Chiang Mai’s reputation is outstanding, for tourists and travellers who spend anywhere from two days here through to finding themselves still there two months later. There’s an abundance of Chiang Mai activities to do yet there are a few ‘once in a lifetime activities’ you should think twice about doing in Chiang Mai due to ethical reasons.
Visiting Tiger Kingdom
You’ve probably seen a friend who has been to Thailand proudly displaying a new Facebook Profile of him/her holding a tiger’s tail.
Picture this: a mere human smiling with a real, living tiger’s tail in hand. Does that picture feel normal at all? Go and grab your cat’s tail and see if it’s still relaxed enough to pose for a selfie with you.
While these pictures may look cool when you’re working your nine to five or looking for your next adventure, the reality is that there’s major animal cruelty going on here.
To this day there’s no actual proof the tigers are drugged or sedated. But if you have any common sense you’ll realise sketchy animal practices are happening at these ‘Tiger Kingdoms’. It doesn’t matter if you’re a vegan shouting from the rooftops or an avid game hunter, a rational mind will recognise this.
There are news reports indicating all is not well with these ‘kingdoms’ popping up more and more often.
Go On A Trek With An Elephant Ride Included
The first time I arrived in Chiang Mai I was an ignorant tourist who wanted to go trekking and of course, that was all in order to be able to ride an elephant through the jungle. While I didn’t post a profile pic of myself on top of an elephant like the tiger posers above it doesn’t make me any better or worse.
The elephants you ride on are essentially beaten until their spirit is broken. They’re so dejected they succumb to their leader who is ready to whack them with a hook if they look like they might ‘misbehave’ or realistically, follow their instincts. Watch how they break an elephant and you will NEVER consider riding one.
Sadly I didn’t realise this until a few months after I went. The marketing of the elephant ride was definitely the main reason I went trekking, sneaky!
If you want an elephant experience, head to the Elephant Nature Reserve or to an organization that cares about elephants.
In hindsight, I should have headed to one of the Elephant centres like Elephant Nature Reserve that actually care about the wellbeing of the elephants where long-term my experiences would have been much richer.
Visit The Long Neck Tribes
You’ve most likely seen photos of the long neck tribes before. The Kayans have gold rings around their neck, the illusion is the head looks to be in a floating like state.
You can actually visit Kayan villages near Chiang Mai. These villages are very interesting unfortunately, the majority of the Kayans living there have no choice in their occupation.
Originally from Burma, the only way to stay in Thailand is to work in these artificial villages. The Thai authorities don’t allow them to work outside these villages.
If you really want to visit these long neck villages ethically, do thorough research into the exact village you want to visit. Hiring a private guide is recommended rather than going along with a group as part of a day trip.
Hoon Around On A Scooter Without A Helmet
Driving around Chiang Mai on a scooter is awesome! Unfortunately, Thailand has the second most dangerous the world. While anyone can ride a scooter it’s incredible to see how many tourists ride a scooter without a helmet on, thinking they are invincible.
Don’t be an idiot, if the helmets at the rental shop don’t fit you can get one from a shop for less than $10 down the road.
You might well end up with a farang tattoo while driving around Chiang Mai no matter how good your driving is, like myself, even though I had a helmet on. Keeping your head safe will keep your parents happy who of course won’t care if you look like a dork or not while riding.
Whether you go ahead with the above Chiang Mai activities or not is totally up to you. Regardless of what you do, enjoy Chiang Mai, it’s incredible!
Thanks to Jub from Tiki Touring Kiwi for the guest post! Make sure to follow him on Instagram and Snapchat @Jubunator. Click here for more things to do in Chiang Mai.
Sunday 13th of March 2016
I do really hope every traveller's around the world will take note and more aware about it....
Monday 14th of March 2016
With a little of effort by those of us who are aware, hopefully the messages gets engrained worldwide sooner rather than later :)
Sunday 13th of March 2016
I agree 100% on all 4 activities. Chiang Mai has so much to offer that it is a shame to choose one that has a negative effect on animals or people. I chose to volunteer for a day at Patara Elephant Farm, which is run with a similar philosophy to the Elephant Nature Park. My favorite activity in Chiang Mai actually was trekking. I was able to go one that was marketed as "non-touristy" (ironic since only tourists/travelers go on them). The 3 day trip was more focused on nature than the traditional elephant riding, long-neck visiting, etc, and I had a blast! I really enjoyed seeing the beautiful scenery and getting away from the crowds for a few days.
Tuesday 12th of April 2016
Thanks for stopping by. I bet volunteering at the Elephant Farm will have memories you'll hold for a lifetime, and a perfect opportunity for you to let people know the differences between ethical elephant care and non-elephant on a personal level!
Sunday 13th of March 2016
It's great to know that more and more travelers are raising issues about animal abuse and exploitation. Hope the message can be spread far and wide because the only way to stop these "funfairs" from continuing is by boycotting them financially.
Monday 14th of March 2016
Hey Danial, You definitely aren't wrong there! Money is oxygen to the "funfairs", we need to take their oxygen away.
Tuesday 8th of March 2016
I spent the day with one of the border Karen tribes and their village elephants. Absolutely no hooks, chains or baskets. Yes we rode but always bareback with nothing other than voice commands. That was after spending hours grooming and washing in the river and learning about their needs and their use to the village. I agree with all of the above however there are operations to show people elephants without the harsh cruel and soul destroying actions listed
Monday 11th of April 2016
Elephant tourism in Thailand is tricky, it may seem good and harmless, but there is a process where they break the elephant that you wouldn't see as a tourist (and probably wouldn't want to). Even if the treatment of the animals seems good in front of the tourists, it's really best not to participate in it. There may be some places using good practices, but do your research before visiting the elephants in Thailand.
Saturday 5th of March 2016
Actually, I spent a couple of days in Chiang Mai six years ago and I went on a trek. Unfortunately, I participated in a couple of the activities listed in this blog article. I rode an elephant and visited the long neck tribes. I didn't think twice about either activity. But throughout the years, I've read numerous bloggers educated readers about how elephants are harmed by being ridden. After visiting the long neck tribes and taking pictures of many of them, I felt like a voyeur.
Saturday 12th of March 2016
It's awesome that you at least acknowledge that you rode an elephant and visited the long neck tribes. Six years ago, the awareness amongst travellers definitely wasn't anywhere near the level that it was - even a few years ago when I rode the elephant I hadn't heard about it!
If everyone can continue spreading the message hopefully the momentum shift changes.