. This alone should suffice as a testimony of how good the place is. I first went there in December 2007 not sure about what to expect (apart of course from elephants-I knew they were there!) and came away a convert to the place and its mission. The fact that it is also fun in no way detracts from the seriousness of its aims.
I was greeted by Eva and Michelle, Buddy and Little Girl  ( the latter two are dogs for those who haven’t been yet) and the delightful Eunjoo now there to channel the painting talents of the pachyderms. New York’s loss is the kraal’s gain.
The plan was to stay 3 days on my way home from England to Australia as a break to get re-acquainted with Chong Kho, my elephant from my last visit.
I have sometimes found that the second time is not as good as the first. In this case that didn’t apply. I found that my ability to get on to an elephant, at first rusty ( a nice way to say lousy), improved with practice. I’m positive Chong Kho remembered me. It was lovely to see the beautiful old girls again. Pisamy, Dok Mak, Leung Sap (get better girl) and my lovely Chong Kho. And babies!! A dozen as I write, healthy, happy and pushy as all get out.
A couple of walks different from the ones I knew from last time which I found good, the swims were every bit as much fun as I remembered them from my last visit and the weather helped, not too hot.
The painting aspect was especially interesting. Watching an elephant draw an elephant was more than a trick. I was watching yet another example of their amazing intelligence. Flowers, abstracts were also in evidence courtesy of Noppakhao and Phetmanee.
It’s impossible to be bored at the Kraal. The food, the accommodation and the company make it a great experience. What I noticed from my first visit was how good it is for children. It’s important to get them interested as they will be the ones to keep it going as time has its way with the rest of us. There were no children this time but at my first visit it was great to see how easily kids took to the animals. Of course you have to work as well but that has the advantage (planned I believe) to keep you close to your elephant. To know an elephant is to love it.
I learnt more about Chong Kho and, as I return-which I plan to do- will undoubtedly learn more.
The recent incidents in Thailand meant my stay lasted 5 days longer than planned but if you have to be stranded there’s no better place to be. When it finally came time to go I said my good byes in private to Chong Kho and it wasn’t easy. The eyes weren’t dry and as I write now things are a bit blurry again. The elephants, the people, the place- I fault none of it and have no doubt I’ll return if I have any say in it.

Peter O'Malley, Sydney, Australia

20 – 24 augustus 2008

Een geweldige ervaring die bijna niet te beschrijven is. Al zal ik het proberen. Na ongeveer 2 maanden door Zuidoost Azië reizen wilde ik nog een mooie afsluiter van mijn 2,5 maand lange vakantie. Dus wat in mijn Lonely Planet zitten lezen. Hierin stond dat er een mogelijkheid is om enkele dagen te werken op een olifantenkamp. Toen ik dat gelezen had ben ik gelijk op internet gedoken en op zoek gegaan naar de mogelijkheden. Via Google had ik 3 verschillende kampen gevonden waar dit mogelijk was. Deze met elkaar vergeleken en daarbij ook verschillende reviews van andere reizigers gelezen. Verschillende positieve reviews over Elephantstay. Uiteindelijk dus gekozen voor Elephantstay. Het blijft natuurlijk altijd een gok. Maar eentje waarvan ik achteraf nooit spijt heb gehad. Had geboekt voor 3 dagen / 2 nachten maar uiteindelijk zijn het 5 dagen geworden. Vanuit Bangkok met de taxi (voor slechts 400 Baht) naar Ayutthaya gegaan. Na bijna 1,5 uur ben ik er en heb ik ’s middags de tempels van Ayutthaya bekeken. Aangezien ik ruim een week ervoor 3 dagen bij Angkor Wat hdb rondgelopen, viel het een beetje tegen. Maar dat is natuurlijk ook geen vergelijking. Het Boeddhahoofd dat gevangen is door wortels, was wel bijzonder om te zien. Maar ik dwaal teveel af. De volgende morgen rond 9 uur met de tuk-tuk naar Elephantstay gereden. Meteen als je het kamp op komt zie je overal om je heen olifanten. Zowel de grote ‘Bulls’, de moeders als de schattige babyolifantjes. Erg leuk om te zien. Wist niet precies wat ik kon verwachten. Het was een ‘mahout course’ maar al snel bleek het geen cursus te zijn maar een echte ervaring. Er is enigszins een vast programma maar het is vooral meewerken op het kamp. De enige zaken die echt vaststaan zijn iedere dag de ‘elephant rides’ en het bijbehorende ‘badderen’ in de rivier in de ochtend en in de middag. Verder voel je je al heel snel ‘gewoon’ een medewerker van het kamp. En zie je de olifanten als jouw olifanten.Verder heeft iedereen (of als je met tweeën bent samen) zijn eigen olifant. Mijn grote vriendin heette Nampet. Na een korte introductie is het meteen tijd om de eerste rijervaring op te doen. Je wordt meteen in het diepe gegooid of beter gezegd in de hoogte ‘gegooid’. Meteen rijdt je op de nek van je eigen olifant samen met de mahout (die op de rug van de olifant zit). Na een rondje rond het kamp is het tijd voor afkoeling in de rivier. Eigenlijk is de afkoeling voor de olifanten maar aangezien je zelf op de nek zit en de olifanten kopje onder gaan, koel je zelf ook lekker af. Een hele mooi ervaring om al zittend op een olifant samen te badderen. In het begin is het even wennen en je balans vinden maar na een paar ‘rides’ ben je er aan gewend en krijg je van de mahout zelf de kans om proberen je olifant te sturen. Erg bijzonder. Naast het berijden van de olifanten bestaat de ervaring ook uit meewerken in het kamp (al is alles op vrijwillige basis). Dit bestaat uit het wassen/schrobben van de olifanten, water geven aan de olifanten, maïsplanten voederen aan de olifanten etc. maar ook uit poep en maïsplanten ruimen. Maar al deze werkzaamheden zijn zeker geen straf. Het is een geweldige ervaring al is het af en toe zweten ;). Vanaf een uur of 5 en een verfrissende douche is de dag om. Maar met zoveel olifanten om je heen is dat zeker niet saai. Overal waar je kijkt zie je olifanten lopen. Vooral de babyolifantjes blijven leuk om te zien. Zeker als ze samen in het ‘zwembad’ aan het spelen zijn. Al kun je het niet echt spelen noemen. Het is meer worstelen.  Je kunt zelf ook zoveel spelen met de olifanten als je wilt. Wel altijd een beetje opletten aangezien ze bij de geboorte al 100 kg wegen ;). Maar ondanks dat zijn het net kinderen. Ze willen alles verkennen maar als er ook maar iets onverwachts gebeurd dan rennen ze al schreeuwend of in dit geval toeterend terug naar mamma. Soms is het even zoeken naar mamma en zie je ze van de ene kant van het kamp naar de andere kant rennen en weer terug. Erg grappig. Kort samengevat een geweldige ervaring die ik nooit zal vergeten. Met dank aan Ewa,  Michelle, de mahouts, mijn Australische (Melbourne) vriendinnen (die er tegelijkertijd als mij waren) en natuurlijk de olifanten (en in het bijzonder mijn grote vriendin Nonpet). Een prachtige afsluiting van mijn 2,5 maand lange reis door Zuidoost Azië. Wanneer ik weer eens in Thailand kom dan zal ik zeker weer een aantal dagen terug gaan. Ik weet zeker dat degene die er naartoe gaat net als ik na 3 dagen niet kan vertrekken en zijn verblijf verlengd. Heel veel plezier !!!

