Chai Lai Orchid: The Real Dumbo Doesn’t Belong In The Circus

I remember my first time going to Thailand — I was five, and the only memory I’ve got was parasailing (yes I was THAT in love with heights) and riding an elephant with my parents. It wasn’t until I was around 16 that I found out that elephants in Thailand were abused to entertain people, and my supposedly “happy” memory became a profound guilt within me. Since then I have been reminding myself not to support such activity anymore.


Springbreak @ Chiang Mai

As I was choosing accomodation for my trip to Chiang Mai, Thailand on Airbnb, Chai Lai Orchid came across and the pictures featuring people waking up with elephants doing morning calls immediately got my attention. I clicked in and found that Chai Lai Orchid is actually a non-profit accomodation where rescued elephants were taken care of and all profits goes towards these elephants.

Still, I was skeptical about it — can it be possible? Elephants treated properly and not forced into cruel labor? I read through every review I could find (Airbnb, Facebook, Google) and went on the official website of Chai Lai Orchid, expected to see reviews that prove my doubt to be true, but no, most of the reviews were positive and many claim to go back once more.

I decided to give it a try and booked for one night, which turned out to be the biggest mistake I made.


The Chai Lai Orchid Experience

Our Room Type: Chiang Mai Forest Bungalow

 I am going to be honest with you: I came prepared for the worst. I went to Nepal few years ago for a mission trip and where I lived had no A/C and no shower and I prepared myself for the same as I was going to the Chai Lai Orchid. 

Turned out I was just paranoid — there was A/C and shower and the most comfortable bed ever! I was so surprised. The whole place was very natural, other than the interior of the rooms, the modern renovation was kept to the minimum everywhere else. The guests get to meet elephants on their way to the room.


In fact, I encountered an elephant on my way to breakfast the next morning. It was SURREAL. I was frozen when the elepahnt turned around and walked straight towards us because of how huge it is. I just stood there and slowly drew back. The staff who happened to pass by told me it’s very old and very gentle; it won’t harm us. I reached out and touched its nose. It’s definitely a magical moment.


What’s more exciting was the elephant morning call, where staff brings you a bag of bananas and an elephant to your room and “wakes you up”. I guess nobody could stay asleep knowing an elephant is coming because I certainly can’t! I was STOKED for this morning call.

“happiest kid”

The staff encouraged me to feed the elephants with my mouth biting the banana and I did it! It’s not the most sanitary decision I’ve made but definitely worth it.

Shot on Contax T2 // Kodak Portra 400

Remember I said staying here for one night was my biggest mistake? I should have booked for two or three nights! Darn it! I promist I’ll come back again and sign up for elephant bathing. The Chai Lai Orchid experience has been absolutely marvelous. I will always recall moments such as waking up to elephants’ voices and meeting elephants on my way to breakfast. Forever grateful for this experience.

Until next time!