I spent a week at BEES in January 2013, a beautiful time of the year to be in Northern Thailand. I was collected from my hotel in Chiang Mai for the 3 hour scenic drive. We stopped at a large supermarket for supplies, which allowed me to stock up on western treats! On the first night, we were all treated to a traditional welcoming ceremony from the local elders.
Our days started early with a western breakfast made by Emily, then off we went to shovel (extra large) elephant poo! When the elephants decided it was time to head into the forest, we would follow and observe their natural foraging behaviours that they are re-discovering after years of working in captivity. I really enjoyed these quiet times of reflection and being one with nature. Some days, Burm would bring lunch into the forest. We used banana leaves as plates! The elephants enjoy a bath every day in the river. It is amazing to be able to help them out with a back scrub!
The afternoons would vary from working hard in the field cutting long grass for the elephants, getting cooking lessons from the locals, shopping for supplies in the local markets, visiting the local temple for a Buddhist blessing, helping out with odd jobs or construction or teaching English at the local school. One time we rounded up the local kids and cleaned the village of garbage, then tried to educate them on the importance of recycling and sanitation. As a reward for the kids’ hard work, we took them bamboo rafting on the local river.
Nightimes were very peaceful. Burm and the local cooks made amazing traditional Thai dishes and requests were welcome. I am a vegetarian and this was accommodated although meat is also supplied. There was an opportunity to play games later with the locals if you wanted. Alcohol is allowed, but excessive drinking or partying is not.
The accommodation is basic but comfortable, a mattress on the floor with a mosquito net, a fan and usually a cat to keep you company! There is electricity in the rooms and intermittent Internet access.
The booking process was easy. I emailed Emily with my dates and once confirmed I made a deposit and then full pre payment via an Australian bank account. 6 nights/7 days cost AUD$500 which included all meals (including a couple at restaurants), safe drinking water and pickup and drop off in Chiang Mai. Snacks and alcohol were not included.
I have been to several large elephant sanctuaries in Thailand and the simplicity of BEES was refreshing. I loved it so much I am going back in August.
Diana – Australia