Tiger Kingdom hand raises tigers and allows visitors to pet them and play with them inside of their cages! The brochure shows people lounging on a big cat using it as a body pillow, and wrapping arms around tiger necks and snuggling. One chooses the age of the tiger they wish to interact with – from 2-4 month-old baby tigers to the largest 16-36 month-old tigers.
Then there are dozens of elephant parks where one can ride an elephant and see elephants performing and painting. Others parks claim to be sanctuaries for exploited elephants which don’t allow riding or performing but permit human interaction in the way of feeding and bathing them.
Tiger Kingdom and elephant parks are some the top tourist attractions of Chiang Mai.
Originally I thought I wanted to visit the elephant sanctuary, but changed my mind after some research, and an event that occurred shortly after our arrival in Thailand: a tourist traveling with his daughter was killed by the elephant he was riding.
Elephants and tigers are wild animals and though they may be used to human handling and unable to live in the wild, they are not in their natural-born habitat.
We chose to go instead to the Chiang Mai Zoo where we could safely observe tigers, elephants, bears, monkeys and more. They inside of their enclosures and we outside of them. (I know there is debate on the humanity of zoos as well.)
This panda was busy stuffing bamboo sticks into his mouth.
I posted many videos of us feeding the animals at the Chiang Mai Zoo on the Meet You in the Morning Travel FaceBook page.
It was a very hot day in Chiang Mai, too hot for anything more than just lazing.
The hippos were soundly sleeping with their heads submerged, but the keeper started hollering at them to awake them so we could feed them. One obligingly opened its humongous mouth so some potatoes could be tossed in, even scrounging underwater for the ones that missed the target!
“The traditional cycle for domestic elephants born in captivity is to spend the first three years of their lives with their mothers…before being separated and raised with other calves in training schools. Each elephant is looked after by a mahout, a trainer, keeper and driver rolled into one. …the next 13 years the elephant is taught about 40 commands…and at the age of 16, the elephants are ready to be put to work and are expected to carry on working until they reach 50 or 60, after which they are retired and may live for another 20 years.” Rough Guide for Thailand
The day after our Wednesday visit to Chiang Mai Zoo we read that one of their mahouts had been killed by an elephant Tuesday – the day before our visit.
“The practical role of elephants in Thailand was once almost as great as its symbolic importance. The kings of Ayutthaya relied on elephants to take them into battle against the Burmese…”
…”King Rama IV offered Abraham Lincoln a male and a female “to multiply in the forests of America” and to use in the Civil War.”
“In times of peace, the phenomenal strength of the elephant has made it invaluable as a beast of burden” hauling stone and timber and clearing forests.” Rough Guide to Thailand
“To Thais the elephant has profound spiritual significance derived from both Hindu and Buddhist mythologies. Carvings and statues of Ganesh, the Hindu god with an elephant’s head…” Rough Guide to Thailand
This elephant’s tusks are wrapped in rubber for protection. We fed these elephants bananas and sugar cane. The Asian elephant is considered an endangered species and Thailand’s wild elephant population is estimated to be less than 2000.
Around and About Chiang Mai
This map clearly shows the Old City – it is the square in the center of the map. The yellow stars mark where our accommodations were located outside the city. The first month we stayed south of the airport at North Condo Serene Lake (star on left) and the second month we stayed East of the city at My Hip Condo (right star and blue dot) in one of the hippest and newest areas of Chiang Mai. The red star marks the eastern Thae Pae gate to the Old City.
A corner of the wall and moat surrounding the Old City
East of the city is the Ping River.
Murals painted on the wall surrounding the U.S. Consulate in Chiang Mai.
It’s easy to get “templed out” and they generally start to look all alike, but this Wat Buppharam is ornate and beautiful.
A close up showing the carved details.
This monk came to close the door while I was photographing and we shared a little smile with each other.
A Teak buddha inside. Notice the elephants in the relief behind the buddha on the wall (lower right.)
A Tour of Our Neighborhood
Welcome to My Hip Condo 2 (left). Some spirit houses and an elephant shrine are on the corner outside the sales office. Note the new construction in the background.
There are 4 buildings in the My Hip Condo 2 development.
Within a block or two are many coffee shops and eateries.
Wawee Coffee became our favorite place and we visited these girls for our coffee every morning. They always asked, “Same, same?” “Yes, 2 Wawee coffees” I would reply. The coffee has been consistently great, in a large cup with hot milk on the side. With our Wawee Loyalty Card we get 1 free with the purchase of 10.
There are many new buildings with lots of new businesses going in and still many vacancies. We have been repeat customers to several eateries. Views around the area include girls in school uniforms and street vendors.
After two months eating Thai food I still have not tired of it! In an effort to sample many different dishes, I continue to bravely order new entrees.
I can’t get enough of these curries. There are so many different varieties (clockwise from upper left): Thai-Burmese Curry (Gaeng Hung Ley) with pork, fresh ginger and Burmese Massala powder in red curry paste, Pork Jungle Curry (Gaeng Pa Moo) doesn’t have coconut milk, Pumpkin Curry and Thai Crab Curry but made with mixed seafood instead of the too expensive crab (Pu Pad Pong Karee).
Many times I don’t know what I’m ordering! A variety of different noodle entrees.
I try to sample different drinks too. I dismissed the Cashew Chicken (lower right) as being too Chinese, but discovered it to be a favorite especially when not wanting too much spice and once I sampled the Roti, a dessert (lower left), I was addicted.
Our Chiang Mai stay has been a real vacation! Good eating, sunshine, swimming,and massages and staying under budget!
Expense Reports will be coming soon which will show why this is a great-value retirement destination. Except for the fact that it’s going to get hotter, we would be sad to be saying goodbye. (Next winter we will be wishing we could be in Chiang Mai.)
Monday we fly to Bangkok for a 3-night stay.
Meet You in the Morning next time when we will be in Busan, South Korea.