My roommate and I were on our way back to the States from Australia via Thailand. We stopped in Chiang Mai and checked out the National Elephant Institute (about 90 miles south, you have to take a bus), as inspired by an article we read on a site called associated content. This article made me want to check out the place for myself. We are both animal rights activists and were thrilled to have the opportunity to check this place out. The National Elephant Institute was created in 1991 as a means to protect the Asian elephant which is an endangered species. Asian elephants are a big part of Thai culture, but unfortunately they can be subjected to abuse. You can book a course called "One Day Mahout Training". Once banned and re-established with the creation of this institute, a Mahout is an elephant handler and they pair up with one elephant for life- it ensures trust and survival for the elephant. Simply amazing. If you're into animal rights and happen to be in Thailand, you MUST spend the day here. We learned SO much and have gained a whole new insight into the elephant and more importantly, Thai culture.