So, you'll see that there are two entries for today. That's partially because we got up nice early (8am) and went out until 2:00 and had a LOT of fun. It's also partially because Jocelyn has just left for a five hour Thai cooking class and I am left to my own devices. While I may feel particularly adventurous later and may wander to a nearby market solo, I'm pretty content to relax here at Tanita House for a little while and tell you all about the Tiger Kingdom and Doi Suthep while I rock out to some music (Dredg) and drink some tea (number 2 of what will probably be about 8 for the day- that's what happens when tea, water & coffee are free).
I know, shut up and talk about the tigers already... well here you go!
So, as Jocelyn mentioned, Susin offered to take us to the Tiger Kingdom and Doi Suthep. When he and I walked to the waterfall yesterday he was asking what are other plans were while in Chiang Mai and then offered his services for a much cheaper price than we ever could have gotten with a cab or tuk tuk. He also knows so much about the temple we were crazy not to take advantage of his offer. So at 8:30 we grabbed a quick breakfast, had a quick discussion with the student-in-training that arrived 7 hours early to pick Jocelyn up for her cooking class and then met Susin at the entrance of the Tanita House.
Opening the door I discovered that his oldest son was along for the ride. Apparently he had been up all night with a sore tooth and got very little soup but that kid had more energy and an even bigger appetite despite all of this. I never learned his name (interesting factoid- the Karen people do not ask you for your name. They treat everyone as their friend or family and if they decide they need to know your name, they will ask someone else. Until that moment, you are "so and so's brother" or "the youngest sibling of <insert name here>").
We learned on our way to the Tiger Kingdom that we'd be able to go to both locations with time enough to get Jocelyn back for her cooking class. This was great news for Jocelyn because she was a little disappointed that I'd be going to the temple alone and had hoped to see it. Upon arrival we were given a lot of different options for what "package" we could do. All packages include photos with a tiger and you choose the size. Admittedly, I'm a sucker for a cub just as much as the next person but it's only marginally better than an adult to me. Besides, it was twice the price to see a cub. There were four different selections in size (L, med-large, M, S). You could also do bundles to see a large and a small or even all sizes (most expensive package for obvious reasons). Now, I was expecting a tiger in a carefully staged shot. Not at all. We were let into an enclosure (with our own staff employee) to see three different tigers. To make things even better, it was unlimited photos so Jocelyn and I got to sit (or lay) on three different tigers- Jolly, Laomy, and Ceasar.
We waited for two separate parties of 25 to go through and then finally got our opportunity to enter. Our staff trainger/handler decided that Jolly had slept long enough and got a palm frond and smacked it into the pool water that Jolly was laying along. It took a couple of minutes but he finally got her up and moving over to a different area away from the water to give a nice setting. Of course, the second she got there she laid down again. We spent probaboly 15 minutes in the enclosure and got at least ten photos apiece with each tiger. It was amazing to feel their fur which is more coarse than a normal house cat. Their paws are massive and I had a thrill of fear run through me momentarily when I was petting Laomy's stomache (loves the tummy rubs!) and his paw grazed right along my hand. They were very careful to make sure we approached from behind and did not get anywhere near their head or front paws. However, he was far more interested in his tummy rub so apparently he decided I was cool enough not to swat at. We got some awesome photos and by the time you read this I should hopefully have them all up on the site so check them out!
Next, we hopped back in to the car and made the 15km trek up the mountain to Doi Suthep. Going up a mountain in Thailand is curvy like a snake and is always very interesting to observe because if you have two lanes, people pretty much use both lanes interchangeably. They'll start somewhere closer to the center of the two lanes and then start the corner on the inside and end up in the outside line by the end of it. Since it was seriously like a snake weaving up a mountain I'd say we were in both lanes for an equal amount of time.
Doi Suthep is a temple that was built a long time ago. I say a long time ago because there's theories thrown back and forth on its actual date of origin but the most popular theory seems to be in the late 1300s. In 1935 a road was built from the bottom of the mountain to the temple. A Buddhist monk (I apologize, I can't remember the name and Wiki is failing me at the moment) said it needed to be built. There is a shrine i his honor at the bottom of the hill. Thousands of Thai people came and helped build the road which was done all by hand back then. Upon completion a photo was taken of the king with the workes behind his car and that was the first to go up the mountain. The photo is at the bottom of the steps (of which there are 309) that lead up to the temple.
The architecture is stunning and even the photos I took hardly do it justice but you'll at least get an idea of what we saw. There is the legend of the white elephant which, in a very much abbreviated version, came up the mountain and laid down and never got back up. The white elephant determined where the temple was built and many relics were placed inside. Now, some of these relics remain while some are now housed in Chiang Mai in a second temple (I believe it's in Wat Ron Khun- the White Temple). Unfortunately, I don't think I'll be able to make it to the white temple but I was happy to make it to Doi Suthep which is also known as the Gold Temple.
Jocelyn walked around and learned a lot more about the history of the temple and was able to ask a lot of questions that Susin was happy to answer. I caught pieces here and there so unfortunately the history mentioned above are the pieces that I caught.
At the top of the steps, us foreigners paid a fee to get in (only 30 baht) and then we entered the lower level/courtyard. We removed our shoes and went up another set of steps which took us to the temple and the surrounding temples and shrines. Jocelyn and I were blessed (since I missed the first blessing by the local witch doctor of the Karen people I felt it was necessary to make sure I didn't miss a second opportunity). The monks are not allowed to touch women so there was a man to his right that blessed us ladies. We sat on our knees and waited in line until it was our turn. After Jocelyn and I left, we waited for Susin and his son to finish being blessed by the monk who then decided to do an impromptu group blessing with holy water and chanting. Some people jumped in so they could receive additional blessing from the monk so we waited quietly on the steps.
We walked around for about an hour and I took about 240 photos before finally putting the lense cap on and admitting defeat. There's just no way to get all of the photos you want (without all of the people) AND enjoy what you're seeing. As we walked back down the steps there were two little girls dressed in traditional clothing allowing people to take pictures (after a "donation"). I couldn't resist and got the best photo I could have hoped for. I had already walked past and decided I had to get the shot so I turned with my camera ready. The older of the two saw me, patted her little friend and said something very quickly. Without a second thought the younger turned and posed with a peace sign!!! It might be my favorite photo from Doi Suthep (and a strong contender for the trip as a whole!). They definitely earned their "donation" with that one!
As we reached the bottom of the steps there were a lot of little businesses set up selling their wares at great prices. Jocelyn picked up a couple of postcards and souveniers and then grabbed some sweet corn on the cob and, get this, a hotdog wrapped and cooked in a WAFFLE... Ummm, hello delicious, where have you been all my life?!?
So ended our tours as Susin dropped us off. We parted ways with hugs and well wishes and fantastic memories. All of our best to Susin and his family!
I have no idea what's next for me today but I know that in... about 3 hours I'm going to benefit greatly from Jocelyn's five hour (and five course) cooking class!
ARROYO ,MAC MAC!!! (Karen for "Yummy, very very!")