Chiang Mai - Day 1

Trip Start Unknown
Trip End Ongoing

Flag of Thailand  ,
Saturday, July 21, 2012

First, thanks for some of the great feedback and letting me know that us sharing our travel experiences with you is worthwhile; an experience like this one needs to be shared as it is being lived. Michele is still in amazement that it technically hasn't even been a week, but yet, we both feel as though we've accomplished so much with our time....and the best is yet to come.  Some of you have expressed envy, we're not going to make it any easier this coming week.

Today started like any other day in Thailand….that beautiful Thai smile and a "sawat di khrap" (pron. “sawadi hop”.  Plans for the day included the elephant training camp, a visit to the Padaung Long Neck Hill Tribe village, and capped off with some play time with the tigers.

Though we had mixed feelings of going to the elephant training camp considering what we had heard and read on their potential mistreatment, we opted it into our schedule.  We arrived at 10:30, bought our 12noon ride and headed over to the Padaung Long Neck Hill Tribe village; another one that gaves us reservations given this was a mere exploitation of their “freak of nature” appearances.  Entry to the village was 500 Baht per person, equivalent to about $15.  Besides the village is a small creek (for lack of a better term) that descends into a waterfall.  Upon crossing a small bridge we came across an elderly woman sweeping one of the falls (bewilderment !!!).  Immediately we were faced with a number of stables with vendors selling various wares, but primarily scarves and wooden goods.   The tough part is walking away from each vendor given their impoverished status.  Things didn't easier for Michele when the children were sent upon her….how could she say no to the these two little gems asking for 10 baht  (~ 3 cents) for their handmade bracelets?  I looked over our day’s budget and decided we would make adjustments throughout the day to compensate for this unfunded requirement (I’m thinking one less beer for Michele).

As we approached our next cross-over bridge, we were greeted with a little no older than 3 years old (see pictures/videos below) with a coil around her neck; a traditional culture for the Padaung Hill Tribe (  They are originally from Myanmar who fled and settled in northern Thailand.  Some of the packaged wares for sale stated that they were viewed by Thais as “aliens”.

I was very reluctant to start taking pictures of the individual vs. the cultural aspect of their village  (this from my time in other countries where many don’t want to be photographed at the expense of being topics of discussions  outside of their environment.  We made a few purchases which then opened up an opportunity to seek permission to take pictures with them.  We also realized that the cost of admission translated into an expectation that picture taking would be part of the exchange for getting customers into the village, a viable funding stream.  The process of adding rings (really a long spring like coil) is a life-long process (see the link for more information).

Once we left the village we headed back to the elephant camp where we began a 40 minute trek through the Thai jungle.  The guide’s method of controlling the mammoth was less than comfortable for us, but we were reassured that the elephant is not exposed to any significant pain.  The trek offered us a glimpse into the various vegetation in the forest/jungle.   By the way, the way into the jungle meant crossing a pretty wide river.   Half-way through the trek, we bought some sugar cane and fed our traveling companion during one of the picture breaks.  We made our way back to the camp and had a Thai buffet lunch for a whopping $6. Oh yeah, the 40 baht tip (~ $1.30) had him just about doing back-flips on the elephants head.

Our next destination was the Tiger Kingdom.  Well, seems like we hit a theme on this date...exploitation.  This time it was the tigers. These types of "hang with the tigers" attraction spots are usually charged with being cruel to the tigers by sedating them.  Tiger Kingdom (tough  not to write Tire Kingdom) claims that tigers are nocturnal and that they like to rest/sleep during the day and that if we wanted to see them in action to hang around for about 40-45 minutes; no sooner then we read this sign, the tigers were at play in the pool....certainly didn't look like sedated tigers to me.  

Michele opted for the small cats while I chose the larger ones.  The instructions are simple.  Don't come at them head on or they will think you want to play; we're not programmed to win that wrestling match.  Next, don't touch their matter what your husband tells you to do when he's on the other side of the fence (in his defense, he had not yet received the safety briefing).  By the way, the cost for this experience was $30 for the two of us.  Thanks for some of the initial feedback following Michele's posting on her Facebook.

Though the big 'market' day in Chiang Mai is Sunday evening, we hit up the Saturday Night Market as a means to close out our day.  All sorts of vendors with all sorts of wares.  Without boring details of the market since we'll most likely make the Sunday Market an entry tomorrow.

Looking forward to tomorrow....the Flight of the Gibbons.

Jean-Pierre/Michele   Mom/Dad

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