One of the nicest things about being a writer for me is getting responses from my young readers. Sure, it’s fun to spend time creating new stories and doing the artwork, but that feeling fades with time, and is often overshadowed with the real hard work of promoting and marketing the work afterwards. That’s what makes it especially wonderful when I get feedback. Most of all it’s the best when my works inspire young people to get creative and either write their own stories, or draw pictures. Look at the wonderful artwork I received today…
If you are visiting Thailand and looking for a reputable elephant experience, I can whole-heartedly recommend the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary just outside Pattaya (or any of their three other locations for that matter!) I promise you it will be something that will stay with you forever.
Just before Christmas last year, I had the good fortune to visit an old friend in Thailand for the first time. One of the items on my ‘Must Do‘ list was to spend time with some elephants, as I’ve loved them since I was a kid – I mean, who doesn’t love elephants? A quick online search showed there were three choices in the Pattaya area, but which were ethical and not just tourist traps that exploited the creatures? It didn’t take long to discover the only one that didn’t mistreat the elephants was the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary. The other two sites chained their elephants, let people ride them – which is a totally no-no as it’s not good for them – and their were even reports of the elephants at other sites being beaten in view of the visitors!!!
Elephant Jungle Sanctuary – My Experience in Words and Pictures
A picture is worth a thousand words, so I’ll try and balance the two, and hopefully not bore you with either too many words or too many pictures, but I wish to capture my wonderful experience as best I can, not only for your benefit, but also in the hope that it will shed more light and support on this wonderful organisation and their great work
The sanctuary offers a number of experiences dependent upon the amount of time you have and your budget, from a quick visit to see and pet them all the way up to a whole day trekking with them. I opted for something in the middle, which could either be a morning or afternoon experience. The price for this was 2500 Thai Baht, which worked out to be about sixty quid. Now, before you go screaming to the hills about the price, first remember the Baht is at an all-time high, but hear what you get for your money. This price included return transportation from my hotel (which would have cost at least 1000 Baht!) and a superb meal (which would have cost upwards of 500 Baht!) And that’s before I’ve told you what you get for the rest of your money (1000 Baht) which if you don’t think is terrific value for money, you probably can’t afford to travel to Thailand anyway, and should really think about buying a good book and a stay-cation instead!
What You Get For 1000 Baht
I opted for the afternoon experience which began with the taxi picking me up from my hotel at 12.30. We stopped twice along the way to pick up two other elephant-lovers, and half an hour later we were out of the noisy city and in the countryside, bouncing up a dirt road towards the sanctuary. There was already a group of other eager elephant-lovers milling around the facility and interacting with the animals, and the guides told us to get to know the elephants while we waited for one more small group to arrive.
The Pattaya location had managed to rescue six elephants (other locations have more, especially the oldest site in Chang Mai to the north of Thailand) which ranged from the youngest, who was only three years old, all the way up to the Grandpa, who was over sixty! No matter what age, elephants are just so amazingly cute. Apart from on telly and in London zoo, I’ve never seen an elephant in the flesh, so to be in such close vicinity to these peaceful, majestic ‘land whales’ is almost beyond words to describe, but I’ll try.
The most obvious thing about elephants are their size, but they are anything but scary, as they move very slowly and cautiously – apart from their trunks when there’s food around! They have a very calm, almost meditative aura about them, and my first reaction was to just go up to this ‘mummy-to-be’ elephant and give her a big hug and kiss on the nose. As you would expect, their skin is very thick and tough, and stroking them is like getting an exfoliation! By the time the last group arrived by taxi, I’d said hello to all six elephants, and had learnt a lot from the many guides and handlers that were on site.
Our group was approximately 40 in total, and came from all corners of the world. After a brief introduction given in very good English by one of the guides, outlining the action plan for the afternoon, safety protocol, and the ‘do’s and don’ts’ around elephants, it was time for the first activity: feeding the elephants! There were many, many baskets of food (bananas, cucumbers, and other vegetation) which we could feed the elephants either by holding it out and letting them grab it with their trunks, or – if we were feeling brave – say the word, “Bonn” and they would open their mouths, stick out their tongues, and we could feed them directly!
