Lately, whenever people ask me to recommend places to visit elephants I get a little uncomfortable. I never really thought much about whether all these elephant villages in Thailand were good or not. I just assumed they were OK. But then a friend of mine sent me a photo of what really happens when elephants are trained to kick soccer balls and allow people to ride on them and I started to really think about whether it was a good idea to visit these places. I'll spare you the photo but it was pretty shocking. So, for a while I just tried to avoid the subject. But luckily I learned about a fantastic place in Chiang Mai where people can visit, and even interact with, elephants, without the brutality or exploitation that is rife in these elephant villages.
Elephant Nature Park is a fantastic day trip from Chiang Mai. You can read all about how it came to be in their website and if you're looking for an opportunity to visit Thai elephants, definitely go! You won't get to ride elephants (they explain why), but you will get to feed them, bathe them and hang out with them in their natural habitat. And, one of their herd just gave birth to a baby elephant yesterday so if you visit soon you'll get to see him.