Monday, January 14, 2013

Chiang Mai, Thailand Part 1


Came back from our Hanoi trip, unpacked, did laundry, packed and within a few days, we were off again. This time to another new place - Chiang Mai. Daddy signed up for the Chiang Mai Marathon 10 km race so the remaining 3 ladies of the house decided to be his cheerleaders. An excellent reason for another trip. We were blessed to get a great deal on Silkair - SGD$1300 for the four of us so we were all ready for another smooth ride. Minus the fact that we had already browsed through the in flight magazine umpteen times and watched the in flight entertainment repeat itself twice on the previous flight that we had to find new ways to entertain ourselves on the journey.

Weather was so cool in Hanoi (15-18 Degrees Celcius) so we were all ready for similar weather. However, we were greeted with warm sunshine upon touchdown that it felt as if we were back in the sunny Singapore island. Strange as my friends who just returned from Chiang Mai, just before we flew, recounted how cool the weather was. Definitely a sweater worthy trip. The amusing thing was I could hear the groans of fellow passagers, complaining about how they had packed so many warm clothings. Lesson? We can never outsmart the weather. Yet, in my heart, I was keeping my fingers crossed that the weather would turn cool...and stay that way.


Our hotel, De Chai The Colonial, was located near Thapae Gate where the Chiang Mai Marathon would be held so after checking in, our travellers' itch kicked in. We left the hotel almost immediately and started our exploration of the surroundings. We figured where the eateries and convenient stores were - important when travelling with kids, and read up on places we wanted to go.

We made a quick swing by Thapae Gate to collect the race-bib. The set-up was simple. Most of the tentages were not up yet, but the volunteers were helpful and the collection of the bib and T-shirt were quick. There was a lady selling cheap icecream and we got us a cone each.


After that, we re-fuelled at the Sailomjoy restaurant on Rachadamnoen Road and the tripadvisor reviews here describe it better than I can. We tried the well known Chiang Mai style noodle (Khao Soy), and had freshly sliced Thai mangoes, and the girls each had a fruit smoothie. We would be back to pack meals back to the hotel to eat on days we felt too tired to go out, usually choosing dishes you can't go wrong on, including noodle soups and various versions of the Phad Thai, as the portions were generous for the price you paid. Needless to say, the food was good.


We proceeded to do some street walking, which ended in dinner at yet another highly recommended Chiang Mai eatery named 'Art Cafe' situated near our hotel on Thapae Road. The restaurant is well known for its authentic Tex-Mex foods and we tried pastas and a wonderful burrito.


The next day, we decided to visit the famous Tiger Kingdom. We hired a tuk-tuk on the kids' request and off we went. Admission fees are based on the type of tigers you want to visit. We have very young children so we were only allowed to enter the cage with the youngest cubs (4 months). We did see older children of about 8-10 years of old in the cages holding the 8 month old cubs. The admission fee for the youngest cubs is the most expensive at 620THB per person. Admission fee for the bigger tigers is at 420THB per person. We signed an indemity form each and were ushered to the waiting area. A guide soon came by and brought us to the cages. There was a long list of instructions before we could enter the cage and I made sure these instructions were clearly explained to the kids. I needed to make sure everyone was safe.


Girls were afraid at first but after I started stroking the tiger cubs, they were more willing to come near. We were pretending to sleep on one when he suddenly growled and stood up. He was hungry. His trainer made his milk quickly and we had the opportunity to feed him using a milk bottle. Soon, other cubs started waking up and before we knew it, they were making a 'milk fight' right in front of our eyes. Once they were fed, they went back to sleep again. According to the trainers, they sleep a lot in the day so visitors are allowed only in the day.


We were able to look at the other older tigers from outside their cages. The 8 month old cubs (yes, they are still considered cubs but they are so big) saw the 2 children and started stalking them slowly. The girls stopped and looked at the two cubs staring at them. The girls were fascinated but suddenly, with no warning, the two cubs pounced at the girls, only to end up gripping onto the sides of the cage. The trainers explained that they recognize small creatures and their hunting instinct was aroused. Thank God that the cage held up. Parents, do watch your children when you visit this place. It is an interesting place indeed but it is important to be alert as well.


After an hour or so there, we headed off to the Monkey School which is a short 5 minutes drive away. It is a very run-down place, with a few monkeys strapped up. Baby monkeys were locked up in small cages and when we arrived, the staff quickly took out milk bottles and started feeding the baby monkeys, in a bid to attract the children.


The babies went frantic and grabbed the bottles eagerly. They were also very aggressive and I seriously wondered how much they were fed. We stayed for a short monkey performance show where we saw monkeys played basketball, picked out numbers that the spectators called out, plucked coconuts from the coconut tree, rode a tricycle and even took a quick swim at the pool, picking up money that the spectators threw in.


I couldn't say I enjoyed it thoroughly because of their working conditions. At the end of it, I felt as if my conscience was pricked. The notice board at the Monkey School did highlight that the monkeys were let loose at 5pm before being chained again the next day. I had my doubts but who am I to say anything? Afterall, I paid for the entertainment. Perhaps the only justification or excuse I can come up with is that my children are now aware of monkey's behaviors and I can explain to the them, the importance of respecting the animals and protecting our environment.

In the late afternoon, we headed to the local market where the rustic charms were displayed in full array.

Street stalls
Fried insects.
Deep fried fish, chicken heads, and dog... only the puppies as they're smaller and more tender. Needless to say, I did not try anything here.

After a long day, we spent the night just lazing around in the room, spending wonderful family bonding time, playing card games. And of course, the girls had a great time playing with each other, pretending to be baby tigers. 
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3 comments:

  1. hi, thank you for the great detail blog, may i know how you get the special deal with Silkair? currently it is about $1500, roughly how long before did you book?

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    1. We paid about $1,600 - $1,700 for all four of us. That was during Christmas period so it was a good deal. We got the tickets around March. Depending on when you wish to go and how many people are travelling, $1,500 can be a good deal too!

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