Sunday, April 17, 2011

Day 14 - In the jungle the mighty jungle....

We arrived in Chiang Mai today. Today as in 2am this morning. So bleary eyed after yet another long haul bus trip, we stumbled off the bus and were greeted by aggressive tuk-tuk drivers, who wanted to charge us stupid amounts of baht to take us to the city centre.  So Tom put the charm on and we somehow (in broken english and hand gestures) convinced some lovely locals to take a detour via the city to drop us off. Resisting the temptation of the 24hr maccas we were dropped outside of, we stumbled across a perfect guesthouse. For 250B (AU$8), we're staying in a double room with a fan, private bathroom (with hot water!) and even bedsheets, blankets and towels. At $4 each a night, this is pure luxury for us.

Before I continue I should point out that I'm writing this while receiving a foot massage (splashed out for 150B or AU$5), after 2 weeks on the road, hiking 13km, and spending 40 hours crammed in buses; maybe I deserve it? Holidays can be incredibly exhausting ;)

Note: If you're already so jealous that you're starting to hate me, perhaps stop reading now.

Today has been my favourite of the trip so far, let me explain why. I rolled out of bed at 10.30, enjoyed a hot shower for the first time in 2 weeks. Hot water how I missed thee! Shortly after Tom busted in and told me he'd hired a scooter for the day to explore the city. Let the adventures begin!

Being the animal lover I am, I warned Tom before we left that I would want to do anything and everything animal related along the way. So when Tom told me he'd heard about a tiger sanctuary where you can actually get into the cages and hug the tigers, well, to say I was enthusiastic would be an understatement.

With map in hand and a vague idea of where we were headed, we set off to the area of Mae Rim, where (for the right price) you can see snakes, elephants, tigers, monkeys, live insects, go paintballing, hire dirt buggies, bungy jump, shoot guns and gaze at orchids. Spoilt for choice, we first made our way to the Mae Sa Elephant Camp, where we saw some highly trained elephants do amazing tricks. They played soccer, basketball, even harmonicas. The elephants were also quite talented artists, and Tom even compared one to Monet.

Then it was time for the main event, it was time to roar! We scooted down to Tiger Kingdom and purchased our tickets to play with the tigers. After we'd turned the flash off on our cameras and left our valuables behind (apparently tigers are quite the sneaky thiefs - who knew?), we were briefly briefed on what not to do around the tigers in order to avoid being eaten. So it was with anticipation and some trepidation that I entered the tiger enclosure. The first tiger we met was named Jackie Chan, and was 17 months old.  As instructed I approached him from behind, and sat down next to him. The trainer showed me how I could scratch the tiger's belly, hold his tail, and even where I could lay my head on him. It was truly amazing. The trainer explained to us that the tigers were quite tame around people until their 2nd birthday, when they start getting their killer instinct.  Then it was Tom's turn with the tiger and my turn to be the photographer. We got some amazing shots, it's not every day you get to lie down with a tiger, scratch his belly and hear him purr.

After meeting two other tigers, a lion (and heard him roar!) and one cheeky baby tiger who very nearly escaped, it was time to head back.

If today was anything to go by, and perhaps it has set the standard for the rest of the week; I love Chiang Mai, maybe I'll never leave?

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