Staying at Chai Lai Orchid Elephant Sanctuary in Chiang Mai

by Aug 3, 2019

So we’re staying at an elephant sanctuary?

And we’re going to bathe them too! 0_0

The Chai Lai Orchid tl;dr

  • Thai Riverside Airbnb
  • Doubles as an  Alternative Elephant
  • Triples as an Opportunity for At Risk Women

It’s always easier to comment from the outside about subjects that we aren’t all that familiar with, projecting our beliefs on others. Thailand is a country with a lot of human elephant history, culturally and historically speaking that is on a level that outsiders would have a hard time understanding making it also controversial.

Chai Lai Orchid Nadia and JM on the Bridge Chiang Mai

Having never been to Chiang Mai before, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I like to go to places with eyes as unbiased as possible so as to welcome the most fulfilling experience as possible; all the while leaving plenty of room to be surprised. The last thing I expected was to find an elephant employment alternative, much less sleep surrounded by the gentle giants.

Who knew we’d find such a combination of culture, female opportunity, elephant conservation and delicious food all in one location in the outskirts of Chiang Mai?

After checking into the open air lobby / dining area, Nadia and I hiked a short distance uphill to find our room. While traversing the hillside we saw elephants walking around, hanging out here and there, and while involved in every other stage of their eating cycle if you get my drift (there was a lot of poop everywhere).

Chai Lai Orchid Main Lobby Chiang Mai

Over the course of our stay we interacted with a lot of elephants doing all manner of things:

  • Took Pictures
  • Washed Them
  • Walked with Them
  • Fed Them
  • And More Pictures!

What is It

Chai Lai Orchid is a riverside accommodation space for calm and peaceful recuperation for both travelers, elephants and locals alike. They provide an alternatives for both at risk women and at risk elephants which they would not have had otherwise.

They are available on AirBnb but also offer spaces to stay in local villages for a more local experience. 

Chai Lai Orchid Nadia and JM Breakfast Chiang Mai

Where is It

About 1 hour outside Chiang Mai, Chai Lai Orchid is located across a relatively small metal bridge that spans a river, connecting it to the the main road.

Chai Lai Orchid Nadia and JM Beer Chiang Mai

What to Do There

There are so many things to do or not to do in the elephant countryside. Depending on where you are on your trip, what you’re plans are, you can literally do as much or as little as you want to do to pass the hot Thai days.

You can interact with the elephants, meet (or reconnect with) people, hike around the area or even do a whole lot of nothing (which is quite easy to achieve given the heat at the time of our stay).

Other than elephants, there are local wares for sale made available among excursions into the surrounding area:

  • See Villages
  • Take a Dip at the Waterfall
  • Ride the River on a Bamboo Raft


For 2 nights of rustic elephantine accommodations, Chai Lai Orchid came down to $109.34 USD total plus meals. With the meals across the river or even at the hotel, meals were both tasty and didn’t cost a lot; even with beers.

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