In the seaside town of Hua Hin, Thailand there is an exciting event every year which draws spectators from all over the world. The Elephant Polo Tournament is a fantastic spectacle and a festival that is not to be missed when you are travelling in Thailand.
It might seems strange to foreigners to watch the Thai polo players riding on the backs of elephants while playing this sport, but the elephant has an important role in Thai culture and these enormous beasts have been playing this sport for many years. The event was created by the Anantara Hua Hin Resort and Spa and has been a popular attraction for more than a decade. It began as a small two-day event and has grown into a week-long celebration with more than a dozen teams.
This year’s event will be relocated from its original location in Hua Hin, to Bangkok and will take place from August 28th to 31st.
A Festival The Whole Family Can Enjoy
The King’s Cup Elephant Polo Tournament brings together expert elephant polo players, nearly 50 different elephants and many local celebrities for a very exciting event. The festivities include the elephant polo games, as well as many showcases and a colourful parade and procession with traditional Thai dancers, vibrant marching bands and much more. Some of the celebrity guests at the tournament in the past have included the New Zealand All Blacks and Thai supermodels Looade Kingpayome and Cindy Bishop.
The four day festival also includes a Children’s Day with a baby elephant camp and a kid-friendly fun fair. There is also a Ladies Day, with prizes going to the best dressed tournament attendees. Miss Tiffany Thailand also adds a lot of fun and playful colour to the event, with a full team of transgender beauty queens who perform at the Gala Dinner.
Fun With Elephants for a Good Cause
The King’s Cup Elephant Polo Tournament raises money for various charity projects throughout Thailand, supporting the betterments of elephants in this country. The tournament has raised more than $600,000 USD for charity so far. The event also includes the Moulin Rouge themed Auction Gala Dinner, with the funds raised from this event going to the various elephant charities as well.
The elephants that participate in the tournament are street elephants, who receive full veterinary checks, essential vitamin supplements and care for the entire duration of the tournament. The rescued street elephants then enjoy a comfortable lifestyle at the Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp and Resort. The money that has been raised has also helped to build housing for elephant mahouts and their families, shelters for elephants, health care and even an elephant ambulance at the Thai Elephant Conservation Centre.
Since the year 2009, the donations from the event have also gone to creating the world’s very first elephant therapy program. This innovative program researches the effects of elephant therapy for autistic children – training elephants to serve as therapists for children. The Thai Elephant Therapy Project is now offering free therapy sessions for Thai children every year.
Have you attended the Elephant Polo Tournament in Thailand? Let us know about your travel experiences in the comments below.