Patrick de Jong, The Netherlands

I just wanted to write to you to thank you for the most amazing day ever! My friend and I arrived at elephant stay not at all sure what to expect – and from the very moment we arrived we were in Elephant heaven. As our driver pulled in we could see these magnificently HUGE elephants all around – waiting for some corn or pineapple plants from their latest guests. I had spent plenty of time looking through the website prior to coming and had my fingers crossed that we too would get to see some baby elephants! My goodness – not only did we get to see them, we got to play tug of war with them, have their little trunks explore us all over (before trying to grab any loose clothing and run away with it) and Santa even attempted to sit on my knee at one stage. I think someone has forgotten to tell him he weighs about 300kg! Baby elephants are certainly very cheeky!

Our elephants that we were able to care for through the day were the most gentle, amazing and beautiful animals I have ever been able to get up close and personal with. In such a short time we were still able to get to know their different personalities, favorite parts of the plants to eat and the best spots to scratch! It was an absolute highlight take the elephants down to the river for a wash and then learning the commands and actions to control them ourselves. To have over a tonne of elephant follow you with just one word and your hand on her ear – AMAZING!We had the most wonderful day. I particularly liked the “hard work” part funnily enough, sitting with the locals helping to shell corn takes you a million miles away from your normal life and was very relaxing and peaceful (to sell at the local markets for people to feed the elephants and raise money for the work done at the Kraal). Helping the mahouts collect food and clean up. All of this makes for such an amazing experience – nothing you could get from just visiting a zoo or local theme park.

The day was wonderfully planned, with an introduction, guide books, wonderful hosts and lovely facilities. We had a little bamboo hut complete with air conditioning, comfortable beds, clean towels and a bathroom for our use. There was cold water constantly available (a must – caring for elephants is thirsty work) and we had a really lovely lunch. The other animals at the Kraal were fascinating also, and all the people very friendly and accommodating.

Sadly, we only had one day free and had to leave. Hugs were had all round, and as our lovely driver drop past my elephant she walked up to the car, we wound down the window and she stuck her trunk inside the car for one more kiss and scratch goodbye. I think I cried for the next 10 minutes – it was the most beautiful experience and I was sad to be leaving such a beautiful animal behind. I rest safe and happy in the fact that she could not have anyone better to care for her than Michelle and Ewa and the wonderful Mahouts at elephant stay. I have attached a couple of my favorite photo’s from the day!

We both now wear our elephant stay t-shirts proudly and I tell just about anyone who will listen about the wonderful work you do and the amazing experience to be had at elephant stay. Please – anyone visiting Thailand – consider visiting elephant stay and supporting such a wonderful cause! Not only that, but you will have the most amazing experience with these beautiful creatures! I know I keep repeating the words amazing, wonderful etc – but I just cannot outwardly express how immensely these gentle giants made me feel. My desk at work is covered in elephants – and I think given half the chance I would choose to live, breath and dream elephants 24/7.

