Kok Chang is very close to the downtown, so it's much easier to go there and ride elephants than going up to the National Park for a full day. Price is ok (kindof expensive, but I'm ok with a premium for convenience). The venue is ok - I was worried it would be like fake since it's right near Kata, but it was quite natural and the terrain is mountainous, which makes for an interesting ride.
They let you feed the elephants bananas for free. Of course, there's a donation box which we contributed to, but it's nice that it's optional. The elephants look a little underfed, but beggars can't be choosers.
Two bad things:
Midway through our trek (30-minute trek), the guides stopped us and tried to sell us trinkets made of elephant tusks or whatever. They said we had to buy there, since they weren't allowed to sell back at the main launch area. We didn't want to be sold to - you know? We were just enjoying our elephant ride and then had to be made to feel like we were back on Patong beach fighting off hawkers. Not to mention that they were selling us stuff made of the very animals we were riding on. That seemed quite wrong to us and was disappointing. Even more disappointing was when we politely said "no thank you", our two (we had two elephants for the family group of 6) previously jovial guides became sortof unhappy pricks. Why do we need to be made to feel like bad guys because we just want to enjoy the elephant ride and not fight off hawkers?!
The other bad thing: one of the elephants (my elephant) was a little poorly behaved - - wandering off slightly - - and the handler started whacking the elephant on the head with his steel hammer/hook. The elephant suffered a cut and was bleeding a little bit. I recognize that they're wild animals and, yes, I'd prefer the elephant get a cut then run off with me and my son on his back...but...a little bit scary for my boy and my wife on the other elephant was saddened.
Anyway, aside from the above issues, it was a decent experience and something you can fit into your schedule quite easily.
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