Asia is a wonderful part of the world to discover and indeed, people come by the tens of millions every year to experience what the continent’s countless destinations and cultures have to offer. Some tourists do it up in style and book luxurious hotels like the Empire Hotel and Country Club in Brunei and splurge on lavish tours. Others strap on backpacks in tow and go with the flow.
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I consider myself somewhere in between â€“ there are times when I welcome the comforts of a five-star hotel and times when I want to get my hands dirty and check out the local scene. At the end of the day, it pays to be aware of all available choices.
As a frequent traveler, one activity that never fails to excite me is an elephant ride. Those who have not had the sheer pleasure should put it near the top of their bucket list. Tourists throughout Asia have no excuse – in a multitude of destinations, from Cambodia to India, Thailand to Laos, elephant rides are asÂ common as night markets.
ELEPHANT RIDES IN SIEM, REAP (CAMBODIA) â€“ Visitors to Siem Reap can choose from several modes of transportation when they travel within the city. There are a lot of tuktuks (three-wheel motorbikes) and there are also bicycles for rent. In two locations I know of in the city,Â one can even travel by elephant.
One place is Angkor Thom, where visitors can explore the magnificent temple complex from the back of a pachyderm. Tourists decide to ride on an elephant to relax a bit and see the landscape from a different perspective.
A more popular spot is at Phnom Bakheng however. The hilltop temple is a brilliant vantage point for elephant passengers – up to three at a time in this case. The Phnom Bakheng elephant experience was a notable segment on the Cambodia episode ofÂ the â€œ1000 Places to See Before You Dieâ€ series. Phnom Bakheng is one of the famous high spots in Siem Reap where groups of tourists gather to witness the spectacular sunset. An elephant ride costs around US$ 10 per person.
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ELEPHANT RIDES IN AYUTTHAYA & CHIANG MAI (THAILAND) â€“ The elephant is the national animal and symbol of Thailand and March 13 is National Thai Elephant Day. Needless to say, copious souvenirs sold in Thailand bear some connection to elephants. While elephant memorabilia is everywhere, from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, a visit to Thailand will seem incomplete without a real elephant encounter.
Travelers in Ayutthaya can experience elephants up close and personal at the Ayutthaya Elephant Camp. Each elephant can take two passengers at a time. The ride costs about Baht 800 per person and the ride lasts for about thirty minutes. The trek provides scenic views of ancient temple ruins. You also have the option to simply have your photo taken beside elephants for Baht 100 per person per elephant – or if there are two elephants in the picture Baht 200. Remember to ask for the appropriate fees first to avoid surprises!
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Another place to go to for elephant rides in Thailand is Chiang Mai. Tourists usually head to the Maesa Elephant Camp to see the massive creatures in person. A ride costs about Baht 100 for a good thirty minutes but the rate can change from season to season. There are also snacks sold for about Baht 20 per pack for those who want to feed the elephants. The Elephant Riding Adventure is offered to tourists every day in the morning until early afternoon.
The next time you visit Thailand, Cambodia or other parts of Asia where elephant populations dwell, try to visit conservation-friendly parks and camps where knowledgeable trainers take great care with the animals. The staff will not only help you experience the once-in-a-lifetime thrill of an elephant ride but educate you about the giant mammals as well.