I'm travelling with two friends to northern Thailand at the end of April.

Thailand March 21, 2012 00:00

By Vipasai Niyamabha
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We will be in Chiang Rai for a week and are interested in a mahout training course. Can you recommend an elephant camp with good ethics? Tony


As you’re going to Chiang Rai, I think it’s best to visit the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation, which is located and supported by the Anantara Golden Triangle and Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle. The foundation was first set up in conjunction with Thailand’s National Elephant Institute and Elephant Conservation Centre in Lampang, and has been running mahout courses in Chiang Rai for several years. 
This way, anyone taking part in elephant activities is able to donate to the livelihoods of both the elephants and the mahouts. Thanks to the elephant camps, elephants and mahouts can earn a living and that steers them away from living on the streets.
If you decide to take part in this course, you will be taught basic commands, how to drive an elephant, river bathing, feeding and daily care of an elephant. You have to rise early to take care of an elephant for the whole day, which involves taking them from the forest to the camp and back to the forest again in the evening. It definitely creates a bond between you and elephants. Qualified mahouts will accompany you at all times as well an English-speaking guide, so all will be fine with you and your friends throughout the programme.
My husband and I will travel to Rangoon for three days at the end of next month. It will be our first time in Burma and we are looking forward to it. Although we have only three days, we would like to see something of the countryside as well. Are there are day trips out of Rangoon? Many thanks, Alex
As you will land in Rangoon, you can devote your first day to a city tour and see some of some major highlights including the magnificent Shwedagon Pagoda that’s sheathed in 11 tons of pure gold and 4,350 diamonds weighing 1,800 karats. If you arrive during the day, you may visit other sites such as Sule Pagoda, Maha Bandoola Park, Chauk Htat Gyi, a colossal reclining Buddha image and go to Shwedagon Pagoda after dinner to see Buddhists praying and making merit under the stars.
Your second day could be spent visiting Bago, the ancient Mon capital, which is 80 kilometres northeast of Rangoon. The road trip takes less than two hours and also offers a chance to enjoy countryside ambience. You can also stop at the Kyakhat Wine monastery where 1,200 monks have a merit lunch in total silence, and also at Shwemawdaw Pagoda, the Mon style pagoda built at the same time as the Shwedagon, and the Shwethalyaung Pagoda, which is home to a beautiful reclining Buddha. You can return to Rangoon in the evening and that leaves your last day free to see Aung San’s old home or wander around downtown and buy some souvenirs at Bogyoke Market and China Town area.
There’s plenty to keep you occupied for three days in Rangoon. The city is huge, and it has a circular railway network for local people to get around. If you want to see the countryside, this is a good loop to take, with 39 stations on a journey that takes three hours to complete and offers a view of life in Rangoon and its outskirts. You will feel like you are travelling back through time as you sit on wooden seats with local people with tiny fans blowing above, and the train stops every 500 metres along the way. It begins at Rangoon central Railway Station to Mingaladon Railway Station near Yangon International Airport, via Insein to the west and Okkalapa in the east. Bon Voyage!