The Daily Explorer

April 12, 2010

Angels in Elephant Heaven

Chiangmai, Thailand: April 2010

Ivana 8 

MOZZIE BYTE (Editor): A warm welcome back to all our Daily Explorer readers and greetings to those of you who are joining us for the first time. For new readers, Ray has been living nomadically for about four and a half years since he left England in November 2005. In that time, he has visited or lived in 16 countries and we have been publishing news and stories about his journey throughout that period. You can find all of these in our Previous Issues archive. At The Daily Explorer, we really want to create a great publication for you to enjoy, so please keep sending us your comments and suggestions as to how we can improve what we are doing. You can use the comments box on this site, or email Ray (ray@thedailyexplorer.com), ‘Mozzie’ or any of our correspondents at mozzie@thedailyexplorer.com

This issue has been put together by Ivana Getachek (above), who catches up with our global traveller in Chiangmai. You can find out what happened when Ray returned to the Elephant Nature Park to present a cheque for $5,000 from his “Calling All Angels” Fund, which Ivana has been managing since its launch in July 2009.  We also have pictures from Ray’s recent visit to the Mae-Mhae orphanage in the hills outside the city and his three day trip to Mae Hong Son near the Burmese border.

In case you missed our last issue, we shed some light on major changes that were happening for Ray, taking a rare and intimate look at the completion of his personal relationship with Nikki. We heard about an unusual workshop in East Sussex, known as “The Hoffman Process” which he attended at the start of the year. And we got a sneak preview of what lies ahead for our global nomad in the next few months. You can read it now at: All You Need is Love

Above: Ray wears his ‘rose tinted’ spectacles! His four and half year relationship with Nikki has ended and he kindly gave us a very revealing insight into his inner world in our last issue. He had just attended an eight day, intensive personal development workshop known as ‘The Hoffman Process’, giving him more awareness and understanding of himself and a clearer vision for the future. If you missed it, you can read it now at: All You Need is Love

The Elephant Nature Park in Chiangmai is a place that has constantly inspired our global traveller since his first visit there in August 2008. When he ran the New York marathon in November last year, Ray’s supporters in 20 countries around the world helped him raise over $15,000 and one third of this money was allocated for donation to the park. “Lek Chailert, who founded the park, is an amazing woman who I really admire” said Ray. “Her whole life has been dedicated to creating what she calls “Heaven for Elephants” and I wholeheartedly support the efforts she is making to bring this about. If any of our readers ever visit Chiangmai, then a trip to the park should be on your ‘must see’ list of things to do” added our traveller. “I am absolutely thrilled that we have been able to raise a significant amount of money which will help fund many of the programmes going on and improve the way things are working there” he told me. For first time readers, you can find out much more about the Elephant Nature Park in two of our previous issues: Elephants and Lions (August 2008) and Return to Elephant Heaven (June 2009). Or check out the Elephant Nature Foundation official web site. We are very grateful to Valerie Klein, who travelled to the park with Ray to photograph the official presentation to Lek, and who also captured many of the images below.

Above: The Elephant Nature Park is located in the beautiful Mae Taeng Valley, which is about one and half hours north of Chiangmai by car. Funding for the land was donated by an American who heard about Lek’s vision and wanted to support her. The land is protected and has an all important river running through it. In this picture, one of the many families of elephants living in the park make their way to the water for an afternoon soak. Visitors are encouraged to get in with them and give them a good scrub!

