Fun & sustainable activities in Chiang Mai! The Elephant PooPooPaper Park & Elephant Parade Land reviewed.

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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. Not surprisingly, elephants have inspired many businesses and initiatives, including the Elephant PooPooPaper Park and the worldwide smash hit the Elephant Parade. The Elephant Parade was born in Chiang Mai, and Elephant Parade Land is its home with a museum paying homage to its beginnings, their assistance to Asian elephants over the years, and its international success.

We were looking for some family-friendly activities in Chiang Mai, and loved finding these 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 visit. Read on for our reviews and many pictures from our time at both the Poopoo Paper Park and Elephant Parade Land!

Chiang Mai, Thailand is elephant-obsessed, and is home to the Elephant Poo Poo Paper Park and Elephant Parade Land. Both of these businesses are built on sustainability and both are fun and get visitors involved in a creative way! #chiangmai #thailand #familytravel #travelwithkids #thailandtravel #sustainabletravel #responsibletravel #ethicaltravel #elephant

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.

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.

The beautiful park is open and spread out, with different stations for each activity.

The beautiful park is open and spread out, with different stations for each activity.

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.

Time required

The delicious Poo Poo chip cookie!

The infamous and delicious Poo Poo chip cookie!

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.

Environmental and social initiatives

  • 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.
Sustainability is a core value of the Elephant PooPoo Paper Park, and is woven into every aspect of the business.

Sustainability is a core value of the Elephant PooPoo Paper Park, and is woven into every aspect of the business.

  • 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.
Some of the WWF branded products for sale.

Some of the WWF branded products for sale.

  • 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.
The visitor's water station. Such a simple and elegant waste-free solution!

The visitor’s water station. Such a simple and elegant waste-free solution!

The tour

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.

The shed of poo for paper making.

Where it all begins, the poo shed. Paper is made from cow, buffalo and horse droppings as well as elephant poo.

Holding dried elephant poo was fun!

We got to hold dried elephant poo! It’s surprisingly light.

We had a turn at cooking and rinsing the elephant poo.

Once the poo is dry (and not smelly) it is cooked for many hours to reduce it, and rinsed in several stages.

The poo pulp is coloured and shaped into balls for processing.

Then the poo is paper pulp! Here it is coloured and shaped into balls for processing.

Poop paper balls in different colours.

The many colours for poop paper, all dyed with natural additives.

About to make a ball into paper!

We chose a colour to make our paper with and took it to the paper-making stand.

Making paper by spreading out the pulp ball over a mesh screen.

Then we carefully spread the pulp out over the mesh in the usual paper-making technique.

Spreading out the fibres over the mesh.

It was fun to spread out the fibres, and tricky to get it all equally distributed!

A family photo with our finished paper screen. Dante is joking around as poo is hilarious!

We then put our paper screen in the sun to dry. Playing with poo is so funny!

Removing some dried paper from a screen.

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.

Making cards was a satisfying end to the process.

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.

A small section of the huge range of paper products.

A small section of the huge range of paper products.

"Poo Gems" necklaces and bracelets :)

“Poo Gems” necklaces and bracelets 🙂

Jewellery boxes!

Jewellery boxes!

Funky cotton t-shirts

Funky cotton t-shirts

We visited in December when Christmas cards, gift boxes and decorations were also available.

Christmas decorations and cards.

Christmas decorations and cards.

A natural Christmas tree, and charity gifts behind it.

A natural Christmas tree, and charity gifts behind it.

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.

If you’re interested in volunteering with a reputable animal conservation program, be sure to read my post about our time helping sea turtles at the Juara Turtle Project on Tioman Island, Malaysia.

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.

Time required

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.

One of the amazing elephants on display. 

One of the amazing elephants on display.

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.

Allegra and Dante starting to work on their designs.

Allegra and Dante starting to work on their designs.

Environmental and social initiatives

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.

The origin of the Elephant Parade.

The origin of the Elephant Parade.

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.

Map of the Parade's conservation projects.

The tour

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.

The workshop

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!

The store

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.

Beautiful designs, inspired by the large statues. 

Beautiful designs, inspired by the large statues.

Other gifts for elephant-lovers include bags, scarves and homewares.

Other gifts for elephant-lovers.

Very small elephants are great for travellers!

Very small elephants are great for travellers!

Durian and pomegranate elephants! They're so clever. 

Durian and pomegranate elephants! They’re so clever.

The art boxes are a great idea for a gift or doing more designing at home.

The art boxes are a great idea for a gift or doing more designing at home.

It was lots of fun checking out all of the designs. Too bad we couldn't carry many in our backpacks! 

It was lots of fun checking out all of the designs. Too bad we couldn’t carry many in our backpacks!

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.

A statue of Mosha, the inspiration for Elephant Parade Land.

A statue of Mosha, the inspiration for Elephant Parade Land.

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.

The papermaking stand in the PooPooPaper Park.

The papermaking station at the PooPooPaper Park.

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!

And please share this post with anyone who might be interested, and Pin it for later too:

Chiang Mai, Thailand is elephant-obsessed, and is home to the Elephant Poo Poo Paper Park! This is a business built on sustainability and it's a lot of fun for visitors! It's creative, hands-on, funny and not smelly! And it's great for families or any travellers looking for a colourful day out. #chiangmai #thailand #familytravel #travelwithkids #thailandtravel #sustainabletravel #responsibletravel #ethicaltravel #elephant

Chiang Mai, Thailand is elephant-obsessed, and is home to the origin of the worldwide phenomenon, the Elephant Parade. Elephant Parade Land features a museum and DIY workshop where visitors can design their very own piece of art, and it's a great experience for anyone wanting to support elephant conservation and have some creative fun. #chiangmai #thailand #familytravel #travelwithkids #thailandtravel #sustainabletravel #responsibletravel #ethicaltravel #elephant

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10 Responses

  1. Nam says:

    It’s so great that they have a workshop – and so fascinating about the elephant poo! What an educational experience

  2. Amelia says:

    This looks absolutely fantastic. I just showed my little ones and they’re very keen to go!

  3. Margarita says:

    What a fantastic park! It’s been years since I visited Chiang Mai last. Im glad to know that there are sustainable alternatives to the elephant parks.

    • Emma says:

      It is really wonderful Margarita! Yes also great to see several sustainable and ethical activities there.

  4. sue says:

    Elephant poopoo park sounds fun for adults too. Love that you are teaching your children sustainable travel.

    • Emma says:

      Thanks Sue! We decided that if we wanted to travel often with them, it had to be sustainable and ethical. It is working out really well! And yes, both activities are great for adults as well as kids.

  5. Kiki says:

    Thank you for this really informative post! I added these both to our itinerary, we’ll be travelling to Chiang Mai for our third time and these activities sound great for our family.