Pachaderm Dreams and Feline Fantasies

Trip Start Oct 30, 2012
Trip End May 30, 2013

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Saturday, December 22, 2012

On the way from Lampang to Chaing Mai there is an elephant conservation centre. This one was to be the top in the country with the owner winning numerous awards for her work. It was nice, but it was not what I was expecting. There was still an elephant show and we couldn't really see the elephants in a more natural surrounding. But the trip there did give us a few more bus adventures. The conservation centre is mid-way between Lampang and Chiang Mai. So after our visit, we had to stand on the 8 lane highway and flag down a continuing bus to Chiang Mai. The first few attempts didn't work, but then one slowed down for us. Only 50 Baht...less than the city bus I used to take into Edinburgh and this was a major bus going from centre to centre.

Once we reached Chiang Mai, I'm afraid to admit that it was exactly what I was dreading...A down town core packed with guest houses and restaurants each with gigantic banners advertising all of the various tour packages you can buy: trekking, elephant riding, bamboo rafting...all in the  company of 100's of others – yay!  What a place!  We went out for dinner at an Indian restaurant after first shopping around at 4 other Indian restaurants within a 1 block radius. Also took in a Turkish restaurant all while surrounded by night clubs pumping out deafening music while drunk farangs stumbled about and prostitutes took advantage.

We also took in one of the hokiest tourist activities available – petting tigers.  We hummed and hawed about this for quite awhile, but eventually the opportunity to be around live tigers won out. Now I know there will be some of you who are against the whole thing, just like elephants.  But unfortunately, we don't live in a utopic world. These animals can no longer live in the wild no  matter how much we wish it so.  Humans have changed nature so much that there is no more natural habitat for them. And the truth is, the bit of area they have, they are being poached to extinction. The only place they are safe is within enclosures or nature reserves. This particular place acts as a breeding facility for zoos around the world. In the meantime, the tigers get to live out the epitome of cat-like-life: laying around in the sun, being fed and getting pets.

Both of us wanted to see the 'big' cats (as opposed to 'medium', 'small', or 'smallest'). With a keeper by our sides, we were ushered into an enclosure with four 150 kilo beasts. As big as they were, they were still only about their full size. We did see the big breeder Daddy – all 250 kilos of him. His head was immense and one paw could easily span your entire face. Even without being able to see him, the size cats were still a bit dis-concerning to be near. I loved to look at the beautiful colours and patterns of their fur. We weren't allowed to get near the paws or face of the cat – for good reasons! People may think that they are drugged, but I don't think
it's true. They have been raised in the presence of many humans and are only fed chicken so they don't get a taste for red meat or blood and have obviously never had to hunt for their food. They reminded me quite a bit of our old cat - lazing around and tolerating the humans in order to get food :)

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Paul in Houston, Texas, USA on

I agree with your comments on the tigers. Yes, it would be nice if they were all wild and free, but how in the modern world? I have several pet box turtles (not quite in the same league with tigers I know) who were rescued and that can never be returned to the wild and now they need a good home. I feel they are better with me than dead in the wild.

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