When I decided to visit Thailand, seeing Elephants was top of my wish list. But I was aware that many of the Elephant tourism opportunities were quite inhumane. I had no idea the scale of the problem. Before my trip I did a great deal of research and found one organisation that I believe genuinely has the animals’ best interests at heart – Elephant Nature Park. I had an amazing day experience there, which I cover in a separate post. I only wish I’d had longer to spend there. Here I would like to briefly explain what I found out about the Elephant industry in Southeast Asia. The Asian Elephant has suffered at the hands of humans in Southeast Asia for centuries. However, in recent years, as tourism in this region has boomed, things have taken a new twist. Countless tour agencies offer day trips and longer where you can ‘learn to be a mahout’, an ambition no welfare-conscious tourist should have. The trade of the Mahout is unbelievably cruel.
We took the day bus up from Sihanoukville to Phnom Penh and arrived around midday, Sam was feeling very ill at this point but we still needed to find our accommodation and check in before he could rest. We managed to get a tuk tuk to take us from the bus stop to the hostel we’d booked, although it was quite a way out of town and took ages to find. We’d had a hard time finding a suitable place when we were booking, and the map and road names were totally confusing – many of the roads are numbered rather than named but for some reason do not seem to be numbered chronologically with respect to geography. Arriving at the hostel, finally, we checked in and I put Sam to bed.
The journey to Sihanoukville (Cambodia) from Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam) was one of the longest days of travelling of my entire trip to Asia. It began at 8am when my travel companion Sam and I were met at our hostel by a Vietnamese man who led us to our bus. It turned out to be about a 10 minute walk from the hostel, which we weren’t expecting. At 8am, with heavy bags and not enough sleep, this was not particularly welcome. We got to the bus and hung around for a while as luggage was piled onto the bus, and tickets were handed out. It was at this point that it became apparent that some people on the bus had got a ticket all the way to Sihanoukville, whereas we were scheduled to get off in Phnom Penh and make our own way onto another bus. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.