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Thursday, 16 June 2011

The Tigers, Elephants and Backpackers of Chiang Mai - Page 6

Written by Adam O'Hern
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Since we’re westerners, pretty soon we’re surrounded by Thai children who try to sell us flowers.  We switch games and I show off my connect-four skills until I am mercilessly beaten by one of the child flower peddlers who can’t be more than 10 years old.  My overconfidence costs me 40 baht (about $1.30) as I placed a wager with the flower peddler before the game.  As I pay him, he gives me a rose in return.

For some reason, the flower peddler has taken a shine to Dave and tries to get into every picture that Dave poses for when we walk up to the ringside where the fake fights are taking place.  Dave only manages to escape from the flower child when it’s time for our group to leave well after 2 a.m.

Tiger Boxing

By the time I wake up, most of the group from my first day in Chiang Mai has headed off to the nearby town of Pai or the nearby country of Laos.  In addition, today Dave is headed back to Bangkok on the 7 p.m. train, and Siena is leaving tomorrow morning.  Even though I’ve only known these people for a few days, the feeling I have is the same as when a longtime friend moves to the other side of the country.
 
We’re determined to make the most of our time together in Chiang Mai however, so Dave, Siena, Kelly and I head out into the streets of Chiang Mai not really knowing how to get to the Tiger Kingdom. As we enter the main street around our guesthouse, the first Thai man we encounter tells us that he is a taxi driver and offers to take us to Tiger Kingdom for 120 baht per person.  We manage to get the price down to 40 baht per person and pile into the back of his taxi, which is an old, white Jeep Grand Cherokee with no air conditioning. 

As we head down the bumpy road to the Tiger Kingdom, we speculate about whether they drug the tigers and come up with various theories about why or why not the trainers would think it’s a good idea to drug the tigers.

Lazy TigerWhen we arrive at the Tiger Kingdom, we purchase a ticket to interact with the smallest tigers they have as well as the largest ones.  As we enter the smallest tigers’ enclosure, I think that there might be a good chance that the tigers are drugged since all of them seem to be laying in the shade and not doing much of anything. 

Each tiger has his or her own individual trainer, whose job seems to consist of shaking a bamboo branch for the tigers to play with while tourists pet them.  Even though these are not the big tigers, the smallest tiger in the enclosure is easily bigger than most dogs and has paws the size of small frying pan. 

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As I lean down to pet one of the tigers, she looks at me and then rolls on her back so I can rub her stomach like a dog.  As we pet the tigers we chat with one of the trainers who it turns out is a volunteer from New Zealand.  He tells us that this is his second day.  When broach the subject of the possibility of the tigers being drugged he tells us something that should have been obvious.



(Page 6 of 7)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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