On the main highway between Lampang and Chiang Mai is the internationally known Elephant Conservation Center. So-called training camps are scattered throughout the region, but many of them are little more than overpriced sideshows. This is the real thing: a government-supported research station. Here you can find the special stables that house the 10 white elephants owned by the king, although only those who are taking the center's mahout (keeper) training course are allowed to see them. The 36 "commoner" elephants (the most venerable are more than 80 years old) get individual care from more than 40 mahouts. The younger ones evidently enjoy the routines they perform for the tourists—not only the usual log-rolling, but painting pictures (a New York auction of their work raised thousands of dollars for the center). There's even an elephant band—its trumpeter is truly a star. The elephants are bathed every day at 9:30 and 1:15, and perform at 10, 11, and 1:30. You can even take an elephant
ride through the center's extensive grounds, and if you fancy becoming a mahout you can take a residential course in elephant management. The center's hospital, largely financed by a Swiss benefactor, is a heart-rending place, treating elephants injured by mines sown along the Burmese border. Its latest mine victim won international renown in 2008 by becoming the first elephant in the world to be fitted successfully with an artificial leg.