Erin McLeish, Victoria, Australia

I have just finished one of the most amazing experiences of my life – 24 days of living and breathing elephants at ElephantStay!

Pup Phung was my companion for the duration of my time there and it was an amazing privellage to be able to care for her everyday. She is one of the most beautiful and graceful elephants in the program, not to mention the tallest – very gentle but with a definite mind of her own, and a love for all things pineapple related! It is an amazing thing to get to know an elephant so personally over time and there were definitely a few tears shed by me when I left!

Michelle and Ewa are fantastic hosts – down to earth, friendly and very knowledgable. They have created a fantastic program that allows old elephants to retire with the diginity that they deserve and for you to learn about them and contribute to their future. Keng, the mahout who looks after the retired elephants, is fantastic – friendly and laid-back also, but with a deep care for the elephants he looks after.

The accommodation and food were great and it was very easy to settle into life in the Elephant Village, so much so that I will definitely be back! A great experience for anyone who loves animals and would like to contribute to the future of these amazing creatures.

Rebecca, Sydney, Australia

 

Lenin and Pup Pung Bromwyn (yellow hat) and Pisamy, National Elephant Day

If there is just one thing you can do in Thailand then go to Elephantstay in Ayutthaya!! Our experience went way beyond any expectations we had and it was absolutely awesome and inspiring! From the moment we arrived we were surrounded by amazing intelligent elephants and within half an hour we were confronted by two massive elephants named Pup Pung and Pisamy who were ours to feed, wash, swim with and love for 3 whole days.

One of the many highlights for us was Thailand’s National Elephant Day which occurred while we were there.  It was an early start as we took our elephants into town, dressed them in their national finery and we must say Pup Pung and Pisamy were definitely the best looking elephants there!! Then to our great surprise we were allowed to ride them in the parade with the nearly 70 other elephants. Lenin decided to take photos but for me this was just truly a once in a life time experience that I wasn’t going to miss out on. I rode in the parade on Pisamy past huge bull elephants roaring in my ear, the dignitaries, monks who blessed the elephants and crowds of locals and tourists all while Thai music was playing in the background. It was amazing. The Elephants then feasted on a huge 4 tonne feast specifically set up just for them. After they feasted some of the elephants were able to play with a fire hose and roll around in the mud. It was an incredible sight to see and be a part of.

The best thing about Elephantstay is you are included in everything that occurs at the Elephant Kraal regardless of the activity. You really feel part of a community actively working to save these incredible animals

Thank you to Michelle, Ewa, Keng and all the mahouts, and of course Pup Pung and Pisamy who provide a truly inspirational and unforgettable experience. We will be back.

PS a tip for those booking in – 3 days is not enough!!!!

Lenin and Bronwyn

Hello to everybody at the Elephant Stay.  Finally after 6 weeks, here is  our thoughts about our stay.     It has taken six weeks to get the stage that we felt able to go on the website and trigger the amazing memories we created.

When we arrived at the stay we knew instantly that it was to be a magical experience, but we underestimated quite how special. This is an opportunity in a million, something that you may never get the chance to do again, an experience that we are so, so pleased that we did not pass up. It would be easy to think that ‘I’ll go next time’ or ‘this is like every other experience offered’, but no, its unique, and something you MUST do. If you are an animal lover, a sceptic or don’t know if elephants are for you, then have a go anyway, because you will LOVE IT.

We had 7 days with the our elephants, Loogsap and Pissamy, who as i’m sure everybody will say that visits ‘we would have taken them home if we could have’.  Over this time we scooped plenty of poo, carted hundreds of kilos of pineapple leaf and had hours of fun interacting with and riding the two girls. It is impossible to describe the bond that you feel with ‘your’ elephant after only 7 days, but  i can guarantee that to leave after 7 days feels like leaving after 7 years.

Not only did we interact with our own elephants but had the freedom and time to sit and observe the comings and goings of the working elephants, play with the babies, including the new born  and mix with the mahout community. We even had time for some shopping (well only for fruit), we made a special trip into town for treats for the girls, watermelons, bunches and bunches of bananas, pears and strange large Oranges. The fruit goes down well and helps to create the bond between you and your elephant.

Other aspects of the stay are also fantastic, of course Michelle and Ewa make sure that you are extremely welcome, keep you busy and even entertain you on a night, not that you need too much entertaining as by that time you will be tired from the full days activities. The accommodation is very good, your own personal hut, with AC (a must to dry out the endless amounts of wet clothes you  You are pushed, only as much as you are comfortable, throughout your stay to progress with your mahouting skills (Riding, washing, feeding and commanding your elephant). Myself and Bex were at different levels of confidence, but we both gained as much from the experience as each other.

This experience allows you to gain so much, whether you ride or not. The time to interact with such unique animals, to give love to them and receive so much in return.  YOU HAVE TO VISIT to realise what a fantastic fantastic place this is.

We will return ASAP.

Ben and Rebecca, England

Michael leading his elephant. Drawn by his mum Judy while here.

We left Brisbane, clean, fresh, nails done, and arrived in Ayutthaya the epitome of western “chic”.

Our minibus pulled in at the “Elephant Stay” compound and we struggled out, with our bulging suitcases – every imaginable situation covered with the “right” clothes.

