Chiang Mai has become the wild kingdom for us. In the past few days, it seems like we have packed in all the interaction with the southeast Asia animals that are on our to-do list. Since we are here for a whole week (for my massage training), we wanted to knock out as many Thailand experiences here in Chiang Mai, rather than put them off for later in the trip.
I finally got to ride an elephant and it was a fantastic experience. We ended up with a large male, about 10 foot tall, who pretty much did whatever he wanted. It seemed like he would walk a different path than all the others and would even make his own way through thick brush, stopping in tall grass when he was feeling hungry. We got to ride him for about an hour through the jungle passing through rivers. We stopped about half way and met up with a lady in a tree house selling bananas as a snack for the elephants. It was a crazy experience to feed the hungry animal. He would throw his trunk up over his head and blow air at us, waiting expectantly for another banana. One after another we fed him, and not until his mouth was full did he chew them. Then quickly he was done and his trunk was begging for more. He got a little angry when we ran out, snorting banana breath at us.
Towards the end of the ride, the guide slid off the elephant’s head saying, “Change drivers.” At first we were not quite sure what he meant by that. After motioning that Chris should climb on the elephant’s head to drive, we understood. Chris was thrilled at being “in charge” of the large beast. I later regretted not getting my chance to drive the elephant, but I made sure that once we got to the end of the ride to slide onto the head of the elephant to get pictures. What an amazing ride! We were smiling from ear to ear the whole time!
Next, we saw tigers! We went to the local attraction called Tiger Kingdom. Chris decided to spend some time with the big tigers while the baby tigers from 3-4 months old were more my speed. I went first and got to spend 15 minutes in the cage with the babies. They were so adorable. They reminded me so much of Mishamoi and MoiBoi, our kitties at home, that I wanted to squeeze and cuddle them. But there were strict rules about what to do and not do. The babies were so much fun but could hardly keep their eyes open; they were so tired. Tigers sleep an average of 18 hours a day. Once you think about it, that sounds about right. You put on a thick fur coat and try to run around in 100 degree hot and humid weather.
Chris went into the large cage to see two big tigers. He has long loved the big cats and admired their grace and strength. So this was something he has been looking forward to for a long time. When he got in the cage, I was a little apprehensive. I mean, they make you sign waivers before going in. I chose the little baby tigers for several reasons, safety being one of them. The tigers were as big as Chris! And their huge paws (not declawed) were as big as his hands. Once I saw the trainers were relaxed and playful with the tigers, I, too, became relaxed. But I did not take my eye off of Chris and the tigers the whole time he was in the cage with them. I could see by Chris’s expression that he was having the time of his life petting the huge cats. He was told specifically by the trainers that he could only pet the tigers from their shoulders back and not around the head or front paws. After Chris got finished, we stayed in the park taking many pictures of the tigers at rest and playing. We even got to see a couple of 3 week old cubs! They were so cute, but we couldn’t get any good pictures of them.
Another afternoon we stopped by the Chiang Mai Zoo. We only had about 2 hours before the park closed, but this was the only day we could see it. The Zoo was built in 1975 and apparently there did not employ a park/urban planner to design the layout. Even though the map we were given at the ticket counter said that we could enjoy the zoo by walking trails, tram, or monorail; all of these modes were highly inefficient. We chose to walk the zoo and ended up having a cardio workout trying to see all the animals before closing time. Since it was so late in the day, the zoo was almost completely deserted and we felt like we had the run of the place. It felt like we could have let animals out of their cages or hid in the bushes to stay after hours. The crazy thing was that when we got to the lions, there was no cage. We were only separated by a small moat. And there was only the female lion in sight. Chris and I looked at each other frightfully and said, “Where’s the male lion?” We ran along and got to the Panda enclosure. Chris and I had never seen pandas in person, so this was a great chance for us.
We finally found the fried insects! They are considered to be a great snack for the locals. And you know Chris, he had to try them. He got a sampling of insects and we shot a video of him eating them.
Until next post,