Elephants & Psychiatric Hospital

I cannot believe a week has already gone by since we first arrived in Thailand. We have just arrived in Chiang Rai & our resort is beautiful here! I have already experienced & learned so many things on this trip, but know there is so much more to experience.

This past weekend our group chose to go to an elephant camp for a day. It was definitely an experience that I will never forget! I was so excited to feed an elephant, learn about them, & was definitely excited to ride an elephant. When we arrived there was a mom & baby elephant that we were able to feed bananas & sugar cane to. Next we witnessed an elephant bath in the river. I wasn’t exactly sure how the keepers were going to bath them, but the elephants actually laid down in the river– allowing the water to run over them & wash the dirt off. Next it was time for the elephant show– we got to see two elephants paint beautiful pictures & this huge elephant kick a soccer ball. It is truly amazing how intelligent elephants are. Finally it was time ride an elephant! I didn’t imagine it to be a smooth ride, but it was definitely more bumpy than I had imagined. I was actually scared at the beginning because our keeper kept telling us that we were sitting wrong, but we didn’t understand how to change our positions– we eventually figured it out though. At the very beginning we had to go down a steep hill into the river & I felt like I was going to slide right under bar, but thankfully I didn’t. It was about half & half where we were on water & then land. I honestly don’t know which one I liked better because our elephant kept stopping & refused to walk in the river & then on land it was a lot of steep hills going up & down. We arrived at our destination & it was time to take an ox cart ride back to the main camp. After eating lunch at the main camp we went on a nice raft ride down the river. Our two guides kept joking that there were alligators in the water, but we never saw any. At the end of our tour this day we were able to stop at a seven-layer waterfall. Some of us attempted to climb up the whole waterfall, but at one point we got stuck & forced to journey on the trails provided. This waterfall reminded me a lot of Gooseberry Falls up the North Shore from Duluth because it wasn’t huge, but had all the beautiful aspects that a waterfall should.

One of our cultural visits that really opened my eyes to a new view was at the psychiatric hospital. In the United States, our mental hospitals make it appear that the patients are almost under lock down & not allowed to do certain activities. At the psychiatric hospital in Chiang Mai, their view is very different. It is a very open environment compared to the United States, doors are rarely locked & patients are free to walk in their designated campuses (separated by male & female). A therapy that they focus on at this psychiatric hospital is anything that involves the patient’s hands. For example, playing the piano or cutting fabric with scissors to make into crafts.

These were only two experiences that I choose to describe, but I will be back soon to post about more.

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