“My God” we collectively thought, as our luggage was unloaded – they are soooo huge – our bus had casually pulled up beside the “day” camp for the elephants and as we got out these huge pachyderms stretched their trunks, imploringly to us – we all leaned back instinctively – oooh!  Scary!!

Michelle raised here eyebrows at the amount of luggage that we had – myself, my husband, my son and his wife and our two grandchildren (9 & 7), however, it didn’t phase her!

We were debriefed, given our special elephant T shirts, shown to our huts – clean, comfy, air conditioned and delightful, and dropped our bags and reported for “duty”.

We were “given” an  elephant between 3 –  Rumruay for Dennis, me and Jessica; Chong Ko for Mike, Deb and Tim, and told our elephant was our responsibility – we must feed, clean and tend to our elephant, carting loads of pineapple tops, etc ensuring our girl was fed; riding to the river twice a day for a swim and scrubbing/showering in the elephant race. – what a responsibility for us green horns!  – No time to have second thoughts,  the first of us were up, on the shoulders of our elephant and riding proudly to the river!!

We worked long and hard, carting food, shoveling poo, scrubbing, riding, washing and just plain loving our elephant, we had comfortable lodgings, great Thai food and fantastic company from the other guests and Michelle and Ewa.

We each came to the Elephant Stay with different objectives for our three days, however by the end of our time, our hearts were filled with wonder, we were uplifted and enthralled by the sheer magnificence of these giant behemoths, we were captivated by the cheeky behaviour of the three babies, charging around looking for mischief, and our hearts were enriched by the experience.

Will we be back…………..  you bet!!!

We each say, that this was the best experience, the best holiday we have ever had and we give thanks to Michelle & Ewa – it is a wonderful thing that you are doing and we were privileged to share it, even for such a short time.

Jud & Dennis Whitfield Mike & Debbie Anderson and Jessica & Timothy Anderson

Pisamy snacking whilst bathing.

“What an honour it was to be allowed to look after the retired elephants at elephant stay”. We loved being at close quarters with all the elephants and will both be back for more”.

Sharon and I spent 14 days participating in the retired elephant program over Christmas and New Years in 2008. It was a very moving and full experience for us both. We got to know and learn about these six elephants very well. We were in charge of looking after Pissamy in particular and had the job of riding or escorting her to the river twice a day. Pissamy is a bit of a gourmand (not unusual in elephants) with a cheeky sense of humour.

Along with other program participants we helped out with the other retired elephants performing therapeutic tasks such as collecting food to keep them fuelled up (a lot of this), raking and sweeping up their night spots everyday – (the more they eat the more you rake), assisting in moving them ‘to and from’, and being part of the daily exfoliating scrub team when it wasn’t too cold for them!! It was their winter after all.

Because our stay was longer than some other visitors we had experiences that were not scheduled and just happened. The top of this list has to be the birth of Santa on Christmas Eve – this boy is going to be a traveller, less than an hour after ‘touching down’ he was off down the track to explore.

A close second to this has to be the party at Christmas for the village children with cartoons screening (Tom & Jerry) and karaoke, and then the New Year party with ‘Kris Kringle’ presentations and of course the Karaoke afterwards. Karaoke is loved by all and was ‘a hoot’ of an experience.

Staying on site at the RoyalElephantKraalVillage allowed us to be involved in and learn a little about the people who live and work there supporting the goal to save the Asian elephant from extinction. The mahouts who helped us with the retired elephants and our daily tasks were polite, very patient with us and hard working.

Because the elephantstay accommodation is in the midst of the working village we were on hand to interact with outside visitors, Thai people bringing treats for the elephants to eat, and foreign tourists. We were able to relax while watching the three latest babes run loose around their mums and the retired elephants; just learning the ropes of being an elephant.

A favourite relaxing time for us was in the early evening watching all the working elephants and their mahouts come home from Ayutthaya after a day of giving rides to tourists. There is a lot of elephant activity then, with the unpacking of each elephant’s gear and storing it away, quick trips down to the river for a swim and a drink and carrying big bundles of food to take back to their night place.

Elephantstay cared for us in the best possible ways; by teaching us about their elephants, picking us up from the airport in an air-conditioned car, feeding us with delicious healthy Thai cuisine and providing comfortable air-conditioned bungalows.

In addition Michelle and Ewa encouraged us to be a part of everything that was going on, they are truly welcoming and friendly hosts of the elephantstay program.

Again, we feel honoured to have had this wonderful experience and can’t recommend it highly enough to those who want to contribute meaningfully to the cause of the Asian elephant.

Sharon and Jill from Melbourne, Australia (January 2008)

Seeing an elephant is one thing.  Riding an elephant is another experience.  Caring for Pisamai, my elder elephant at Elephantstay for nine days was beyond a dream–delightful, adventurous, heart-opening and life-expanding I grew to love her and experienced her responding in return. The experience will live high among my memories as an authentic deeply rewarding gift to myself, which I chose to honour my turning 70 years young.

I am grateful that Elephantstay was my chosen place because Pi Om acts on his vision of caring for elephants with wisdom, money and labour, and has created a sustainable home for nearly 100 elephants who have worked with people most of their lives.

I am grateful Ewa and Michelle created the elephantstay program where we are given the unique experiences of caring for ‘our own’ retired female elephant – feeding,, washing, riding to the river, and bonding.  ‘Special’ does not begin to describe the experience.

