Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Creatures of Chiang Mai

If you missed part 1 of our adventures in Chiang Mai, be sure to go back and check it out. And Bangkok, too. We had a great time in Thailand, though we are happy to be "home" in Cambodia, where God has clearly called us for this season of our lives. 

There was so much we wanted to do in Chiang Mai. We literally had an excel spreadsheet with every hour mapped out.  We wanted to go to the totally awesome zoo they had there, but we had also heard about a cool Night Safari, and we knew we couldn't do both. On the day of arrival as we had maps spread out before us and our spreadsheet open and a couple "natives" there to give us advice, we quickly decided that we had more time at night than in the day and in combination with locations of each, we opted for the night safari instead of the zoo. We were glad we did. They have the same animals and it's even cooler because you get to see them at night! Cue the scary (but fun) music.

And you get to walk through this:

And the whole place is beautiful like this:

We arrived before dark, when the place was pretty much empty.  It was great because the kids don't stay up too late so we were able to see lots of animals before dark, like any other zoo.  We walked around and were able to get up close and personal with lots of animals.  

He's standing like a flamingo in case you didn't notice his cute little self.

Pretty bird picture at twilight

That door is not locked.  The only thing holding that juvenile tiger in is that little bamboo stick.  Which Stephen was baffled by. But I can't imagine why that scares anyone?  It's just a cute little kitty cat, right? And we're in a perfectly safe place with rules and regulations for sure, right?  

No one was watching the kitty because they were watching the parade that had just begun as it was twilight.

I have no idea what the story was here but it was fascinating.  That queen lady came in on an elephant and they all sang and danced and then a parade of people dressed like that came in carrying animals or walking them on leashes.  I saw a lemur, monkey, python, tiger, parrot, and more that I don't remember. They let the people come right up and touch them. Then they danced some more. One of the elephants was dancing and swinging his trunk. I tried to get a video but he was camera shy. (In other words I was too slow but am blaming it on the 2 ton giant).

After dinner at the zoo - food post coming next blog post! - we climbed on a tram and went on a night safari. I was on the end and the animals were coming right up to me and nibbling on things - like my camera strap - so I didn't get too many photos.  Here are a few.  They were feeding them as we went by, hence the hippo's big mouth.

Since we have seen monkeys pretty much everywhere we've been in Cambodia, we had to venture out to find some in Thailand too.  And like everything else that was much more advanced in Thailand, so were the monkeys!  We went to a show and were really impressed.  Those little guys are pretty smart!

Baby monkey

The introductions:  Hugs and kisses

The show started by demonstrating how they teach the monkeys to pick coconuts from trees, first at a low level, then higher, then from a real tree. They twist them around and around until they fall. Here in Cambodia I've seen kids at the park up in the trees doing that before, while the older men use knives and cut them down. 

Part 2 of the show they were just showing off.  They did some really incredible stuff!  They could choose numbers when we called them out, even when they were in random order, and they were constantly folding their little hands, which is the Asian equivalent of a bow.  They were super cute.  Here were some of our favorite tricks:

But everyone knows monkeys are smart, right? And cute. And fun. Or, I've always thought so. Elephants, though.  Elephants are giant wonderful magnificent creatures. We went to the Mae Sa Elephant Camp, which has been praised by pretty much everyone we've ever met who has ever been to Chiang Mai.  

Did it hold up to its reputation?  

Definitely. Oh, yeah! What a great place! What a great day! 

So it started with a show. We saw there were 2 shows - one at 8am and another at 940. Which would we choose? Well, since our kids are usually wide awake, dressed, and fed by 7am, we figured we'd go for the 8:00 show. We were the first ones to arrive and took the VIP seating. By the time they started the show, we were still the only ones in the audience and it stayed that way the whole show, but they did the whole show anyway.  They climbed on and the show began!

They played soccer! Here's a video (below) if you want to see it. The commentary is pretty funny too. We felt like we had to cheer a lot since we were the only people in the audience.

They painted pictures. And not just ugly, blobs of paint on paper. No... really nice, beautiful, better-than-I-could-ever-dream-of-painting-and-I'm-a-homo-sapien paintings!

And I got to be in the show!

At the end of the show they all came over and put hats on us and took them off, wrapped slimy trunks around us, made noises and wiggled those funny looking noses all sorts of ways. It was so fun! They also gladly took money from us for tips and gave it to their trainers.  

Anyone notice that guy is wearing a Louisiana letter jacket? Wonder what the story behind that is?  

Then it was our turn to ride the elephants. 

We didn't just hop on and ride around in a circle, either. We got a whole hour of riding up a real mountain through a jungle on the back of an elephant. This was a little village we passed as we we walked, and a small elephant was tied up down the trail.  

See? Totally awesome experience. Just as I was thinking it wasn't fair that all the pictures would be of Stephen because I had the camera and couldn't photograph myself, I realized that my elephant trainer guy - called a mahout - had telepathy because he turned around and said "photo?" I said sure and handed him the camera but he shocked me by what he did next!

He climbed off the elephant and we just kept walking! He took a bunch of photos and my elephant just left him there! Good thing they don't move too fast though. He was able to catch us after not too long. 

See how the mahouts ride? They just sit on the head. I wanted to try it so badly. Maybe somewhere in Cambodia a mahout would let me do that.  

We ended the journey by letting our precious beasts cool off in the water and have a drink. They stood there a long time before the mahouts could get them to leave. Then we headed back where we gladly bought them a snack before we said goodbye. It was such a wonderful day that none of us will ever forget.  

I'll let the elephants close for me.  

No comments:

Post a Comment