Naturally, I chose to feed them directly, and was amazed how easy it was (and how enormous their tongues are!) There was so much food, it was probably about half an hour before all the food had gone, and the whole time was filled will laughter, amazement, and pure child-like bliss for all participants (and even a few strange shrieks from some of the more timid participants who got ‘goosed’ by the odd trunk or two!) As we were feeding the elephants, the wonderful aroma of Thai cooking wafted through the air, as the cooks prepared our meal.
The Elephant Mud Spa!
Having been instructed to change into our swimming gear, next on the agenda was to grab more bananas and lead the elephant troop alone a dusty pathway to their muddy watering hole for a well-earned mud spa! Guess who lead the way…?
Oh, I forgot to mention, as I add all these wonderful photographs to this post, additionally in the price, there was a photographer on hand snapping merrily away, so you didn’t have to worry about missing anything, and could just focus on fully enjoying the experience! That probably would have cost another 1000 Baht to arrange!
Time to strip off and get muddy! Since I was there during the dry season, their mud hole was particularly dry, but the staff had prepared for that and there were plenty of buckets and wheel barrows full of lovely, sloppy mud for us to play with. Being almost 50, this experience simply knocked the years off me, as I became a big kid again! Looking around at the others, I could tell I wasn’t alone in this experience, especially as the guides actively encouraged us to get muddy ourselves!
Rinse and Scrub Time!
Like any good spa treatment, at some point you have to get clean again, and this is where the REAL fun began…
Armed with water bowls and scrubbing brushes, we and the elephants plodded to the other side of the path where their ‘swimming pool’ was, and actively began tossing water over the elephants and ourselves, scrubbing them clean. We were all upstaged by baby elephant to immediately lay on his side, completely submerged, with only the end of his trunk sticking out of the water like a snorkel, and began to thrash his legs about with glee!
Playtime over, it was time to lead the elephants back to camp, and have a proper shower and clean-up before dinner time. All of the facilities were clean, in great working order, and more than you would have expected for such a remote and basic location – trust me, I witnessed far worse facilities in some of the bars and restaurants in Pattaya!
Our Thai buffet was ready and waiting for us with food aplenty! They had even catered for all participants dietary requirements with vegetarian and vegan options, and fruit to finish off with. Between bites of food, the conversation was filled with expressions of how amazing the experience had been and, “Way more than I had expected…” and, “This is such great value for money…!”
And as if that wasn’t enough, they had even more surprises: each of us got a reusable, sustainable shopping bag as a keepsake and reminder of our experience, and there was one final activity before our taxi rides home, but I’ll let you search their website to find out what this one is! The only clue I’ll give you is that it sure surprised me…!
Find Out More About Elephant Jungle Sanctuary
Thank you for reading all the way to the end. I hope I’ve whet your appetite and you’re keen to know more, or have the experience yourself. If that’s the case, or you simply want to help spread the word about their great work, please share this post, use the links below to follow them on Facebook and Twitter, and generally spread the word!
Anthony Donnelly is a British author, actor, and life coach, more recently known for his charity, children’s book series, “Charlie, the Migrating Snail”, which is available to buy on Amazon by clicking the book cover to the right.
After the successful publication of the ebook version of When The Trees Held Their Breath, the environmental fable I wrote back when I was Greta Thunberg’s age, I’m happy to have now finished the video version with me reading the prose as the haunting, real life black and white photographs cross fade on the screen. I hope you enjoy it, and it has an impact on you. If it does, please feel free to share it far and wide on social media.
Please consider sharing this, make a comment on YouTube, or purchase an ebook via the link below. Proceeds from book sales go towards my efforts to help global reforestation programs.
I didn’t write yesterday, as I was too busy doing things. It’s amazing what you can do when you are not distracted with Facebook crap anymore! I got to play 18 holes of golf… the garden looks great… I actually enjoyed the garden for a change… I’m reading more books…
BUT, I had to write today, as after four days, finally somebody has noticed I’m NOT on Twatbook – sorry, Facebook – anymore. A text arrived this morning shortly after 7am:
“I couldn’t find you on Facebook, are you okay?”
What a lovely text to receive (I just wish they hadn’t sent it so early, as I was fast asleep after a late night reading, and had nothing much to wake up for that early!) I’m probably an unusual Twatbooker, as almost all of my (less then 100) Twatbook friends are actually ‘friends’, people I’ve actually met in person, or are family – hence so few!
