Elephants are Thailand's national, cultural, royal, and religious symbols.
According to Buddhist tradition, Buddha's mother dreamed that a white elephant touched her abdomen with a lotus flower. This came to be how Buddha was conceived. White elephants are incredibly rare and are considered sacred. By royal law, all-white elephants in Thailand belong to the King.
Elephants have been physically part of Thai culture as early as the 1500s where they were used to fight wars and help with logging due to their sheer strength, stamina, and size. During the 17th century, Thailand had roughly 20,000 war elephants!
Unfortunately today, elephants are mainly used as tourists ride attractions and as a result are treated poorly. Instead of exploiting them, visit a sanctuary for rescued elephants instead where you can feed and bathe these rescues and help with their care. These sanctuaries are safe havens for former logging and abused elephants. You'll get up close and personal with these gentle giants in a way you can't anywhere else in the world. Here are some elephant sanctuaries that ban riding and encourage humane treatment: