Sunday, 12 July 2015

The Tiger Kingdom, Chiang Mai

Another contentious post today I am afraid.

During our stay in Chiang Mai Joe and I decided to visit the Tiger Kingdom. We spent a lot of time prior to our visit deciding weather or not we wanted to give money to this kind of establishment; it is by no means an exercise in conservation, and makes no claim to be.

The Tigers here are raised by hand in captivity, so are brought up with humans, and trained to be docile.

There has been much debate online as to the humanity of this kind of place, but as far as I can tell, the evidence of mistreatment and drugging pertains to the Tiger Temple near Bangkok, and whilst the Tiger Kingdom is by no means a PETA approved attraction, no one seems to have been able to provide any evidence that the tigers there are mistreated.

The pull of baby tigers was too strong, and we decided to go for it.

Having breakfasted on 7eleven snacks (saving our pennies), we took a songthew from the center of town out to the Tiger Kingdom- about half an hour from memory, but time flies when your enjoying exotic views of Thailand!

We struggled before we went to find any information about prices for the kingdom (everything we read just explained that you pay based on the number of tigers that you wanna see - yes, we knew that!) So, for those that are wondering, we paid 1260 bhat (!!) to play with the babies, the 'small' tigers, and the biggest.

The babies absolutely adored Joe - as all animals seem to - we think its because they like that he doesn't try and smush them like I do..

Either way, those guys loved him, and I was sad.. :(

Apparently this guy was classed as 'small'.

I can promise you he did not seem small from where I was sitting..!

Whilst many of the tigers we saw that day were enjoying a nap in the midday heat, those that were awake seemed very with it (and not at all drugged). That guy on the left up there had an absolute ball chasing a big stick - very reminiscent of out little house cat, and the stick she used to chase.. but ya know, a tiger rather than a kitten.. same same. 

 Somehow between visiting the 'small' and the biggest tigers, I managed to fall over -whilst standing completely still- and graze both my knees! But I put on a brave face - I didn't want the tigers to smell my fear and attack. Or is that sharks..

The Tiger Kingdom was the last (I think) of our controversial adventures, and whilst I wouldn't recommend going without doing your own research first, I can say with confidence that we enjoyed our experience, and would probably make the same decision to go if faced with it again.

yay for baby tigers!! 🐯 🐆 🐾

Much Love,

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Woodys Elephant Camp, Chiang Mai

The day after Doi Suthep, Joe and I decided to splash out on a day of Mahout training!! *

We went to Woodys Elephant Camp, and the day included some basic mahout training, elephant riding, feeding, washing, and ended with a swim (with the elephant's).

I know a trip like this can be a contentious issue; it was actually an inability to adequately talk about this very experience that contributed to the fact that I stopped blogging.**

Thankfully I am pleased to be able to say that for the most part we had a very positive experience at Woodys, and felt that the elephant's were treated with care and respect by their trainers. We were very anxious that we would see unhappy, exploited animals, but thankfully we did not find this to be the case at Woodys.

The day started with a lesson on the history of elephant-human relations in the area; the elephants were originally engaged in the logging industry, but when that became more mechanised the elephants found themselves forced to fend for themselves. There were also, the Mahout said, conflicts between the elephants and locals, as the elephants roamed free across the lands, destroying everything in their path; homes, crops, livelihoods.

The Mahout explained the tools used to control the elephants. To this day I sill haven't worked out how I feel about them. On the one hand, quite obviously, they look cruel, and unnecessary. On the other hand, an elephant is a huge, thick skinned animal, with a mind of its own, and having been on the other side of a cow that didn't want to go in the direction we wanted it too, I can appreciate that you might want to be armed with something a little more than a stick.

And of course, who am I to come over and force my western ideals on them, life is different out there, and they live by a different set of rules than we do..

I think my upbringing on the farm has given me a different perspective on the world to many of my contemporaries.. (I'm not saying this is necessarily a good thing, I'm jus sayin. That's pretty much all this post is. A recap of our day, sandwiched in among some conclusionless moral wanderings...)

We were then taught the basic vocabulary needed to train(?) an elephant -HOW = stop, BYEE = forward, BOW = slow-  and were introduced to our newest friends.


We began slow, feeling the elephants bananas/generally trying to avoid being slobbered on (for those of you who have experience of cows, I can safely say that elephants are much much much more slobbery! Hence the suuuper sexy elephant clothes!). We then practiced getting on and off the elephant - no mean feat when you're as vertically challenged as I am! Finally we headed off into the mountains, the elephants stopping to graze at every opportunity!

 elephant watching 

The day ended with a quick wash - of  the elephants, not us! At which point our elephant decided he much preferred Joe to me, and abandoned me standing alone, waist deep in a pool of mucky water, whilst everyone else was carried out of the pond by their elephants!

We just had time for a swim with the elephants, before a very basic shower, and the mini bus back to the city.

It was a strange, conflicting, surreal day, but whatever I might read or think about the elephant tourism in Asia, nothing will ever take away the feel of meeting and getting to know -however briefly- a real life, huge, grey elephant. If I would have told my seven year old self that one day I would do that, I would think I was totally mad.

Much Love,

*elephant trainer training 

** That and that fact that blogging on a tablet is a total faff!

Friday, 21 November 2014

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai

Having left the ruins at Sukhothai, we headed north, to the ever popular town of Chiang Mai.

Admittedly our first few days in the city were spent relaxing, and getting over the hangover I sustained on our first night (boy was I hit hard!), but after a while we got off our arses and went out in search of some culture!

High in the hills above Chiang Mai, Wat Phra That is probably one of my favourite temples so far, which is fortunate because it is a little challenging to get to!

We had read that we could take a public songthaew  (a bit like a bus) to the temple for 50bhat, but the internet seemed a little unsure as to where we should get the songthaew from..

For anyone reading this because they actually want to go there, leave the old city by the Chuang Puak gate, cross the road at the Zebra crossing to your left, and there should be a row of Songthaews infront of you - outside the 7eleven. 

You will have to wait untill there are 10 people so its not the fastest way to travel, (and our driver got bored, so said he would take the seven of us that were waiting for 100bhat each, meaning we probably didn't even save that much money, but it was worth a try..)

Once we had managed to find our Songthaew, we then actually had to make the journey!! A half and hour ride on some of the windiest roads I have ever had the misfortune to experience!! And then, once you finally reach the drop off point, you have 304 stairs to contend with before you can enter the temple complex.

Thankfully this place was very much worth it!

Constructed in 1383, on the whims of a wandering elephant*, this temple could not be further from the red bricked ruins of central Thailand.

Everywhere you look there is colour and vibrant stencil work, and gold. I've never seen so much gold. And all of it framed against the bluest sky we'd seen since we got to Thailand.

I know I use the word awesome way way too much, but this place really really was. It took my breath away.

The complex was smaller than some that we saw in Bangkok, but it was filled nonetheless with a huge numbers of shrines, chedis, viharns (prayer halls), bells, and Buddha statues. And flowers; eveywhere you turned there were flowers blossoming in an array of colours.

This temple does also provide excellent views over the city. But sadly on the day of our visit, the city was shrouded in smog, so we were a little underwhelmed . I have heard though that its a pretty spectacular place to watch the sun set. :)

The view 😞

Somg asside, Wat Phra That was spectacular, and I would highly reccomend it to anyone who is spending any time in Chiang Mai.

Much Love,

*In 1368, a piece of the Buddha's shoulderbone, which had been discovered by a monk from Sukhothai, and promised to King Nu Naone, of the Lanna Kingdom (northern thailamd) arived in Chiang Mai.

In Sukhothai the bone had displayed no magical properties, so the people didn't really want it, but on its arrival in the North, it supposedly split into two parts, perfectly replicating itself. The King then commanded one bone to be preserved at Suandok, and the other was placed onto the back of an white elephant, who was freed to rome the mountains as he pleased.

Local legend states that he climbed to the top of Doi Sutep, trumpteded three times, and died. Which the local people took to be a sign of relegious importance, and so Wat Phra That was began, with a huge golden chedi at its center to hold the bone of the Buddha.

Since then, the complex has been expanded and rebuilt many times to create the temple we recognise today, and eventually in the 1930's the various local villages came together to construct a road. Each village was expected to lay their own 1,300 foot section of road, which perhaps explains the poorly planned, wiggly journey..

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Our Time in Sukhothai

Whilst in Sukhothai, we stayed in the New Town, as we found that the selection of hotels and restaurants better than at the Historical Park.

Plotting the days adventures

We stayed at the TR Guesthouse, which was clean, and cheap, but not really anything to write home about (we never did find those bungalows they are named after..).

We weren't especially adventurous whilst in the town, as sadly Joe had come down with a cold, but we enjoyed several breakfasts and some dinner at Pai restaurant, and we loved loved loved the atmosphere at Chopper Bar for drinks.


Well deserved post adventure cocktails 

In terms of getting around the city, the bus station is a little out of town, but it is easy to take a tuk tuk into the center, and there is a Songthaew stop (their equivalent of a public bus) just beyond the 7eleven (if you're walking from the direction of the guesthouse), which charges 30 bhat per person to get to the historical park.

Scenes from the Songthaew 

Much Love,