Tigers, Trees, and Thailand – Thai Adventure
Oh My Budha – Chiang Mai
Having spent the last two days sweating and showerless in a village, it was a relief to find out that after our dirty debacle down the mountain we’d be heading straight on into some bamboo rafting. Despite the extremely limited stability of the rafts (the bamboo literally floats BELOW the water), the river was extremely mild and the 30-minute journey was relaxing.
With that over, we filled up on some roadside pad thai and hopped into our elephant guide’s truck. This time we were inside instead of hanging on for dear life in the back. But being inside didn’t make a difference once we realized that Chi’s speedometer was constantly at 0mph… and realizing this as we got pulled over by the police for a standard roadside check wasn’t reassuring either. On the plus side, Chi had a valid license and some proper tunes to keep us company. Actually, it was an hour-long ‘mix’ of songs that went along to the same home made 4 bar techno beat. This beat literally played over any song, it was crazy. We went from Jay Z, to Shakira, to Adele within a minute, and Chi wasn’t even fazed. As we entered Chiang Mai, we realized that this ‘awesome’ beat wasn’t just limited to our stereo… it played over half the shops in the city.
After a good 45 minutes of enduring this music, Chi dropped us off at our guesthouse (as basic as our previous accommodations but airconditioned and therefore heavenly.) We said what we thought were our final goodbyes to him (you’ll find out why in the next blog) and had the rest of the day off to settle into our new city. Although Chiang Mai is considered the capital of northern Thailand, it’s feels far more organized than Bangkok. The streets are relatively cleaner, the occasional wafts of unusual scents fewer, and roadside prostitutes less pushy. Basically, we appreciated that Chiang Mai was a much calmer version of backpacker’s Bangkok.
Chaing Mai also felt safe enough for us to explore the neighbourhoods, grab some food, or exchange money on our own. TRAVERLERSTIP3: A few travelers STA cards didn’t work, so possibly test yours out in the UK or set up a specific account with your bank instead. During our stay in Chiang Mai, JJ had set up a couple of activities for us to enjoy. Luckily, none of these activities are obligatory, but if you’re up for it, JJ’s choices are usually really good. I was keen on attending the night safari and was advised against it by JJ (and after looking up 4square reviews, realized he was totally right about it being terrible.) TRAVERLERSTIP4: 4square is a great app to download pre-travels to find and get reviews on things near your location. Anyways, instead we opted to do some forest zip lining and visit Tiger Kingdom.
First on our list was tackling the zip lining course through the jungles of Chiang Mai. Upon arrival at Eagletrack ZipLining, we were kitted up in some protective gear and introduced to our guides (who turned out to be an absolute riot.) We walked through a short presentation on safety and were on our way. A couple members on our team weren’t too keen on heights (ie. Bobby and Char), but even they managed to navigate their way (almost gracefully) through the course. It started with a relatively short zipline (10m) and slowly progressed up to about 15m long ziplines allowing us to ease into the journey. The guides however, loved to shake things up once they sensed we were nervous for some of the jumps. This resulted in a lot of jokingly mistimed countdowns, physically shaking the wires, and accompanying us on our journeys upside down and screaming like madmen. But don’t stress, they always put our safety first and we ended up having heaps of fun. Like all good things though, the course came to an end far too quickly (45 minutes tops) so I’d strongly recommend spending the extra 400baht with the silver package.
Keeping the excitement levels high, we followed this up with a trip to Tiger Kingdom. A couple members of the trip (myself included) were a little morally apprehensive about taking part in this activity. But as mentioned previously, JJ is great at making sure that the transport accommodates all of your needs and can take you home if required. I decided to stick it out and wasn’t too surprised by the state of the facility. It was really clean and the animals seemed to be in good physical condition, but the tigers were pretty unresponsive and their enclosures were extremely small. We opted to hang out with the smallest tigers (1mo – 6mo, strongly recommended!) and were allotted a ‘visiting time.’ On our turn, we were given 15 minutes to rub their bellies and snap some pics with them.
The highlight was definitely visiting the recently newborn babes and interacting with what felt like little puppies rather than the ferocious predators they would soon become. Watching the adult tigers lying listlessly in their enclosures as visitors came and went, it was clear that they were under some sort of influence and this sorta dulled the experience. I’d much rather visit these magnificent creatures in a natural safari than the clockwork tourist experience provided in Chiang Mai. But the memory of holding the cubs in my arms will remain with me forever! At moments like this, I’m continuously thankful for the opportunities that this trip with Gap360 has given me, and will continue to try and make the most of it in the upcoming two weeks! xx
P.S. Oh my Budha is a legit phrase used around Thailand (at least in front of tourists, always gets a laugh.)