A day in Chiang MY Part 2: CHIANG MAI ZOO
(for you animal lovers…)
Today started like many before it: I slept till 11, went across the street for amazing veg. food (at one of my favorite FIVE veggie spots that I know about so far) including hill tribe coffee and a vegan cinnamon bun (by Joel’s suggestion & request for me to bring him as many as I can carry to Bangkok COD) which was divine. Then I biked around town, somewhat aimlessly, towards another town some 20km NW of town called Doi Suthep. It’s SO FUN to have a bike wherever I go, as I can explore far, wide, and throughly. Not only am I getting to know my way around this city pretty well by now, which actually is an accomplishment given there are hundreds of tiny winding streets as old as Thailand itself, but I can leave town and get into other uncharted neighborhoods. No plans, no playing tourist at the mercy of the Lonely Planet and tuk-tuk drivers, no money necessary. Anyway, I met a cyclist just outside the Zoo 5km beyond town and he told me he was headed to Doi Suthep too, 15km uphill from here. So I ducked into the Zoo. (Sure, it could have been nice to have a 15km ride down back into town, but I had better things to do with my precious daylight hours today!)
The Zoo was cool. I love animals, and I enjoy visiting zoos far and wide, controversial as it may be. I’m always just happy to see these precious creatures at all, watching, talking, and laughing with them, while getting to check-out their digs. I think you can learn a lot about people, as a culture, by how they treat their animals. The Chiang Mai zoo was impressive. More like a huge sprawling nature park with bits of Zoo interspersed. (Many of the signed attractions were 1-2km in-between, but there were trams and a monorail for a small price.) It felt like a cross between Central Park and the Botanical Gardens. It was also tastefully designed and decorated to accentuate the natural landscape, with flowers, winding paths, and sculpted elements ala Disney (again!), like fake giant trees to play and check out the views in, or arches that looked like wood but were adorned cool animal formations throughout.
The exhibits themselves were hit or miss. Many of the extravagant animal homes were unoccupied, while others had a modest number of inhabitants (which was surprising and nice in contrast to always seeing zoo animals so packed-in.) There were roughly 10 penguins, 8 mountain sheep, 6 spotted deer, 4 koalas, 3 hippos and giraffes, 2 Asiatic black bears, and a partridge in a pear tree. Another modest thing was that admission was a mere 100 baht ($3), and parking 1 baht (3 cents) for bikes. (50 for cars, suckers!) Some special exhibits cost extra… for example I paid another 100 baht to see Giant Pandas, but consistent with their theme of modest extravagance, there was only 1 small family of pandas living in the Snow Dome, of which I saw the dad (well, his butt actually, with his head in a hole). The mom and her new baby “Lin Ping” are only on display for one hour in the morning each day, but there was a panda cam in their absence (still cute, but ridiculous to pay extra for.)
One funny surprise was the Jungle Shooting Range on one end of the park, where you could tote actual handguns and large firearms, shooting at who-knows-what. (wth?) All in all it was good fun, a nice place to relax and take a long walk… haha I was following the signs to the Koalas (remember I said some things were kilometers away) when a lady walking behind me said to her girlfriends “It’s like that short walk in the refugee camp.” I was muffling my laughter for a while.