Archive for February, 2013

If you are sick of urban area in Myanmar that has been commercialized gradually, you may want to visit a natural elephant camp which is not too far away from Yangon. There are two famous elephant camps in Myanmar – Myaing Hay Won & Pho Kyar. I have visited to Pho Kyar Natural Elephant camp in last December.

We had booked a car for 9 pax though we managed to go with only 5 people. It cost 300,000 kyats (375 USD). That means if you can gather 9 people, you would need to pay only about 42 USD.

We were very eager to go for trekking where we would be able to bring elephants that had been released overnight so we appointed the driver at 12 a.m. Although it was about 4 ~ 5 hours drive, we talked much and high in the van – Myanmar’s IT infrastructure was the main topic. *cue serious coughing*. It was about 4 a.m. when we reached the camp. It was a pure forest!! And it was too dark that we even didn’t know where to go at the gate. A man came out and guided our driver where to park. We told them we wanted to go for trekking and they promised us that they would definitely inform us when it was time.

It was freaking cold when we got out of the van. We were even seeing our breath just like in Korean dramas. We followed an elephant trainer who would be looking for elephant under his guide. What disappointing was that his friends had already been in the forest since about 3 a.m. (Why didn’t you tell us earlier!?!) So we found the lil’ elephants quite quickly (I guess less than 1 hour) and didn’t have a chance to go further but it was fun enough! 😉

Trekking begins!

Trekking begins!

One elephant appeared.

One appeared.

And the baby elephant followed

And the baby followed.

Thanked god we went for trekking. Otherwise, we would have not felt warmer and would not be able to enjoy the trip. After a quick breakfast at a very tiny shop near-by, we had a chat with former manager of the forest. We had wanted to know when we could see the elephants and he explained us how the camp was being maintained.

After a quick breakfast at a very tiny nearby stall, we approached the current manager who was pretty young and asked when the elephants would have a shower. He told us that there would be two more groups of visitors so we should wait them to see it in a group. He hinted us that one of the group was a minister. We had no idea which minister he would be but I had felt annoyed since I had assumed all such people would require VIP treatment.

Unfortunately Fortunately, I was wrong! Although the whole family of that minister paid a visit there, nobody treated them specifically and they didn’t request it either. It shocked me in a way. I still remember how we had to prioritize such families back in 2003/4 when we visited Shwe Set Taw. That minister and her family were even quite friendly and invited us to join with them feeding elephants.

Before they came, the manager unlocked the souvenir shop for us. And amazingly those were pretty affordable! I bought a number of small elephant sculptures for my colleagues. It was fun choosing those and taking pictures inside that small shop.

We then watched the elephant bathing and show. The elephants were so playful and adorable that they sank their elephant masters to the water during bathing.

Time for a shower, kiddos.

Time for a shower, kiddos.

elephant show

Phant-walking? 🙂

elephant hand shake

Trunk-shaking!

Finally, it was time for elephant ride!! I had felt bad to ride elephant thinking they would feel heavy but as I didn’t want to miss the change, I did it! And yes, it was super fun. During elephant ride, we had a chat with elephant master. His salary was only around 94 USD which he mentioned not enough for the whole family. As not many people are visiting there, there is no chance for them to do side-businesses as well. I saw a number of kids thus I asked him if there was a school nearby and thank god, they have one!

And the ride.

And the ride.

elephant master family

Elephant masters’ families have to live in such places. The kid was watching as riding the elephant because he might think it was fun to see those people.

After about 40 minutes ride, we headed back to Taungoo to have our lunch, stopped by at a pagoda and finally returned to Yangon. Here are some tips if you think you are going to visit there.

  • Try to reach there as early as you can not to miss the chance for trekking. (It’s super fun, you won’t regret it.)
  • If you want to stay overnight, you may need to consider ordering food in advance as they will not have fancy lunch/dinner on the spot. (1 night stay is 50000 Ks (~62 USD) per night per wooden bungalow)
  • It’s way colder than in Yangon. Bring some warm clothes if you are not comfortable with coldness.
  • It’s 10000 Ks for local for elephant ride, elephant show, photo taking and all those stuffs. For same thing, it cost 60 USD for foreigners. I know it’s sort of expensive, you may try to haggle a bit. But they do not speak English well so my best advice is – try to make friends with some locals (who can speak English) and ask them to help you bargain. I helped a French couple! 😛

Have fun and good luck!

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