I am grateful for the morning meditation practice, I with rake and broom in hand join the team, rolling elephant ‘cookies’ into piles for the tractors to pick up later and put into trucks to haul away for future fertilizer.  The whole place is buzzing with others doing the same thing, using a five pronged rake and stiff broom to clear the overnight mess that includes left over grass, pineapple greens, and sugar cane bits.  It is meditation for me because it is just at sunrise, and I am with Pisamai and I just focus on the raking and the morning peace.  I am working a 30 foot circle that is her night spot

I am grateful that my daily experiences brought life into my life, like I wanted a pen and my journal at hand so I could record the joy, feelings and experiences that were happening all around me…

I am grateful that my camera kept working because I found so much pleasure in the ever-present photo opportunities that were so often there with six young babies at play.  That was an extra bonus!  And we could touch and play with them.

I am grateful for being part of a team taking care of the elephants. It felt joyous, on purpose and united.I am grateful for having had Toi help us with our elephant walks and our talks, and I enjoyed watching his skill with Ngatong, his bull elephant.

I am grateful for all the stories told by Eva and Michelle which enhanced the full on experience.

I am grateful  that Chidakash, my partner, got fully into the experience of caring for his elephant……..and that we were there together.  We were there nine days watching the process, being part of the process, and being inspired by how we might help give a future for the elephants.

Shera, BC, Canada

It’s hard to find words to describe the Elephant Stay experience. We came back for a week the second time as we found the first three days was not long enough. It felt so comfortable, like slipping on an old pair of jeans. Everyone is so friendly and welcoming – from Ewa and Michelle, the mahouts, Pi-Om and his family, to the housekeeping staff and the chefs. And don’t forget the elephants, the real stars of the show.

By the time we left we felt like we were leaving our own family behind. We have never encountered a group of people as happy and capable of giving such joy as the Elephant Stay staff. The mahouts were constantly laughing and joking. Ewa and Michelle went out of their way to accommodate our every wish. Pi-Om once again went above and beyond that which was expected. Our family was treated to experiences that were extremely special; from witnessing the birth of a new baby elephant, to painting a huge bull elephant white every day for a spectacular evening show, to participating in the show, to being given special rides and privileges that had other ‘non Elephant Stay people’ green with envy.

However it is the relationship with the elephants that must be experienced. They are such intelligent animals. They can be placid, strong and loving. They allow you to stroke their trunks, climb on them, ride and wash them, play with their babies, and feed them. In return they will be incredibly gentle. They will play, dance, play the mouth organ, lift you in their trunks, paint for you, kiss you (with a very dirty trunk) and make you want to take one home in your suitcase.

There is nothing that can describe the Elephant Stay experience. The more you put into it, interacting with the staff and the elephants, the more you get out of it. There is no doubt we will be back a third time. It only gets better and better. We are proud to call the Elephant Stay crew our second family and we urge everyone to take the plunge and stay for as long as your time and budget allow.

Mark, Jacquie, Phoebe, Max and Zoe Davidson Sunshine Coast, Australia

The Elephantstay is a must do for backpackers who travel through Thailand. It was the most beautiful experience I’ve ever had with animals. It may sound a bit silly, but I really felt a connection with the elephants. Especially with my elephant Loong Sap. Although I only spent 3 days with Loong Sap, she has a special place in my heart. That’s for me the best thing of Elephantstay.
I had a lot of fun as well. The people on the Kraal are really hospitable and friendly. Ewa and Michelle make you feel like welcome and I had a lot of fun with them. Taking care of my elephant was the thing where I came for, riding her to the river for a bath or to the forest for a snack, playing with the baby elephants and relax with a great Thai lunch.
The third part of this great experience is the educational part. Learning how Elephants live, how amazing intelligent and social they are, how you can ride on their back like a real pro. It feels so good to feed your elephant, clean up his living area and clean her with water.
How wonderful is it to spend money on a charity and get such a unique experience with the amazing elephants. I will be back here!!!
Thanks to Ewa and Michelle and I wish them all the best together with the wonderful elephant team.

Frank Troost, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

My love affair with Loong Sap, her elephant friends and villagers continues…
Again, Loong Sap clearly demonstrated that elephants never forget – her greeting brought me to tears.
I love Michelle & Ewa’s program within this not-for-profit organisation! The opportunity to care for one elephant and bond with her is rewarding on so many levels. Working alongside Thai mahouts, the daily routine of feeding, cleaning and bathing the elephants in the river is interspersed with many opportunities to enjoy the antics of the calves at play & get involved in village life.
Each year, I see improvements to the village and to the standard of the facilities for elephants. Each year, there are more elephant babies and signs for their future are optimistic. It’s wonderful to be part of this!
This year’s visit has also enabled me to introduce six other people to the joys of Elephantstay and creating a sustainable future for elephants. We’ve all had unforgettable experiences and I, for one, will be returning next year to continue to support this organization, add to my knowledge and relax with Loong Sap knowing I’m being trained by a wise and experienced old elephant. Actually, I think I’m supposed to be training that elephant but I’m sure I’m learning a lot more than she is…

