Elephant Rescue, Women empowerment, and Jungle scenery, all things that Chai Lai Orchid had to offer. I found my elephant bungalow while scoping out a stay on the popular Airbnb for our trip to Thailand, After researching I found that this beautiful place had a entire story behind it, and that it was one that I was happy to support.
What the owner Alexa is doing is so very special. Not only is she saving elephants from the unethical treatment that is practices so frequently in Thailand, she is also empowering local Burmese refugee women who have been trafficked in the past and little or no opportunity for a positive environment. Everyday the girls at Chai Lai Orchid are taught English, healthcare, and are educated by volunteer doctors and teachers. She packed up her NYC flat and came out to Thailand by herself to open this place, and
We arrived by Cab zooming around corners , whipping past greenery with the wind blowing in our windows and kissing our skin into this beautiful jungle. We were directed across a long swinging wooden bridge. As we crossed the bridge with our luggage clacking along the individual planks we peered down into the river to witness elephants bathing and playing. I knew immediately that I had made the right decision.
The place was buzzing with life and Happiness! We were instantly greeted with fresh lemon grass tea and sat down to go over our rooms stay and what activities we wanted to participate in. We eagerly offered to help bath the elephants (duh!), go on a waterfall hike, and to take the elephants to feed bright and early in the morning.
We settled into our Bungalow complete with mosquito netting and a rotating fan, Found our shared bathroom and returned to the cafe to order dinner. The woman who took our orders were just learning English and such a delight to get to meet and talk to. We loved every single one of them and the food was cheap and delicious. Of course Shalyn was happy because they had french fries and hamburgers offered.
We awoke and went to get on our elephants, No chairs, no chains or ropes, we just sat on the head between the neck and the head and walked with them into the forest as they all split off from one another reaching into the trees to pull down food or reaching over ledges to grab sugar cane. It was such a holy, and humbling experience to be able to be alone in a jungle atop such a magnificent creature that I gained so much love and respect for. When the elephants were ready they all headed back down into the river to rinse themselves and us off. They wrestled each other with us still atop of them sending river water pouring all over us in the morning chill. A experience I will never forget, and one that imprinted my heart with these creatures.
Next we set off on our waterfall adventure taking us past rice fields and Banana farms. Winding in and out of the rivers. We found small villages along the way with wandering pigs and chickens. Village kids weaved in and out of our group as we walked. We learned that they do not eat bananas, those are for elephants and rice is for humans. We learned how to carve chopsticks out of Bamboo, and prepared Pad Thai next to a gushing waterfall that we quickly dove in to.
Our time here was Completely Magical as we wrapped up our day with a Bamboo raft ride down the River. Bobbing up and down while admiring the life of the jungle around us. The experience that this place gave me is irreplaceable. And I will return again.