For this month’s family travel snap we’re hitting the road in Thailand with six-year-old Tyler and his dad Joe. Joe worked for many years researching and writing guidebooks as a freelance writer for Lonely Planet before opting to be based in the office as a Destination Editor for the Indian Subcontinent. Joe was on the road writing the Chiang Mai section of our Thailand book when this snap was taken.
What’s the story behind this photo?
This photo was taken at the Elephant Nature Park near Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. There are lots of places in Thailand that offer time with elephants. Some are exploitative and you have to do your research carefully to avoid these. But here rescued elephants are free to live what comes close to a natural life and being a human visitor means helping with feeding and washing as well as simply observing these magnificent animals as they interact with each other.
For a child, it’s an incredible experience to see animals from picture books in the flesh. You can see the delight on Tyler’s face in this picture. His highlight was probably watching two young elephants playing trunk tug-of-war – he beamed and said ‘That’s just how humans play.’
When we had finished at the nature park, we returned to our hotel and hit the pool. We were all frazzled by the heat and pretty much ran through reception and dived into the water. Then it was on to a café for a plate of child-friendly chicken fried rice and an ice-cold fruit shake.
Tyler talks a lot about giving the elephants a bath. At the end of a day, all the elephants wander down to the river for a wash and everyone joins in. There’s water flying everywhere but in these kind of temperatures, who cares?
Joe’s tips for visiting Thailand with kids
We’re very lucky in that we’ve been to Thailand several times as a family for my work so it now feels like a second home, and one which Tyler loves. The Thais are incredibly warm and friendly to children, but also respect kids’ personal space so there’s none of the cheek pinching and hair-ruffling you get in some places. The main thing is to keep kids cool:
- The temperatures in the middle of the day are brutal, so stay somewhere with a pool (or near the sea or a waterfall) and make lunchtimes a slow, cool, waterside picnic.
- Make sure to invest in a hand-held fan.
- A good way of cooling down is a sunhat drenched in water from your drinking bottle.
- Keep the ice-cold fruit shakes coming.
Where’s next on your family travel bucket list?
We’re renting a house in a tiny village in the south of France with another family for some slow, lazy days of drinking wine (the adults) and splashing in the lake (the kids).
Lastly, complete the sentence:
When we shut the front door ready to go and travel as a family, we always…
…make sure we have some new books, Tyler’s favourite soft toy and a notepad and pen for playing that game where each person draws a different bit of the body and you unfold the paper at the end to reveal your strange creation.