Jenny Dickens, Melbourne, Australia

Elephant Stay April 3rd 2008

My friend and I only had a day at the Kraal but it’s gone straight up there as one of my best days of all time. Other than inappropriately short shorts (thanks for the loan of the fisherman’s pants!) I thought I was pretty prepared for the day – hard graft was expected and you were going to get wet and dirty. What I wasn’t prepared for was just how emotionally attached you can become to your elephant and the place in general in such a short space of time. Michelle and Ewa spent some time getting to know us when we first arrived to get a better understanding of what each of us was expecting from the day and perhaps to match elephants to our personalities. For me it was about getting up close to these magnificent animals as well as hopefully contributing in some small way to the fantastic work being done there in Ayutthaya. Within seconds of setting foot in the camp, this little one came trotting up to me to play. I’d say it’s fairly obvious how delighted (and surprised) I was to be in this situation so quickly and it certainly set the tone for the rest of my day.

However much I would have been happy to play all day there was work to be done and elephants are ALWAYS hungry so it was time to transfer the huge bundles of grass piled up on trailers to their mouths. This was sweaty and dirty work in the sun – beware of grass cuts! – but you soon get into it. This is my elephant, the lovely Pisamy, enjoying the fruits of my labour. I think to start with I was somewhat in awe of the adults but certainly as the morning wore on it just felt really natural to be so close to them and not long before I was just throwing my arms around her trunk for a big cuddle!

Soon it was time to hop on and learn elephant commands. Pretty scary at first since it’s a long way to the ground but once you’ve relaxed your body enough to move with the elephant then there are no worries. Was glad on occaision for the helping hand of the mahout, grasping onto the back of my T-shirt! Then it’s down to the river for the first ride of the day. What an incredible experience – the elephants have obviously done this a million times but it is still gratifying to have them respond to your commands.

Time for more food after that and then some for us (delicious!), followed by play time with the babies, the grown ups and a lot of water…

The afternoon involved some serious scrubbing – elephant shower time! You’ve really got to put your back into this and it took 3 of us over an hour to wash and scrub 2 elephants. Once again – do not expect to stay dry!

One more trip down to the river for all of us and a chance to test out our new found mahouting skills!

Then it was back to camp for either a cup of tea or in my case, the chance to spend some quality time with my elephant, having a bit of a chat about life, the universe and everything….

As we walked the elephants out to their night time area and settled them down with lots of grass to munch on, I really was overcome with a profound melancholy at leaving my lovely elephant. The experience was exactly what I had wished for – nothing manufactured or sophisticated about it – just a completely hands on day with these amazing animals, an insight into an authentic Thai community and the chance to be a part of something fantastic, even if just for a small period of time.  Thanks once again to Ewa and Michelle for creating the opportunity – I’m coming back in September!

Louisa

Over the past nine months, I went to the Elephantstay in Ayuthaya for 3 times – each time enjoying a minimum of 3 days with dear Loongsap.  She is totally lovely and has a character of her own.  She loves to be taken good care of, and at the same time also take care of you too (on a spiritual level).  I feel that I have gradually built up a sort of friendship relationship with her.  My grandmother passed away some 10 years back and on some levels I have now considered  Loongsap to be my own grandma 🙂

There must be some magic powers to the place that drew me constantly to it in the past 9 months – and in the coming years too I am sure.  If you are someone who believe in ‘energy’, elephants is the sort of animals that will give you an energy of ‘peace’.  They are very big in size, but their hearts are very soft.  You can feel that the way they look at you (warning – it will steal your heart).  Once you get used to it, the ride with the elephant will indeed become a meditative practice.  When you are involved in the cleaning of their bodies and their environments, you are feeling a cleaning of your mind at the same time.

The air at the kraal smells fresh and elephanty, the sun and the people you met are both warm.  Ewa and Michelle are great people who spent so much efforts for the elephants (big THANK YOU to them!)   The mahuts are kind people too who taught me so much about how to better interact with the “Big Ladies”.  I also  made good friends from like-hearted people around the world – UK, Canada, Australia, Thailand, Austria and as far and beautiful as Chile!  These lovely people brighten every day at the farm, and it just makes me smile thinking about moments there working, eating and talking with them~

I was told that I am the first Chinese participant in the program – I think it is a shame (especially when Thailand is so close-by indeed) and I would invite all of you who care about the welfare of this lovely species to come – it is fun, it is inspiring, and it opens your eyes and your heart.

Ken Leung Hong Kong

A huge thankyou to Michelle and Ewa for allowing us to enjoy such an amazing experience. I will admit that I had reservations knowing that these ladies were Australians. I imagined that the Elephantstay might have become a “westernised”  tourist / elephant wonderland. I expected we might be eating Australian type food….which isn’t even good in Australia.  Well I am only too happy to admit I was totally wrong. Ewa and Michelle have undertaken this huge task of caring for old and retiring elephants, and at the same time have embraced the Thai culture and community.

We only spent 3 days with our beautiful girls, Dokma and Katin,  during that time we came to know their very different personalities, likes and dislikes. We ate the very best Thai food, our rooms were clean and comfortable…although I have little memory of this as when I went to my room it was to go to bed, after such a full day I was asleep before my head hit the pillow…I visited with friends Leanne and John, my 19 year old son Rhys and my 8 year old daughter Amira. What an experience for us all. Katin prefers not to lay down, Rhys was thrilled to be the 1st visitor to do trunk mounts. Dokma does not like her pineapples on the ground, so feeding her right into her mouth was just amazing. The 2 baby elephants running amok was so much fun and entertainment for us.

