Week 4: Elephants and Rainy Season Hiking


On Friday, 20/9, for our Friday field trip, we got to visit Patara Elephant Farm. It was a really great day! First, we got time to hang out with some baby elephants and their moms while waiting for the whole group to arrive. The baby elephants were so friendly and loved playing with us – if you sat down on the ground they would just sit on you! Then we had an introduction to the mission of Patara Elephant Farm and learned more in-depth about the different sides and agendas people have with elephant tourism. Before coming here, I had heard a lot of negative things about some elephant tourism establishments, many of which are true; however, I loved getting to learn about elephants and support a company that so passionately cares for elephants. Before Friday, we had to do a lot of research about different kinds of elephant tourism – I’ll attach the links to the most helpful articles below. Anyways, after learning about how to take care of elephants, we actually got to do it. Our group split off into pairs- each pair got to take care of an elephant for the rest of the day. My roommate and I took care of an elephant named Toe Kae and her baby. We assisted in feeding them, brushing them, watering them, exercising them, and then bathing them at the end of the day. It was incredible to be with such large, gentle animals and I learned a lot. More photos can be found on the photos page.

Meeting the elephants at Patara Elephant Farm!

On Saturday, our group went on an optional hike with ISDSI to Doi Suthep, one of the most well known temples in Chiang Mai. We hiked on Monk’s Trail – before reaching the temple, we got to see Pad Laad Temple. We stopped by one of the many waterfalls along the way for lunch, and several hours later, we finished the hike to Doi Suthep. As it is rainy season here, we got got in a very heavy thunder and lightning storm for about an hour- it was pretty intense but also fun! The trail became like walking up stream as we hiked up the side of the mountain. I loved hiking through the rain forest as it was actually raining. The changes we saw just in that day before the rain vs during the downpour vs after were incredible. It was a long day so after a 5 mile hike, he group I was with decided not to visit the temple that day, but we will go back! I spent the rest of the weekend working on homework and relaxing – I prepared a presentation on Vietnam for my Societies and Culture of South East Asia class and studied Thai. It was a busy but enjoyable weekend.

View during hike to Pad Laad Temple

The rest of the week was pretty normal. My classes are still going well – though we did have our first Thai test. This was a “tone” test which involved reading and pronouncing words. I spent a lot of time working on memorizing tone rules – took the test today and survived! Today (Thursday), we got to visit a hotel pool after the test since we don’t have afternoon classes. I enjoyed swimming around in it after a long week.

I expect this upcoming week to be very busy! This weekend, we are going to visit Pai, and on Monday, we are going to our first home stay in a village. I will be off the grid working on a farm and learning about sustainable agriculture for a week! You can expect the post about my experience early during the week of October 7!


This week the big highlight for me was our visit to Patara Elephant Farm. Elephants have always been one of my favorite animals, and it was really special for me to work with one up close. Toe Kae was a delight to work with and she and her baby showed so much personality. I’m grateful I got to have this experience! It’s hard for me to explain with words so here are a few more pictures!

Kalamazoo College students
Learning how to brush Toe Kae with leaf bunches
Moms and babies at Patara Elephant Farm

Thank you for reading! Below are a few links to Patara Elephant Farm and articles about elephant tourism in Thailand.


“The Cost of Elephant Tourism

“Congratulations you Boycotted An Elephant Camp, Now What Happens?”

“In Thailand, You Can Ride an Elephant. But Should You?”

4 thoughts on “Week 4: Elephants and Rainy Season Hiking

  1. What an amazing experience, Margaret!!! Definitely unforgettable and the pictures you took were great!! I love elephants as well, so your experience touches my heart more than normal. You will have quite the diary/portfolio when your trip concludes!! You look fabulously healthy and happy and I know your mom is so proud of and excited for you!!

    Thanks for sharing your experiences!! Like I said before, we are living vicariously through your journey!!


  2. What a incredible experience. Just reading about it and seeing the photos brought tears to my eyes. I so envy you this special enlightening opportunity as elephants are my favorite animal too. Thank you so much for including the articles too as I’ve been torn about the ethical approach to wanting an intimate interaction with elephants. And tone testing…! Sending you lots of hugs and good wishes


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