Mae Hong Son Province is a province in the northwest of Thailand. Asian elephants have always lived in these forests, and the local people have been training elephants here for centuries. In fact, the name of the province is derived from that of an old settlement called Ban Mae Rong Son, or Village of the Elephant Training Camp.
Today, Mae Hong Son Province is a land of remote forests, many of which have never been cut. Tourists come for the beautiful scenery and to experience the unique traditional cultures of the local hill tribes.
Since it is so remote, Mae Hong Son province is especially suited to trekking, mountain biking, rafting and other outdoor sports. Given the region’s history, it’s not surprising that elephant trekking is also a possible activity. Several local elephant camps offer elephant trekking; however, it’s important to check out the elephant camp thoroughly before you use them. For example, this article notes that elephant camps can provide a much-needed source of income for domestic elephants who cannot be released back into the wild, as well as their human handlers. Domestic elephants also provide a valuable source of genetic diversity, as only 2,000 are thought to live in the wild. Unfortunately, elephant camps are poorly regulated, and some are quite cruel to these intelligent animals.
If you decide to go on an elephant trek, make sure that the animals are not overworked, are not disciplined with sharp hooks, and that they are given ample time to feed themselves in the forest. Poorly treated and cared for elephants are a danger to the humans around them!
Before you can arrange a trip to Mae Hong Son province, it’s important to make sure you have the right documentation. US tourists can stay in the country without a visa for up to 30 days. If you’ll be staying more than a month in Thailand, you can apply for a Thai visa good for 60 days before you leave the US. Here’s a list of the required documents:
- Your US passport
- A completed Thai visa application
- 2 passport photos
- A copy of your round-trip ticket
- A copy of a bank statement showing a balance of $500 per person or $1000 per family.
Also, bear in mind that you may need visas to cross into to neighboring countries, or if you have a layover in a third country on the way to Thailand. RushMyPassport can research your itinerary to make sure you have all of the visas you need, as well as helping you expedite your visa applications.