Some I have already personally been in contact with, but it was rather surprising that after four days only ONE person had noticed that I was no longer online. I wonder how many of you that have waaaaayyyy more ‘Twatbook Friends’ (most of which you don’t actually know) than me realise that the vast majority of your ‘Friends’ have probably ‘muted’ your feed, or don’t take any notice of you, or have so much Twatbook-misinformation coming at them that they don’t really care what the crap is happening in your life?
I can definitely say detoxing from Twatbook is much easier than detoxing from smoking! By day four I would be craving a fag something wicked, and almost wanting to kill somebody! In comparison, Twatbook-detox is very painless and very rewarding. For four days I have not been exposed to stupid, uneducated opinions about the election, what people have been eating, pictures of cats, mindless quotations that say, “Like if you agree” or any other mindless crap that says the same, or, “Read this, it’s AMAZING…!”
Dumb, mindless, Twatbook, pricks!
I’m sure if you are reading this and still a Twatbook member, you’re smart enough to read the humour, and are probably trying to work out how the heck you can get out of the trap that is TWATBOOK…!
My best advice for the election, since it’s tomorrow, is don’t vote. If nobody voted, they’d realise that we all know we don’t live in a democracy, it’s just a farce. They don’t act on our behalf, so why vote for them? They are all elitist snobs, that are educated the same, indoctrinated the same, brown nose the same, and have the same INTERNATIONAL paymasters!
I think Guy Fawkes was on the right trail…
Anthony James Donnelly is an author, motivational and business coach, and life guide. He has spent over 20 years working directly with individuals and corporations to adjust their perspectives on life. In his latest book, “My First Goal-Setting Book: How To Effectively Set & Achieve Your Life Goals”, he concisely explains how to get whatever you want out of life. Dumping Facebook is just the first step to freedom…!
I AM truly amazed – and humbled – by the great, early response to my debut short film, “One”. Thank you all…! Since it has been so well received, I thought I’d share some of the concept and thinking behind the project, just in case any fellow actors and film makers are interested.
Ever since I was a young boy, I’ve wanted to make films: I’m fascinated by the whole process behind film making, and I feel very fortunate that I am able to act in the industry for a living. A little over a week ago, I invested in a video camera, and whilst playing around with it, I got the idea in my head to make a short film – how difficult can it possibly be, right?
The brief was quite simple: “With no budget and no other people involved, could I film and produce a short film that told a compelling story and hopefully evoke an emotional response, all in only one week?”
To stack things in my favour, I decided to shoot without dialogue to save the challenges of dubbing and syncing up the sound in the editing process – and I’d never edited anything before! The theme of ‘one’ became the focal point initially, then as I began shooting rough footage, the story of this lonely man emerged. I love playing with words, and I saw that in the word ‘lonely’ you have the words ‘one’ and ‘only’, so I started to evolve concepts of mundanity and how we overlook the ordinary, yet essential things we use in life – including people! Additionally, there is an interconnectedness between things: a toothbrush needs toothpaste, gloves come in pairs, etc.
I was fortunate enough to discover some royalty-free music by the talented composer, Kevin MacLeod, which gave the footage a very sombre feel, yet had a lot of diversity in the melody, which I hoped to utilize in the editing phase. Adding to the bleak feel of the film, it was a very early decision to shoot the whole thing in black and white.
Utilizing the ‘Bollywood’ shooting method (minimal number of takes, no complicated scenes, just shoot and move on) I was able to get an awful lot of footage in a very short period of time, often doing only one take. My biggest concern was shooting footage of myself – as I was also the cameraman! – I wondered, if I set up my camera on its tripod and then walked away to go acting, would somebody run off with my equipment? Thankfully, the opposite was true, almost as if passers-by couldn’t believe there could only be one person involved, they all steered well clear of the equipment!
All in all, it was an incredible experience, and I believe my little experiment has worked. It’s already inspired some fellow actors to follow suit and try to produce their own shorts. Hopefully you have found this inspiring as well, why not give it a go. I had a lot of fun shooting this in between working and daily life. It IS possible, if you have the will and the motivation. I’m looking forward to shooting my next short film soon.
