On my final production day, I interviewed Galen Garwood, a U.S. artist and filmmaker living in Chiang Mai who first became involved with the plight of the Thai Asian Elephants 10 years ago. His stories, articles, films and art share an underlying goal to educate tourists and Thais about the respect and protection elephants deserve.
Galen shared his insight and opinions with me, including his hope that captive elephants have a sanctuary on the edge of a protected national park that contains wild elephants, so that in 2-3 elephant generations the captive elephants will be assimilated into the wild herd and the human visitors would only be able to view the elephants on the periphery of the park. It’s a very different solution than I’ve heard thus far and would require an international non-profit organization consisting of several different “elephant voices” (thereby limiting the amount of human or government corruption involved in the “elephant politics”), but he remains hopeful that it could save the rapidly declining elephant population in Southeast Asia, while also providing tourists with a less disruptive elephant experience.
At the conclusion of our interview, he invited me to attend a 200 Club fundraiser to start an elephant hospital north of Chiang Mai. I accepted and briefly interviewed John and Sally about why another elephant hospital was necessary before getting our picture taken by the City Life photographer.
Afterward, I filled my final afternoon in Chiang Mai by: visiting the Dang Bakery (pronounced with a soft “a”) for some dang brownies that only cost 10 Baht, but could easily cost $5 USD; filming the elephant statues & reliefs at Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, where I had flashbacks of climbing—not driving up—the mountain with the Chiang Mai Project in 2007; and joining Apple and Peter at the Sunday Night Market for foot massages before heading to the Chiang Mai airport.
It’s been an amazing journey and I’m sending out a protective force field around all my bags, which contain the 30 tapes and 2 hard drives worth of footage we filmed over the last 12 days! I’m excited to see the footage and start editing the feature-length documentary so we can distribute it and start educating the rest of the world about the plight of the Asian Elephants and Soraida Salwala’s quest to save them.
Krup kum ka!
Producer, Writer and Director, The Eyes of Thailand