Besides the night markets, beautiful temples, and flavorful Thai food of Chiang Mai, Thailand, don’t miss the opportunity to get up close and personal with the elephants at the Elephant Nature Park.

It was not too long ago that we thought it was acceptable to ride elephants, watch them perform tricks at the circus, steal their ivory for products and carry humans through jungles, often by poking and prodding elephants with sharp metal objects to get them to obey all so we could have a Jungle Book experience. If anyone has watched the documentary For the Love of Elephants on HBO, you will quickly understand that elephants are actually feeling creatures and can be harmed by the mistakes and abuse of humans.

Mingalarbar (pronounced in a sing song-y way “Ming-ga-la-ba) is the cheerful greeting you hear at every turn in Bagan, but this time it was a warning. “Miss. There is a cobra in there. In the back. He lives in the brick wall right there!” A young, maybe 10-year-old kid with his colorful school bag strapped to him had just warned me as he followed me on his old gas-fuming motorbike. “Really? A snake? Cobra?” Hoping my one word questions would prove he said the wrong thing.

“Yes, do you want to see?”