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Travel

Pure Love for Gentle Giants Elephant Nature Park – Chiang Mai, Thailand y heart still skips a beat when I reminisce about my recent month’s travels through Thailand. The ancient cities and ruins of Sukhothai, Lopburi and Arruthaya (the original capital) still captivate the souls of the Thai people. They embrace Buddha’s message purely in their heart, Buddha lockets on their necks with daily rituals around their Spirit House by lighting incense and offerings to the celestial beings. Contrasting, but just as eminent, is the presence and admiration for King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Larger than life billboards, statuettes placed on holy grounds, family shots at the bow of the ferryboat, rainbow neon signs at university entrances, and the anthem played at the movie theatre … the king is everywhere. But the one symbol that ties both old and modern world together is the Asian Elephant. Doing ecotourism and volunteering at Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai encourages broader views and awareness of this gentle, but highly endangered humanlike giant.

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Their Significance Elephants form an important part of Thai culture and national symbols. It is easy to spot this from the open markets with their mark on the silk ties, handicrafts for appeal to the tourism industry, to the advertisement logos on beer and soda bottles (Chang products). Their spiritual significances started when Queen Maya, mother of Buddha, was only able to conceive after having a dream that a white elephant enter inside her. This is highly auspicious and considered royal status in Thailand. Moreover, Thai Buddhists incorporate Hindu beliefs with the “Ganesh” – the Hindu gods with an elephant’s head, seen at temple entrances. Elephants are revered so much so that on March 13th each year is Thai Elephant Day. This is to bring awareness of the importance of elephant conservation.

Cultural Contradictions – Elephants roam the cityscape

⇨ New family bonding time after a dip in river. 26

Gwangju News May 2011

Alike with cultures around the world, there is always evidence of cultural contradictions within a nation. But, to me, this one is hard to swallow or comprehend. The alarming starter; there are NO laws to protect or fund reserves, as they are considered to be livestock like chicken or cow. The population of elephants in Thailand was approximately 100,000 in the early 1900s. Today, that figure is approximately 3,000–4,000 with almost half of that number domesticated and the remainder living wild in National Parks. Your math is correct, its population is only around 5 percent of what it was a century ago… and diminishing.

Profile for Gwangju International Center

(EN) Gwangju News May 2011 #111  

Featured articles: - Women Pioneering a New Police Presence - Japan Radiation - Jeollado Mothers (Photo Gallery) - Pure Love for Gentle Gian...

(EN) Gwangju News May 2011 #111  

Featured articles: - Women Pioneering a New Police Presence - Japan Radiation - Jeollado Mothers (Photo Gallery) - Pure Love for Gentle Gian...

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