Quote #1: “Get down closer to the tiger and spoon him!”
Quote #2: “Come up front for a selfie with the King Cobra!”
Quote #4: “Just do it Mom. It’s soft like a dolphin and you love dolphins.” Kyan
Me “Yes, but snakes are so not dolphins!!!”
Let me break down this Chiang Mai, Thailand, animal extravaganza for you. Note: After every quote thrown my way, my face did a scrunched eyebrow, flamed nostril, eye popping HUH?!? Then I immediately shook my head with a laugh and went into the adventure 100%. Chiang Mai is a junglesque haven where anything is possible . A wonderland if you will.
We knew for this stop on our 3 week SE Asia trip, that spending time with wild animals would be on the agenda, but we were blown away with how many we would see all up close and personal. Starting with the wee ones, was a cheap and easy way to go as fishy pedicure tanks are on every corner near most hotels. Paying 40 Baht, about $1 US dollar, for 15 minutes of serious giggle time and a Fanta for the kids and a chance to sit down and drink a beer for Mom and Dad, is a win win any way you look at it. Not to mention, those little suckers really do leave your feet feeling smooth and clear of any dead summer skin. It’s a crazy weird experience and one we came back for everyday while in Thailand. The kids were begging to visit the fish. For $1, how could we say no.
Now, get ready to say awwwwww and add this place to your travel bucket list …..
Tiger Kingdom. This place has tourists number, but darn, it’s a MUST if in Chiang Mai. Don’t even think twice about skipping this place. Splurge and hire the photog to take your photos too, you are worth it. Rarely do I have someone else take photos for us, but it was the BEST MONEY WE COULD HAVE SPENT. A private photoshoot with a real live tiger…um, ok! And that baby cub was about the cutest thing I have ever seen plopping all about. After peeling the kids away from the newborn cub, we headed over to the parents and whoa…
This guy is the largest at the Kingdom and happened to be the only one snoozing during our photoshoot. His paw was bigger than my face and I’m sure in the wild he could have me devoured in 2.5 seconds. Trusting that it is A-ok to just walk on in a large caged area with about 10 active tigers is unnerving to say the least. I clutched my husbands arm for a good 30 seconds to scope the scene, heard no screams and figured it was all probably ok. Thankfully these animals are not drugged or harmed, (even though that’s the first thought that goes through your head) ,they have all been raised here since birth and being around people is all they have ever known. My heart raced during our 30 minutes of cage time. In no time I was curled up petting these large cats and it was as normal as loving on your family dog. CRAZY! If you are visiting Tiger Kingdom, I would highly suggest paying to see the newborn cub and the Big cats. The size, experience and wow factor of these 2 sizes will make your visit most memorable. The middle sized ones… you are not missing anything there. If you are traveling with kids, they are only allowed in with the newborn cubs for safety reasons. Wish we would have known that prior to arriving, because my kids were a little bummed when we got there that they could go in with the bigger tigers. Eh, now you know.
Once we got our tiger fill, our happy songthaew driver was ready to continue a day of touring. All kinds of touristy hot spots are within 5 minutes of Tiger Kingdom and he has a laminated card to show you too. Bungee jumping, Atv riding, monkeys, alligators, you name it. “Snakes…please take us to the snake show yells my son.” My daughter and I know there is no getting out of this one, so off to the King Cobra Snake show we go.
Much to my surprise, my 200 baht ticket bought quite an hour of entertainment. There was a 30 minute show with all kinds of snakes and tricks and the snake charmers, as I like to call them, were hilarious. It put a priceless permigrin on son and husbands face for the rest of the day. Admittedly, this was unexpected as I was instantly skeptical of the place when we pulled up and there was a huge Rambo poster out front. When the show ended, you were able to walk around the grounds of the little farm, hold snakes and see all kinds of crazy bugs and animals.
Again, up close and personal, which was way to much for my hysterical daughter who is now out at the front gate all sweaty and in tears screaming “Can we go already?!?” She is 10. It was awesome.
Then this magical day happened….
When you look into the eye of an elephant, he touches something deep in your soul. Spending the day with elephants at Ran-Tong Elephant Rescue Centre was just beyond. We rode bareback through the lush countryside and with each step our sweet little guy took, I was in awe. Was this really happening at this very moment? I repeatedly thought this to myself with a euphoric smile on my face throughout the entire day. I wanted to take it all in and not forget a second if it. There was a photographer included in our day package who took all the photos, so you were to just be and enjoy the experience. Was I wanting to snap shots? Of course, but there was a bliss to not have that to think about. Then we arrived at this pond to bathe the elephants and my goodness was this a water frolicking fest.
Elephants are rolling, water is spraying via multiple trunks, everyones laughing…it’s storybook good. Then sopping wet you hop aboard your elephant and head up for a traditional thai lunch. Along the way, you get all rubbed against the sides of red dust mountain sides and sprayed with red dust from the trunks. Being clean was so 20 minutes ago and they know treats await them at the top of the hill so they are on a mission. It’s a rush. Excitement is a universal language.
*There are many elephant places to choose from and it was very important to go with one that is wonderful to their animals. Ran-tong is outstanding, but if they are booked Baan Chang is another great one. Be sure to advance book as these fill up quickly, even in the off season.
Animals are such beautiful creatures and the time we spent with these guys in Chiang Mai are ones we will forever treasure. Thailand offers wild and crazy, once in a lifetime experiences with animals, but rest assured , no animals were harmed in the making of this vacation. One can only hope this is true all the days of their sweet lives.