We are up in the northern part of the country, in Chiang Mai which is known as the second capital of Thailand. Arrived early afternoon on the 7th January, again got ourselves sorted and went for a walk around to get our bearings. We instantly fell in love with the place and quickly compared it to Bangkok, just calmer. Bangkok without steroids.
Chiang Mai is separated into new city and old city. Most of the touristy things to do are in the old city which is enclosed within old derelict walls (like York, if anyone has been) which is a big square, in which all the traffic flows around in a one way system.
We got stuck straight in, and our first full day there we went to Tiger Kingdom. Here you can go into an enclosure and spend 15 minutes with a tiger. There a lot of places like this is Thailand and we have heard that the tigers are chained or drugged, or both and it is not a pleasant experience, but this one isn’t like that. The tigers are just well trained. When we walked in, we were shown the packages you could pick, there were the smallest, small, medium and large tigers. You could pick one, or all 4. We went for the smallest (4-6 months old) going on the theory that they would be playful and more fun than the bigger cats that generally lie there… and they are less scary! We made the right choice, we went into the enclosure and there were 5 cubs being fed, playing, sleeping. We were shown to one which had just been fed, hence quite sleepy and were able to sit with it, stroke it and tickle its tummy. Then a particularly excited cub felt like playing with our one and they began to play fight right in front of us. Very sweet and very exciting. Unfortunately the keepers felt they were getting too playful (can cubs be too playful, surely its their nature?) and separated the two of them so the excitable cub wouldn’t excite our more sleepy cub. However, the excitable cub didn’t agree and kept coming back and became more interested in us and our feet. I was lucky enough to get my toes licked and Adams ankle got a nibble. We got told off, but not the cubs, as we tried to play back. The keeper asked us to move as we were antagonising the cubs, and making them more excited (again, isn’t that what they do best? And isn’t that why we went in with the cubs in the first place?)
After our time had finished with the cubs we had a walk about to see the other enclosures and the other people going in with the bigger cats. In seeing these we definitely made the right choice, the bigger cats were laying around more and more intimidating. Some of the small-medium cats were also play fighting with each other, which was re-assuring to see that they weren’t forced to lie down all day and mainly only when they were tired! Which was also scary in a way. We also found the newborn area where you could see all the real littleys in their ‘creche’ sleeping away. Very sweet.
If anyone wants to do this, i recommend this particular place in Chiang Mai, as the animals are treated well without drugs or chains. A truly fun lighthearted morning.