In case you haven’t seen it yet, I won’t give too much of the plot away, but I’d love to hear any constructive comments and feedback, either on here or on the youtube page.
Originally written back in 2000 as the sequel to my first publication, When The Trees Held Their Breath, this short, illustrated work tells the story of how colour first came to the world as a ‘smiling’ rainbow. At a much deeper level, the resounding message is one of peace, love, acceptance, and harmony.
This work is especially dear to my heart, as I thought it was lost forever. At the turn of the millennium, certain members of the UK education system were showing an interest in this work as an education tool for primary school children. Since I was living in the US at that time promoting “Trees”, I handed the project and all of my artwork over to an old Secondary School friend of mine, Richard Eyre. He had many contacts, and worked diligently with them to compile a teaching resource to accompany my short, powerful story.
Sadly, the project failed to reach fruition at the last minute, and was shelved. When you are an industry outsider, it’s very hard to break into a market that is controlled by the larger organisations! Even sadder is the fact that Richard passed away this year in a tragic motorbike accident in Thailand, where he had been living for the past seven years working on humanitarian projects.
It was at his funeral recently that I was surprised to be reunited with my text and some of my original watercolour artwork once more. Although a handful of my original art was missing, they had been replaced by the fantastic work of Mani Navasothy (an artist Richard had hired to ‘upgrage’ some of my images) which add even more depth and colour to my words.
With the advancement of online publishing and print-on-demand technology, I decided to edit and format this into a full colour publication in honour of my late friend, Richard.
Although I have no doubt that this short book alone will not bring about world peace, this is part of my continuing contribution to that effort. Perhaps some younger readers and their parents will take the themes and messages of my text and open a dialogue about how we, as a combined human race, can work towards that end. A good start would be to bring peace into our personal lives, more understanding in our daily encounters with friends and strangers, a daily focus on love rather than war… We can only hope that by a collective effort and focus on love and acceptance, our children may get the opportunity to live in a war-free world.
When The Rainbow Smiled is available in print format and Kindle via the Amazon website. I love to hear feedback from my readers, so please help spread the word by sharing, posting reviews, and leaving me comments. May this year end well for you, and may 2016 bring you closer to your dreams.
ANTHONY DONNELLYblogs about all things writing, inspirational, and motivational. He has published a number of books for children and adults. His latest book, a short, inspirational parable THE SHEPHERD is currently climbing up the Amazon charts, and is available in Kindle or paperback. When not sat at his keyboard writing, he can be found in Costa Rica, North America, or somewhere in Europe motivating and coaching individuals and groups in self-development techniques and life-balance. Most recently you can see him back on the sets of films and in front of the modelling camera again.
Whether you’re new to London or have lived here for centuries, Bullshit London Tours are sure to entertain and surprise you! I managed to piggy-back off a group of six Australian tourists that had booked an off-peak tour (main season is April – October) with our host, guide, and comic entertainer, Reuben Williams (if that name is to be believed!)
Learn who stole the clock from St Pauls… where God lives… the world’s smallest children’s prison… and much, much more…!
My favorite part had to be the guided tour of the famous Swedish soap opera film set…
As said, if you thought you knew London, think again!!!
49q? The Enigma Continues is currently FREE to download in Kindle format. Please help spread the word and share this blog, tweet it up, and post it on Facebook…!!!
Currently ranked #58… can we get it into the Top 10 together…?
“This is a great concept novel from author Anthony Donnelly. His works are among the most interesting and ground-breaking on the Kindle store. I think that Anthony is a very talented author and that we will soon start hearing of him in respected book publications.”
Brilliant news, folks! I am currently working on a companion guide to go with my inspirational parable, The Shepherd.
I’m aiming for this to be ready before the end of the year to coincide with people’s New Year resolutions. It expands on many of the topics raised in the parable with many helpful tips, exercises, techniques and guidance to improve your life situation and live a much more conscious lifestyle. Building upon the young shepherd experiences and utilizing quotations from the text, it will be crammed full of helpful ideas and constructive information about:
Overcoming fear & adversity
and much, much more…!
Follow this blog to stay updated on progress and to be the first to take advantage of the FREE giveaway launch in the run-up to the end of the year.