Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My! (Without Bears)

Trip Start Oct 02, 2012
Trip End Mar 31, 2014

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Flag of Thailand  ,
Tuesday, October 23, 2012

We hire a man and his bus for the day and set off to do some stuff that our mental host, Stella, has helped us to arrange.

First we head out of town towards the Tiger Kingdom, secretly hoping it will be a wonderful gold city run by tigers who walk on two legs and speak english. Sadly it isn't, but it is still an amazing place. It's a conservation park with a breeding program to try and maintain an endangered species. They have lots of Tigers of different ages, sizes and sub-species. They even have a solitary lion. We suspect he feels like a bit of a gooseberry. He shows his discontent by showing us his crown jewels (see photo). The park is funded by people who come to spend a few minutes with a tiger and get a few pics.

Our driver, who doesn't speak english but has a Manchester United shirt on, drops us off and parks up while we head into the Kingdom where we hope to not get eaten. After much umming and ahhring over which size tiger to spend our alotted 20 minutes with we opt for the smallest ones for 3 reasons. 1 - they are insanely cute. 2 - The big ones can eat you up. 3 - They are insanely cute!!!!

We head into the park towards the 'smallest tigers' enclosure. There are 4 of the little cute maneaters in there, all about 2-4 months old. We join a group of people, wash our hands (to prevent us giving them germs presumably) and pop on some massively oversized flipflops. seriously, they are like size 19's. Inside the enclosure we get to meet our cub for the next 20 mins and his handler. Or so we thought, but being cubs they do not stand still for too long and by the end of our little adventure we have spent time with all 4 of them. They are used to being stroked but it is forbidden to stroke their heads unless you want to lose a finger ;) Some of them are playful, some of them are sleepy, all of them are dangerously cute. It is a wonderous 20 minutes and we leave feeling privaleged and lucky. We walk around the rest of the Kingdom checking out the other tigers (and lion) before heading back to the van.

Next stop, the top of the world! Well not quite the top but a mountain called Doi Suthep (1685 meters high) on which a Chedi (big gold thingy) was built in in 1383 to house one of Buddhas shoulder bones. The site now has a few temples and other holy structures clustered on it and is immensly impressive and beautiful. Also the veiws of Chaing Mai are really wonderful from this hight. There are 309 steps upto the temple and we practically run up them, fuelled by our pit stop of deep fried banana. We don't have to stop half way for break and a sit down. Nope, not us. Arriving at the top there are Thais in traditional costume with dancing, theatre, drums, symbols, music and two men in a llama costume. Once inside the temple your whole attention is dominated by the Chedi. It is of course huge. And gold. This is an extremely holy place and we watch as Thai people worship and join a continous procession around the Chedi. Outside the temple we watch a dance performace which probably bears some significance that we are ignorant to, but thoroughly enjoy it nontheless. Once the heat and gold becomes to much we return to our driver and he takes us home. We have to nap, the steps have taken their toll.

A little while later we take a tuk-tuk to the bus station to buy tickets for our next stop (a border town called Mae Hong Son (all we know is that it has a misty lake and a big cave) then head to the Night Bazaar Market. It runs from 6 - midnight and is massive. It covers a couple of blocks, and an indoor area, and has some very cool stuff for sale. There are rope sculptures, silverwork, incredible wooden carvings, a million different types of handicraft, clothes and food to name but a few. We spend a couple of hours walking around and trying out our haggling skills. We do alright and walk away with a few bargains :) By now our feet have become stumps (flip flops really aren't made for endurance walking) so we head home. We stop on the way back at the only open food place we find and order some grub. The waitress smells of booze and the few clientel dotted around appear to have had a few changs too many. Anna eats the second most hottest thing she has ever eaten. The first was lava. Fact. After we finish eating we head straight to the shop and buy a cornetto for Anna's blistering mouth. Exhausted from an amazing day in this wonderful place we go to bed in our shockingly bright coloured room.
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