After spending a few nights in Tha Ton in the north of Thailand we’ve looped back down to Lampung, 70 kilometres south of Chiang Mai. Our journey included an eventful 4 hour long tail boat ride down the Kok river from Tha Ton to Chiang Rai, a few nights stop over to visit the Wat Rong Khun temple, followed by a 4 hour coach journey to Lampang.

Lampang is a pretty little town situated on either side of the Wang River. Luckily the banks of the river are high and although the river rose considerably during the recent flooding the quaint wooden houses that line the water remained dry.

The main reason for our stopover is to visit the Elephant sanctuary located 30 km outside of the town.  We shunned the tourist transport and opted, as we often do, to take the local government bus that dropped us outside the sanctuary for a mere 60p (the tourist transport was ten times the price)

backpacking with a baby in SE Asia Lampang

An elephant moves in for a slobbery kiss

The sanctuary houses 180 elephants, that were orphaned, victims of abuse or had injuries that would have cost them their lives if they had not been rescued and taken care of in the elephant hospital.

We arrived early in time for the first elephant show. ‘The boy’ was intrigued watching nine elephants, ranging from a youngster up to a twenty seven year old male, who took it in turns to show off their skills. They picked up huge logs with their trunks, pushed logs around with their enormous feet, squirted water into hats and played musical instruments. However, the highlight of the show was the painting demonstration. Three elephants, including the young baby, stood in front of an easel, paintbrush in trunk and produced some impressive pieces that would put my other half to shame. One painted an elephant, another a vase of flowers and the older elephant painted a beautiful tree with pink blossom.  All unique, all very impressive, and the artwork could be purchased after each show. We managed to buy a simple monochrome elephant painting for ‘the boy’ as a souvenir of our time in Thailand. When we eventually settle we will be able to put it on his wall and have a great story to share with him in years to come.

backpacking with a baby SE Asia Lampang

The artistic giants paint with their trunks

‘The boy’, although a little nervous at first, fed the elephants sugar cane and got close enough to stroke their trunks. It was lovely watching him watching them, although he wasn’t very enamoured with the huge sloppy elephant kiss he received from one of the younger males. Later that day we took an elephant ride around the expansive grounds. We trekked through a lake, a hillside path and open terrain, stopping at the elephant nursery to watch a baby elephant suckling from his mother.  We felt so small perched up high on the elephant’s back but ‘the boy’ didn’t seem at all phased.

backpacking with a baby SE Asia Lampang

'The boy' feeds the elephant some sugarcane

In addition to the rehabilitation work the sanctuary also recycles the huge quantity of elephant poo to produce beautiful handmade paper.  This was a highlight for me as the chap who turns the poo into paper allowed me to get involved. I hand mixed the cleaned ball of fibrous pre weighed poo with water to produce a slimy pulp, poured it onto a large screen that was submerged under water and after tilting the screen to ensure it was evenly covered, waited for the pulp to settle. The screen is then dried for a day, the paper peeled carefully off and hey presto you have a piece of recycled paper.

backpacking with a baby SE Asia Lampang

Making elephant poo paper

Unfortunately my effort never made it to the shelves as I caught the master of paper making peeling my effort off the screen and throwing it back into the recycling pot to be re-formed.  I’m obviously not a natural.

It’s a superb day out and I highly recommend visiting if you’re in the Lampang or Chiang Mai area. ‘The boy’ absolutely loved it and we got great pleasure in watching him in awe of the huge beasts.

Next stop Sukothai…

Top tip of the day:
The Phil and Teds Wriggle wrap is one of our most utilised items. It has three functions: attaches your baby securely to your lap to stop them wriggling around, can be u sed on most chairs in place of a high chair and can attach smaller babies to a single bed so that they can’t roll off.  We’ve used it on many forms of transport (predominantly boats), but this was the first time I’d used it on the back of an elephant. I was able to attach him securely to my lap giving me peace of mind that he couldn’t fall off during the bumpy ride.  A highly recommended baby gadget that will feature in my top ‘backpacking with a baby essentials’ reviews in the coming weeks.

backpacking with a baby SE Asia Lampang

Attaching the 'wriggle wrap' for a secure elephant ride