Creative, fun and sustainable activities in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Chiang Mai is an amazing and beautiful city, and is one of the places in Thailand where tourists flock to see elephants. The town has elephant decorations and references everywhere, and is pretty much obsessed with the largest pachyderms.
We were looking for some family-friendly activities in Chiang Mai, and loved finding two that were sustainable, ethical and elephant-based! They were also very colourful and a lot of fun, and were suitable for both kids and adults to undertake.
While in Northern Thailand, we were also collected from Chiang Mai and driven four hours away to visit actual elephants in the forest, with a truly ethical and community-based program. Read all about our wonderful adventure with the Mahouts Elephant Foundation here.
- 1 The Elephant PooPooPaper Park
- 2 Elephant Parade Land
- 3 Which experience was the best?
The Elephant PooPooPaper Park
You’ve probably heard that paper can be made from elephant poop; if not, now you know! It can be made from many animal’s droppings, as long as they’re herbivores. Elephant poo is particularly good because it is very fibrous, and in Chiang Mai there is a lot of it.
This park is doing a great thing by utilising the resource and making into something useful, as well as educating people about waste and providing a sustainable tourist attraction.
It sounds like a bit of a yucky process, but the staff at the Poo Poo Paper Park make it really fun, interesting and don’t worry, not smelly! They take visitors on a tour around the park and involve us in each step of making paper from poo. Our lovely guide also cracked many jokes along the way and made it funny as well as informative, and it was a great experience to have with our kids.
The tour takes about 45 minutes. Afterward, you can take as long as you like to make cards or decorate other items to purchase if you want to. There is also a “Poo-tique” to browse through their large range of products, and a cafe on the premises selling light refreshments, including the very popular Poo Poo (chocolate chip) Cookies!
We spent two hours there and recommend at least 1.5 hours if you’re visiting with young kids.
Cost and tickets
Entry to the Park is THB 100 per person or free for kids under 5.
You can get tickets for the Elephant Poo Poo Paper Park from their website or at the entry gate.
- The elephant poop paper is created without the use of chemicals, coloured with food colours and printed with soy-based inks. All offcuts are recycled into new paper and no trees are used to supplement any products.
- Fairtrade principles are adhered to or exceeded, and the park is certified by the Social Accountability International’s SA8000 standard.
- The park supports the World Wildlife Fund for Nature with 5% of profits donated from all WWF branded products.
- Employment is offered to ethnic minority groups, and all staff have flexible working arrangements and access to assistance and accommodation if requested.
- Though plastic is used to cover some of the products for sale, they try to minimise relying on it. Water for visitors is provided with metal cups, and gifts and cookies are sold in paper bags.
If you’d like a surprise when you visit, skip past this section! Or if you want an idea of what you’ll encounter along the tour, here is the step-by-step process.
Where it all begins, the poo shed. Paper is made from cow, buffalo and horse droppings as well as elephant poo.
We got to hold dried elephant poo! It’s surprisingly light.
Once the poo is dry (and not smelly) it is cooked for many hours to reduce it, and rinsed in several stages.
Then the poo is paper pulp! Here it is coloured and shaped into balls for processing.
The many colours for poop paper, all dyed with natural additives.
We chose a colour to make our paper with and took it to the paper-making stand.
Then we carefully spread the pulp out over the mesh in the usual paper-making technique.
It was fun to spread out the fibres, and tricky to get it all equally distributed!
We then put our paper screen in the sun to dry. Playing with poo is so funny!
Our paper would take some time to dry, but we still got to see what it would be like once complete. We carefully peeled off the paper from a screen that was already dry.
Then the final activity was decorating our own products. Dante and Allegra loved making some cards for family and friends back home. There is a great range of supplies to choose from to decorate cards, bookmarks, photo frames and more.
The store (AKA the Poo-tique!)
The lovely open-air Poo-tique is full of merchandise, and we couldn’t believe how many products can actually be made from poo poo paper. Passport-holders, wallets, postcards, diaries, notepads, decorations, jewellery boxes, and even jewellery to go into them! They also have funky t-shirts for kids and adults, shopping bags, and charity gifts.
We visited in December when Christmas cards, gift boxes and decorations were also available.
We loved our experience at the Elephant Poo Poo Paper Park, and highly recommend it as an activity for children, and also for adults who love crafting or supporting ethical and sustainable tourism. It was lovely to support them while learning about sustainable paper-making, and we left with some great memories and excellent souvenirs.
Our purchases have been well-used since our visit, and we have been impressed by the quality of their products.