I would truly recommend Elephantstay to anyone looking for a genuine, unforgettable elephant experience.

April 2008

  1. When you get there could you please give Dokma a pineapple from Sandy
Sandy

Profound. That is the only word that comes close to describing two weeks spent bonding with a magnificent animal by the name of Pisamy. Her name means ‘love’ and it took very little time to fall hopelessly in love with Pisamy. She is a cheeky, 68- year-old elephant with an obvious sense of humour and a determination to eat everything within reach! I felt honoured whenever she moved close and looked deep into my eyes, as if acknowledging the trust and respect we shared for one another. I was in awe of the fact that I could stand within millimetres of this gentle giant as I stroked, spoke, hummed and sang to her. Of course, she seemed the happiest when I was offering her food, which was most of the time!

Having the opportunity to watch the enormously cheeky baby elephants literally run around you, inviting you to play with a nudge of their head, was almost a surreal experience. They were sooo adorable, with their hairy heads and uncoordinated trunks curiously probing everything in sight. In a funny sort of way, the babies reminded me of big puppy dogs as they played together and interacted with people (who doubled as toys!). This was especially so when, after returning from a river ride, I had to engage in a tug-of-war with one of the mischievous youngsters in order to get my shoe back!

Spending time with “your” elephant is only part of the overall experience. You are also surrounded by villagers who live on-site, as well as the friendly, fun-loving mahouts; over 60 elephants are in within constant close proximity, as you rarely walk more than a few metres without a mahout passing by on his elephant, or a mother and baby heading down to the river for a ‘bath’. Pedlars come and go, allowing you to sample some traditional Thai treats and the restaurant dishes up both exquisite Thai cuisine and ‘western’ food.

Mixing with the other Elephantstay visitors is also memorable as their range of personalities adds to the fun of picking up elephant poo and filling cart after cart of food for those delightful pachyderms who have insatiable appetites.

None of this would be possible without the passion and insight of Mr Laithongrien Meepan, whose dedication to the preservation of the Asian elephant is inspirational and should be commended. The world needs more people like him and his family.

Michelle and Ewa are terrific hosts who are supportive, eternally patient with your questions, and they encourage everyone to get the most out of their visit. I enjoyed the company of these two wonderful women and learnt so much from them in my time there.

It would be difficult to find a more hands-on, “real” experience than what is offered at Elephantstay. No words or photos can truly encapsulate the thoughts and feelings one experiences when riding, scrubbing, feeding, bathing and generally caring for an elephant. I haven’t stopped thinking about Pisamy since I left in January, and I can’t wait for the day I return and gaze into her intelligent, soulful eyes once again.

Sarah M, Australia, Jan 08

Ich und meine Familie verbrachten 3 wundervolle Tage mit den Elefanten.Obwohl es auf den ersten Blick nicht ganz billig ist, zumal ja einige Arbeitauf einen wartet, ist ein Aufenthalt hier absolut empfehlenswert.Bauenhof-Ferien, mal auf eine besaondere Art! Nirgends sonst kommt man denTieren so nahe. Unsere Kinder waren glücklich; wollten natürlich immer zumFluss reiten. Ausserdem kann man auch eine Menge über die Tiere und das Landlernen.Die Unterkunft ist einfach, aber gut. Die Besitzerinnen sind herzlich undhaben die Elefanten im Griff. Wenn man ein bisschen Zeit hat, nicht einfach durch ein fremdes Land donnernwill, ist ein Aufenthalt hier ein wirklich besonderes Erlebnis.

Christina Zurich, Switzerland

Thank you for giving us such a memorable experience which will be remembered for a life time. We all had such a great time with you, the Mahouts and our dearest elephant – Dok-Ma.