Below: There are approximately 3,000 domestic elephants in Thailand. There are many instances recorded of these animals suffering at the hands of cruel owners who beat them to secure obedience. This one on the right had half her right foot blown off by a land mine near the Burmese border. Lek is currently providing a safe haven for 33 elephants, with a vision to provide a home to many more as time goes by. All of the funding to make this possible has to be raised  through volunteer programmes at the park and private donations

Above: The park relies heavily on volunteers. Chiangmai resident Valerie Klein (left) kindly agreed to take photographs for us, whilst many other people stay at the park to help with feeding, construction and generally look after the animals. Each elephant will get through about 200 pounds of food per day (right)

Below: There is a beautiful, harmonious and peaceful energy in and around the Elephant Nature Park, which also provides a loving home to many other kinds of animals too

Above: Lek Chailert, founder of the Elephant Nature Park, is commonly known as the “Elephant Whisperer” and enjoys a remarkable level of intimacy, love and trust with all of the animals in her care

Below: Lek updates Ray about what has been happening at the park since his last visit (left) and then gently sings a lullabye for a few minutes to one of the baby elephants until he starts to fall asleep! (right)

Above and below: Elephants are very playful creatures, especially in the water!

Above: The elephant on the left was blinded by its cruel owner and rescued by Lek. Since the day she arrived, the elephant on the right has taken care of her and is her constant guide and companion

Below: They say “elephants never forget” – this cow seems to have forgotten she is a cow and spends most of the day grazing with her larger, thicker skinned mammal friends

Above: Ray comes in close for a personal encounter with Faa Mai, one of two babies born within the last twelve months. Another is on the way! – “She is so cute” said our soft hearted explorer

Below: Later in the afternoon, Ray got a chance to give her another stroke or two as she had a bit of a sleep

Above: Hungry? Our intrepid traveller offers Faa Mai a banana, who seems very excited about it (left), whilst Valerie plays “Hide and Seek” behind the wooden post with one of the seniors (right)

Wanting to get an idea of how the “Calling All Angels” campaign funds would be used at the park, I asked Ray to tell me more.  “As the park grows, so too does the need for more and stronger shelters for the animals” he explained. “The money we have donated will help contribute towards the cost of a new shelter which will have a really neat watering system so that the elephants can drink 24/7, rather than having to wait until they can get to the river. And it is being constructed from steel, which will save Lek and her team a huge amount of wasted effort that goes in to constantly repairing the cheaper and less strong bamboo shelters they currently have” he said. “They still need more money, as they are now committed to developing a much larger National Park in Surin and there are many new constructions commencing or planned wihin the existing facility” added Ray.

Above: Faa Mai appears to be very happy that the “Calling All Angels” Campaign has been supporting her home and family

Below: A magical moment for Ray (left) as he enjoys the fruition of hisvefforts over the last 12 months to help Lek achieve her vision for “Elephant Heaven” – “I could not have done this without the support I received from friends all over the world, so a huge thanks to everybody who was there for me” said our appreciative fundraiser. Meanwhile, Faa Mai thinks the cheque might be her lunch and tries to take a bite out of it! (right)

Above: The new all-steel shelter is under construction – the money from Ray’s “Calling All Angels” campaign fund will help meet the costs, which are in the region of £30,000

Below: Lek’s partner Derek explains to Ray how the 24/7 integrated water drinking system in the new shelter will work

Above: Slowly but surely, Lek’s dream of creating “Elephant Heaven” is coming about. A brand new kitchen is near to completion (left). To enable the construction programme, much new equipment has been obtained, again thanks to generous donations from supportive donors (right)

Below: This dog takes a rest from the heat in a quiet corner of one of the construction sites (left). Elsewhere, one of the new, ecologically friendly Adobe houses for visitors is also nearing completion

Above: Since Ray last visited the park, they have also completed a new screening room as part of the educational programme. Films are shown to visitors that help them understand more about the elephants in Thailand and the problems they face

There is one remaining beneficiary to receive funding from Ray’s “Calling All Angels“, which is a children’s orphanage in Nepal. I understand that Ray has now made arrangements to go to Nepal in the next few weeks and start the process of procuring much needed equipment and facilities there. “It has taken me a while since I got to Chiangmai to finalise my plans but now I have a better idea of how things are happening, I am aiming to reach Nepal in early May, and the orphanage by the end of May” explained Ray. Of course, we will bringing you full coverage of his visit there in a future issue of The Daily Explorer.

