The Anantara’s Annual Elephant Polo Tournament: Should You Take the Kids?

A few weeks ago, Logan and I had the distinct pleasure of spending several days as spectators at the Anantara’s 12th King’s Cup Elephant Polo Tournament in Hua Hin.  This is such a cool event for a number of reasons.  Let’s start with the fact that the annual tournament supports the Anantara’s community and charity-based initiatives, including the Thai Elephant-Assisted Therapy Project – a ground-breaking initiative that provides autistic and down syndrome children with an opportunity to develop their social and emotional skills by interacting with specially trained, rescued Thai street elephants.  Second, it is ELEPHANT polo.  That’s right.  Competitive polo matches played on elephant-back.  Pinch yourself, because an opportunity to see elephant polo doesn’t present itself every day.  Third, the tournament takes several dozen elephants off the street (a stressful environment for the nature-loving gentle giants), during which time they are well-fed, provided with a native forest environment, and receive essential vitamin supplements, full veterinary checks and care for the duration of the event. Fourth, the event is packed with star-studded celebrities and VIPs.  The famed Miss Tiffany Universe even has her own team at the event!

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Ele Polo Players and Mahouts
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The elephants are certainly the highlight for these three!

Now, to the part you’re really reading this for.  Is it worth a special trip?  Does it make sense to take the kids?  Well, let me break it down for you.

It is a cool event.  It is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing.  But, there are a few problems.  On the pitch, it’s hot – VERY hot, and there is very little shade.  Children – especially the little ones – will melt in the heat after an hour or two.  Elephant polo, while extremely special to watch, is also an EXTREMELY slow game to watch.  The kids will get bored pretty quickly.  There are some activities provided for the little ones on the pitch – a baby elephant camp on-site, elephant sculpture painting, and a giant blow-up slide with a Dairy Queen alongside.  So, here is my recommendation.

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A beautiful day in Thailand, but temperatures are high

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Checking out the children’s art contest

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Painting on the pitch

  • Don’t plan a special trip around the event.  If you do, don’t expect the little ones will be kept entertained at the event for very long.
  • Do pay a visit to the event for an hour or two if you are planning on a Hua Hin or Pranburi beach weekend.  That, in my opinion, is the best way to do it.
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Ahh, there you go . . . elephants and pool time – that’s more like it

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Hua Hin

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A Walk-In Beach Pool and Cocktails – The Perfect Toddler-Parent Weekend Combination

In our year and a half in Thailand, we’ve only given the popular weekend destination of Hua Hin a chance once.  Last weekend we thought we’d get away for a night and give it a second opportunity to wow us.

The first time around we stayed at the Anantara, which is a beautiful resort that boasts a great pool bar and classy ambiance, but in the end, lacks a good beach front and is not so kid-friendly.  This time, on a friend’s recommendation, we stayed at the Hyatt Regency.  While more expensive than the Anantara, the Hyatt definitely has more activities for kids of all ages.  The best part of the resort for us/Logan by far?  The man-made beach and walk-in beach pool.  This is a toddler and parent’s dream – no need to worry about a rough surf, steep drop offs, jellyfish (which Hua Hin does have) or peddlers on the beach.  No need to worry about lack of shade, trash on the beach, or a tide.  Instead, just sit back and relax under the shade of an umbrella, order a cocktail with the touch of a button, and watch your little one(s) play in the clean sand and make their way into the calm pool, testing their ability to stand and giggling as the water gradually gets deeper.  Ahh, now that is what vacation is supposed to be about!  The Hyatt also has a pretty awesome water slide and lazy river pool for older kids, fantastic and reasonably-priced Western and Thai tapas beachfront at the McFarland House for dinner, and several ponds where tods can delight in throwing bread in to feed beautiful koi and ducks during the day.

We certainly felt like we did Hua Hin right the second time around.  We recommend the Hyatt to anyone looking for a short weekend escape with little ones that allows parents to relax and kids to be kids.

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Inviting walk-in pool – perfect for tods!

Logan testing his limits in the pool while Mom and Dad relax beach-side

Raisins and milk before the journey home