Elephant Parade Land
The Elephant Parade is an art phenomenon that started in Chiang Mai and now exhibits all over the world. Many places have their beautiful elephant sculptures for sale, but Elephant Parade Land is the centre of it all with a museum, behind the scenes tour and the opportunity to design your own elephant in the workshop.
Elephant Parade Land has a more serious tone than the PooPoo Paper Park, but is still suitable and engaging for children. There is an outdoor museum to discover many beautiful elephants, and the indoor workshop is stocked and ready to create your own masterpiece. Further information about the Parade’s work and the plight of Asian elephants is also provided inside, as well as a large range of elephants for sale.
To browse the museum and shop and have time to paint your own elephant in the workshop, we recommend at least two hours. There is much to see and read about, and it’s lovely to take some time to enjoy creating a design that you’ll be proud of. We spent close to three hours there.
Cost and tickets
Entry is free for all visitors. To paint a 10cm elephant the cost is 600 THB, or a 15cm elephant is 1000 THB.
You can book a workshop at Elephant Parade Land on their website. It is recommended to book if you are visiting with four or more people.
Elephant Parade is a social enterprise with 20% of all profits donated to elephant welfare and conservation projects. The business was created by a father and son who wanted to help a Thai elephant named Mosha. She had lost one leg after stepping on a landmine.
Mosha received a prosthetic limb from their donation, and the Elephant Parade continues to donate to her hospital as well as other projects to increase the health and wellbeing of Asian elephants, raise awareness and education, and find solutions for the ongoing conflict between elephants and humans.
The entrance to Elephant Parade Land is a colourful encounter with elephant art. These large statues are true to baby elephant-size, and they are all designed by artists or celebrities.
Our tour was self-guided as we didn’t arrange a time to come, but I believe if you book beforehand you receive a guided tour through the outdoor museum.
We loved strolling among them and finding our favourite designs, and thankfully most of them were shaded.
Every elephant is unique and they all have their inspiration and artist/s listed.
Allegra’s favourites were mostly pink ones!
Dante loved this dragon design.
Most of the elephants are painted but a few were interesting sculptures too.
They are all beautiful works of art, and most are very bright and colourful.
Inside Elephant Parade Land, the gallery continues into information about the business and Asian elephants.
The Q & A board is a great idea to find out more, and there are also books available to do more research in the small lounge area.
Behind the scenes
This part of the tour was guided, but photography is not allowed inside their working space. It was interesting to see the artists hand-painting each small elephant, but there was no interaction with them apart from a greeting, and I’m not sure they really liked being watched — understandably! Our kids got quite bored even though it wasn’t a long tour, so don’t worry about it if you have young kids and are pressed for time.
An onsite artist guided us to the workshop area, which is next to the gallery and store.
Dante and Allegra were given an apron to wear and settled into the desk. We were the only workshop participants at the time.
After choosing a base colour from a big range of paints, they got to work on their design.
The spinning base plate made it easy to work on every angle of the elephant.
The belly was still a bit tricky though!
Once the base coat was done it was dried with a hairdryer.
Then it was time to decorate and make their elephants unique and beautiful!
Once they were complete, we were given a certificate of authenticity which included the kid’s names and their elephant’s names. Legsie and Dante were very happy with their elephants!
There is a great deal to look at and an elephant to suit just about anyone. There are so many amazing designs, as well as elephant-themed bags, homewares, keyrings, and some other gifts too. Most items can be bought from the Elephant Parade store online as well as in their shops.
We really enjoyed our time at Elephant Parade Land, and love having the kid’s elephants as a reminder of our experience and a connection to the beautiful art all around the world. It was also wonderful to visit the source of the statues we kept seeing around Chiang Mai and support their conservation work.
Which experience was the best?
Choosing between the PooPoo Paper Park and the Elephant Parade is a tough choice! They were both creative, colourful and sustainable. They both employ Thai staff and support Asian elephants, though from my understanding, the Poo Poo Paper Park is more committed to fair work practices and employing minority groups, while the Elephant Parade is more supportive of elephant conservation projects.
For us, the PooPoo Paper Park came out on top, mostly due to their customer service commitment to making the experience fun, funny and memorable. (The Elephant Parade staff did not seem unhappy, just not as upbeat and friendly, which may or may not have been unusual).
The PooPoo Paper Park is also in such a beautiful outdoor setting, which felt spacious and lush and was great for the kids to keep moving around. And the tour was very hands-on, which is also great for young kids.
Being a family with small children who seeks sustainable and ethical experiences, it was wonderful to have both of these choices available to us in Chiang Mai. If you’re looking for some supportive, creative and unique experiences too, I think you’ll enjoy them as much as we did.
Let us know if you’ve been to the Elephant PooPooPaper Park or Elephant Parade Land, or if you intend to now!
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