Etter en veldig lang og kald vinter hjemme I Norge  Det var ca minus 20 da vi forlot Norge og Skjaak var det en meget behagelig opplevelse og lande hos Onkel og Tante I Bangkok. Etter noen dager med shopping og bading dro vi to timer nord fra Bangkok til gamle-hovedstaden Ayutthaya og til Elephantstay hvor vi skulle vaere elefant-passere for en dag.
Denne campen er som et gamlehjem for elefanter. Ideen er at disse dyrene, som ofte blir minst like gamle som mennesker, skal ha ett sted aa komme til for en verdig alderdom etter at de har arbeidet og slitt meget hardt ofte til de er godt over 70. Etter det vi vet/forstod mottar ikke dette arrangementet/organisasjonene noen som helst stoette fra Thailandske myndigheter.
Ved ankomst ble vi oensket velkommen av Ewa som er en av to personer som staar ansvarlig for denne campen. Informasjonen og dialogen ble holdt paa engelsk saa det var godt at Tante og Onkel kunne oversette det viktigste for oss. Meget betryggende var det at en stor del av pre-briefingen omhandlet sikkerhet og hvordan vi skulle te oss I forhold til alle elefantene rundt omkring paa campen. Dette er tross alt dyr paa mellom 3 og 5 tonn saa det var viktig med noen grunnleggende sikkerhetsregler. Det skal ogsaa sies at vi aldri foelte oss utrygge eller utsatte I loepet av oppholdet. Ved slutten paa briefingen ble vi tildelt og gitt ansvaret for vaar egen elefant  Doc-Ma. Denne var fullt og helt vaart ansvar denne dagen.  Den skulle passés paa, mates, vaskes og steles. Doc-Ma er 78 aar ung, er/var meget snill og god og rund.
Foer vi ble satt I arbeid fikk vi utdelt arbeidsantrekk I form av en t-skjorte med thailanske bokstaver som gjorde den enda mer eksotisk for en nord-boer. I tillegg fikk vi tildelt en hytte som vi fritt kunne disponere for evt. skifting av klaer, vasking/skylling og toalett-besoek.
Noe av det forste vi fikk oppleve var aa rydde gulvet  eller aakern hvor mange av elefantene hadde sovet kvelden foer. Dette innebar aa sammen med de lokalt ansatte aa plukke opp masse moekk. Dette var overhodet ikke noen dritt-jobb da baesjen var veldig toerr og relativt lett. Ikke luktet det noe saerlig heller. Alt I alt ganske opplevelsesrikt og sosialt  og varmt.
Neste paa tapeten var aa gi de mat. Vi maatte selv avgaarde til matlageret med kjerre for aa laste opp det skulle ha aa spise til formiddags-maaltidet. Er ikke saa rent lite de spiser heller. Vi ble fortalt at en voksen elefant spiser ca 150kh med for hver dag. Uansett, aa mate de var en morsom opplevelse. Mest spesielt og artig var det aa mate de minste elefantene  aa proeve aa faa de til aa spise foer de voksne og selvsagt sterkere elefantene fikk komme imellom og grisket til seg mer enn de skulle ha.hmmm den sterkestes rett kanskje?
Etterpaa var det badetid. Dette var vel det mest morsomme og spennende I loepet av hele oppholdet. Her fikk vi lov til aa ri Doc-Ma ned til elva og ut I elva mens vi fremdeles satt paa ryggen. Etter ett par dype dykk som gjorde oss minst like vaat som elefanten selv ble det litt skuring av hodebunn foer det bars tilbake til hovedkvarteret igjen.
Til kveldsmat fikk vi beskjed om aa legge ut/tilbrede ett tredvetalls anannas busker/planter saa Doc-Ma virkelig kunne kose seg. Da det var gjort var det tid for ett vedmodig farvell med vaar kjaere elefant. De sier elefanter er like smarte som mennesker  saa forhaapentligvis vil Doc-Ma ogsaa huske denne dagen som noe spesielt.  For det gjoer vi!

Anette og Magnus Bangkok 3rd March 2008

Well here we are back home after our great holiday in Thailand and what is it that everyone wants to hear about (and we want to talk about) – our all too brief time with our Elephants at Ayutthaya !!!
What an amazing and unforgettable experience it was. From the moment we arrived to till the time we left, it was a series of ‘firsts’ for us all  from the feeding, washing, riding and cleaning up after these beautiful, powerful but gentle creatures to being a playmate for the babies 120kg of infant just wanting to mess around and have fun.
We (Mum, Dad & 2 teenage sons) had been really looking forward to Elephantstay since we made the decision to go but were also a little unsure of just what to expect  we’d booked 4 elephants between us!  Any trepidation we may have felt soon disappeared after meeting Michelle & Ewa – our wonderful hosts. We were to find over the next 3 days that their patience, friendship, dedication & guidance ensured we shared the most time possible with our elephants in a safe and fun environment, learning all the time about the Kraal, the mahouts and of course, the elephants.
After a welcoming chat (which I realised later was also where Michelle & Ewa got to know us a little to ensure the best match between guest & elephant) we were shown to our accommodation which was spotless, spacious & very comfortable. The next thing I remember I was on top of my elephant heading down to the river for a swim.  Whilst I was still pinching myself sitting atop SeeNewang, looking across at Cheryl on Ramruay, Mark on Lum Duon & Ben on Loong Sap was the most amazing sight – everyone smiling from ear to ear.  Off we went for the first of many dips in the river the most wonderful experience.
One thing I did remember clearly during our stay was Michelle saying on the first morning that you will get out of this experience what you put in, so we all got involved as much as we could, whatever the task & we all got far more back than we could ever have given. The fun we had with the mahouts, their families, Michelle, Ewa, our fellow guests whether it was heaving crap up onto the truck in the morning, riding to the river, washing the elephants or shucking corn.. laughter was a constant throughout the day whatever the task. The more you do also means the more hands on contact you have with your elephant which is the most rewarding and humbling experience. Just wait till your elephant looks deep into your eyes – truly heartwarming.
I cannot recommend Elephantstay highly enough. It was wonderful to have the chance to have such intimate contact with these beautiful animals and at the same time knowing that you are contributing in some small way to their upkeep and helping them enjoy their time in retirement.
A huge thanks to everyone at Elephanstay, particularly Michelle, Ewa, Gik and also to Lythonglian Meepan and his wife, whose vision and personal commitment is providing a comfortable and sustainable future for so many elephants.
All the best to everyone at the Village.
Cheers   

Brendan, Cheryl, Ben & Mark Melbourne, Australia

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