Tiger Kingdom, Chiang Mai
If it were up to me, I would have stayed in Pai as long as I could. Okay, technically it was up to me, but you know what I mean. But, my time was cut short because there was much of the world to still see. After about 5 days, I set off back to Chiang Mai. It happened to be Chinese New year which meant two things. One, it was tough to find a room. Two, there was an awesome dragon festival show in China town! I was able to meander my way through the crowd and get a spot right in the front and center of it all. A decision I regretted only when they set off the grand finale of fireworks LITERALLY right above my head. Some decided not to go up but more towards the crowds and I was a bit terrified (see the video on FB). All was well though and I had a blast! Chinese New Year--Good luck to give money to this guy
The next day, I set off to Tiger Kingdom. I had heard conflicting things about the place and wasn't sure if I would go or not. People said things like the tigers were drugged or abused. I did my research and am happy to report that neither of these misperceptions is true. People mistakenly believe that the cats are drugged because they lay around sleeping. In reality, cats are nocturnal so they spent most of their days sleeping (what house cat doesn't?) and they were raised by humans so they are used to human contact. If you would like to read more about it, please feel free to visit:http://www.tigerkingdom.com/Drug/Don't_%20Need_%20Drug.pdf On the way to the park, our driver asked if we would like to stop anywhere. There are several places along the way, monkey parks, adventure sports parks, snake farms, etc. Chad wanted to see the monkeys so we stopped there. I left with conflicting opinions on this place. It was established by a man who had trained the monkeys to collect fruit on his farm. The monkeys were extremely intelligent and performed lots of impressive tricks. They seemed taken care of, but I still left a little saddened.
Luckily, the Tiger Kingdom lifted my spirits since I discovered what I had read was true. I had a great time interacting with the cats and seeing how much their trainers love and respect them. I LOVE animals and it is an experience I will never forget!
ELEPHANTS As if playing with Tigers wasn't enough, I was able to become a Mahout Elephant trainer the following day! Although I had ridden an elephant during my 3 day jungle trek, I wanted a much more personal and educative experience. The elephants at this camp were all rescued and are now protected and well loved.
We set off for the elephant camp, stopping at a butterfly farm and market on the way. After about an hour, we arrived at the camp and saw the amazing elephants. We learned the commands and had a chance to practice them before setting off on our first jungle trek. We rode the elephants bare-back and near the neck since this is where they prefer to carry their weight. Please consider this before deciding to ride on a 200 lb. + seat strapped to their back, where it is harder for them to carry weight. Plus, it is much more intimate and better bonding with your elephant!
The elephants we met were very smart, playful, and loved eating and bathing! After riding them for an hour or so (that was plenty since it is a great inner thigh and butt workout), we had lunch next to them, fed them some more, and then set off to bathe them in the river and waterfall. My elephant was the only one who didn't stop to let me off before entering the water so I was walked right in! The elephants loved the water, loved splashing us, kissing us with slobbery sucks, and showing off. I truly fell in love with mine and did not want the day to end!