Before starting my ATW trip I knew seeing elephants in Thailand was an absolute must. The only time I really had ever seen them was at the San Diego zoo so I was really pumped about Thailand. I heard about northern Thailand having the best elephant sanctuaries but I wanted to avoid ones that abused the animals. Kyle found Chai Lai Orchid after some heavy research – a non-profit eco lodge built into an elephant sanctuary an hour outside of Chiang Mai’s city center in Chai Lai.
The simple lodge is inexpensive and outdoor-focused. Not much wifi here! But it is perfect for a day with elephants and other animals. Also there are great open patios for morning yoga :)
We rode the elephants and played with them in a river that runs through the lodge grounds. They are so playful and fun which is hard to believe at first given their massive size. We had so much fun splashing and playing in the water. They are just gentle giants! Some of the coolest animals in the world I think. They love coconut shells too so we fed them ours after downing the water and meat. Needless to say the elephants were well fed by us.
Chai Lai Orchid is sort of in the middle of nowhere so all your meals will be at the lodge. Luckily the food is really good with a ton of vegan options. Get freshly cracked, cold coconuts at any time and veggie stir fries. Their coffee is 100% organic and fair trade – and extremely bomb might I add. I went a little crazy on it here.
Between playing outside and gorging on their delicious vegetarian dishes you can get a 60 minute Thai massage in your room for just $9 USD. God I love Thailand.
Chai Lai Orchid was just the right place to get away from all the noise of the world and be in nature. I really enjoyed spending my time writing, reading, and playing with elephants here :) I recommend 2 nights during the cooler season (November-February).
ABOUT the non-profit
The lodge was opened by Daughters Rising, a human rights organization dedicated to helping female Burmese refugees in Thailand. These women are victims of rape used as a weapon of war in Burma and sex trafficking. With no rights and no place to call home, Burmese women are taken advantage of in Burma and Thailand – exploited for sex and labor. Chai Lai Orchid is a vocational training program where Thai hospitality is taught so that refugees can live safely, earn money to support their families, and become leaders in their own communities.