I asked Ray what else he had been up to whilst in Chiangmai. “Funnily enough, I mentioned the orphanage in Nepal to a friend of mine here and instantly received an invitation to the monthly “Chiang Mai Friends Group” – a gathering of ex-pats who are also concentrating their efforts on raising money for causes in and around the city. One of the appeals that was made was for the very remote Mae-Mhae Orphanage up in the hills. I heard a very sad and deeply touching report on how small underprivileged hill tribe children are expected to live on ten baht (twenty pence) a day that is given to them by the Thai government, but only for 200 days a year. The remaining 165 days of the year they have nothing. They also showed us a powerful slide-show clearly showing the sub-human conditions these young and innocent children are subjected to. Sleeping in tiny wooden box ‘holes’ on the cold and damp floor, unprotected, along with rats and insects, no medical attention, limited food supplies, bare feet with no warm clothes or blankets to protect them from the cold that is always present high on the mountains. It was a very moving report that touched the hearts of all present. I decided I had to go out there and take a look for myself” said Ray.

Above: Khun Jong (second from right) runs a resort in Chiangmai and has taken it upon herself to raise awareness and support amongst the commnity for these children. Amazingly, despite their appalling conditions, their spirits remain high

Below: School is a few makeshift tables and a white board under the shade of a tree to give some protection from the searing heat

Above: On the day of Ray’s visit, he discovered a rare event – “Khun Jong has actually organised for the kids to get some chicken for lunch – something they rarely see because it is too expensive. All food has to be heated on a small wood burner on the floor and the kids peel and chop vegetables themselves

Below: When food is ready, everyone heads to the makeshift dining room, takes a dish (left) and lines up at the serving hatch (right) which today is manned by Khun Jong and Eddy Nagels from Holland

Above: “There is so much poverty in the world” said Ray. “I think we often take our lives foregranted in the west and don’t think about how exceptionally lucky we are” he told me. The Mae-Mhae Orphanage is in desperate need of help and support. Anyone willing to volunteer financial aid or maybe even to help rebuild the basic necessities that will allow these children a safer and healthier living standard are welcome to ask for details by contacting The Daily Explorer or Khun Jong at the Field Village Resort in Chiangmai

Although much of the reason for Ray being in Chiangmai is related to his fundraising campaign, I discovered that he did escape it all one weekend to travel north to Mae Hong Son. “When I was travelling in Tibet at the end of 2008, I met and shared a room with a great chap from Sweden called Janis, who is currently living up there. We have kept in touch and I found out he was celebrating his birthday, so organised to go and join him and his friends for a couple of days” explained Ray. “Getting there means either a 5-6 hour bus ride or a 25 minute flight – feeling a bit lazy, I decided to take to the air” admitted our traveller!

Above: Mae Hong Son can be reached by air in around 25 minutes from Chiangmai, for around £20. For our traveller, it was a great chance to re-connect with Swedish travel buddy Janis, who we have discovered is also training to run a marathon this year

Below: Janis is presented with a birthday gift – a piece of his favourite cheese (a rarity in this area) by friend Marianne Blaak, herself a volunteer from Holland. She is pioneering a micro-finance project to help Burmese refugees become self-sustaining by giving them small loans to set up their own businesses – “She told me a bit about her work here and it made me realise just how different things are from the developed world we know” said Ray. “For example, one Burmese family have applied for a loan of about £100 to purchase three pigs which they can grow and sell for a profit later. The biggest challenge in approving the loan application was in ensuring that the family would not eat the pigs themselves before they are fully ready to be sold” he laughed

Above: The temple at Wat Chong Klang forms an impressive centrepiece by the lake in Mae Hong Son

Below: Wat Phai Doi sits high above the town and offers spectacular views over the surrounding area, including the airport (left). It is also a brilliant place for our traveller to watch the sunset from (right)

Above: The more unusual sights in Mae Hong Son include this monk wrapping the stupa in a holy orange cloth (left) and our global explorer sporting a huge, traditional Thai gold leaf temple hat! (right)

Editors Note: Our thanks to Ivana Getachek for compiling this issue of The Daily Explorer and for all of her splendid work over the last twelve months in running Ray’s “Calling All Angels” fundraising campaign. Ivana will be staying on until Ray has completed his visit to the Namaste Childrens House orphanage in Nepal, which is scheduled for the end of May. In our next issue, which will be online in a few days, we will bringing you news and pictures from Shanghai after Ray’s first ever visit to mainland China. We will keep you posted!

At The Daily Explorer, we really want to create a great publication for you to enjoy, so please keep sending us your comments and suggestions as to how we can improve what we are doing. You can use the comments box on this site, or email Ray (ray@thedailyexplorer.com), ‘Mozzie’ or any of our correspondents at mozzie@thedailyexplorer.com

Finally, some of you may be aware of the violent protests that have been taking place in Bangkok in the last couple of days. We would like to assure all Daily Explorer readers that Ray is not in any danger, even though warnings are being issued by foreign governments about travel to the region. For the latest information, check out Sky News.

MOZZIE BYTE

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7 Comments »

  1. Dear Ray

    Wow my friend – again truly amazing. Thanks to you and this amazing report about the Elephant heaven, which we know of, finally on our next visit to Chiang Mai we will go there. Great that you can do such a great article again and again, and yes (I live in Samui 8 years, in Asia since 23 years ) in the west people often have no idea about the poverty, but do the wealthy Thai people know/help as well ??? Anyway all the best, see you again, and hopefully one day we sit down again for Oolong tea.
    Love, Light, Health, Success and Happiness wishes you
    San-bao and Gila

    Comment by San-bao — April 12, 2010 @ 12:40 pm

  2. A great, uplifting read Ray. Those elephant pictures are so gorgeous! And what an experience to cross paths with that elephant whisperer. Keep up the good work and enjoy every step. Best wishes for Nepal and be sure to give each of the kids a big hug.
    Sal

    Comment by Sally P — April 12, 2010 @ 12:45 pm

  3. Dear Ray

    It was great to see the elephant reserve and especially the elephants in action! Touching to see one elephant caring for another blind one. Lek sounds like an amazing, determined woman! As well as the other projects featured in your article. Thanks for letting us know about the effect the donations, and your race, are having.

    All the best for your travels,

    Jane

    Comment by Jane Harries — April 12, 2010 @ 9:41 pm

  4. Keep up the good work Ray! Great to see the beneficiaries reaping the rewards of all your hard work. Looking forward to the blog about Nepal!
    xK

    Comment by Karla — April 13, 2010 @ 1:55 am

  5. Great to see Faa Mai growing up and a big pat on the back for raising the much needed money for the improvements. Lek, Derek and all the volunteers are amazingly dedicated. Our friend Cedar Sorenson from Canada returned a month ago after seeing Lek’s interview and said it was fabulous to be there. Look forward to the next issue. Much love to you Ray!

    Comment by Nic (Scott) Meredith — April 14, 2010 @ 5:35 am

  6. Well done for turning an idea into hard cash and delivering it in person to the elephants and their carers. I know it was a backbreaking effort but you went all the way. Thanks also for the reminder about our enormously high standards of wealth and privilege over in this part of the world; I often have a feeling of things being out of sync and needing to be grateful for our blessings. Amazing that spirits are high in places where the spirit is most tested, as for the orphans you showed us. It is so valuable to have your eyes and writing as a window on the wider world. With love and great respect for your selflessness, Charlie xx

    Comment by Charlotte — April 16, 2010 @ 9:33 pm

  7. Beautiful to see all the pictures of you with Lek, her elephants and that HUGE cheque! Well done, babes, you’re a major star! I’m thrilled that you got to see the orphanage, it’s possible that the CMU Cultural Exchange Project may be able to send volunteers to help up there — hope so, keep everything crossed!

    Great to see you at the Friends’ group, hope we meet up again some time soon, keep up the great work.

    With love and respect,

    Elena

    Comment by elena — April 17, 2010 @ 11:01 am


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