Regardless of our involuntary napping, our first stop was at Tiger Kingdom. What to do at Tiger Kingdom? Look at Tigers? Watch Tiger movies? Talk about Tiger Woods? No, no my good sir- we are going to PET THE TIGERS. As Carrie would later say, this was the coolest (and most awe-inspiring) thing we had ever done (until 2 days later, but you have to wait for that). There were an assortment of packages, but we went for the one that gave us 15 minutes each with tiger cubs and full grown (skipping lion cubs and medium tigers). We also paid 200 baht each ($1 = 33 baht) to have a professional photographer follow us. No need to get distracted by taking pics and ended up getting eaten! We started with the tiger cubs- it was hard for us to breath at first. There were 4 cubs in the cage- 3 were asleep and the other was called "the naughty one." He kept wrestling with the sleeping ones and biting there ears. Cute when Cody does it- but a bit scary when you remember this cute cat is a tiger! (Side note- the tigers are said to be not drugged (we never would have done it if we thought they were). They sleep all day, hunt at night, and these ones have always been raised by humans, so they are more docile)
After the babies, we went to see the 15-month old siblings. Champoo, Mikey, and Paula. The big tigers were actually less scary than the smaller ones. Tigers apparently sleep 18 hours a day- once they aren't cubs. Of course, the big ones remind you how fragile and small you really are. (author change) This was unbelievable! We walked into the cage with these three huge tigers (which were actually only half of their full-grown size) and was able to walk right up to Paula and start petting her. Of course you have to approach them from behind, as approaching them straight-on is a sign you want to play, which we didn't. We were able to pet all three of them as well as sit right next to them for pictures. It was fun too to see the handlers play with the tigers and basically try wrestling with them.
Quick environmental note: We were slightly unsure about Tiger Kingdom and worried that the tigers would somehow be drugged or mis-treated. However, upon arriving, we were greeted with a sign from an american who had spent some time at this place. In it, she explained that the tigers were not drugged (which we confirmed with several other people), but: 1) Tigers daytime vision is just as good as humans. They are really nocturnal animals which is when they see best. 2) They only hunt to eat. Here they are fed very well and 3) have no reason to expend the energy in the Thai heat, unless provoked. 4) They were raised here by humans since they were cubs, therefore, they are familiar and unthreatened. Plus, all of the tigers appeared very alert, well fed and we didn't see any signs of abuse which was a really nice thing.
After our time with the 15-months old, we walked around for a bit and saw the parents (2 times the size of the last tigers) as well as some lion cubs. All were adorable and we basically had to drag ourselves out of there.
Next stop is the monkey school where they teach the monkeys how to pick coconuts since they can climb the trees faster than humans and don't need to come down in between. I wasn't such a big fan of this place. We walked in and all the monkeys were attached to poles by short leashes. It was later explained to us that they have to do this so the monkeys don't jump at the visitors and that after 5 they are free to roam around a large caged-in area. Plus, they put on a show for visitors. Of course it was adorable to watch the monkeys ride bikes, make basketball shots and do math (seriously they did), but at one point, there were a group of children acting out (and of course their parents weren't doing a thing) and the monkey was getting noticeably upset. To the point that it started baring it's teeth at them and lunging for them. Of course Dave and i were routing for the monkey at this point (the children really were being obnoxious). After we got a chance to walk around and feed the monkeys. We also had the extreme pleasure of holding a one month old. It was the cutest thing ever and once we realized that it was a monkey and wouldn't fall and therefore we didn't need to hold it, it seemed very comfortable in our arms.
Next stop - Snake farm. WOW! Crazy stuff here. We walked in and immediately the handlers took a liking to Dave. They started following us around and when he wasn't paying attention, they would grab him behind the knee and scare the bejeezus (sp) out of him! It was fun though. I held a python. Yes, a real python and held my composure. After we walked around, they put on a show for us. First was the 2 King Cobras. This man was nuts. He would throw his knees at them so that they would attack and trust me they did, but never got him. After, they walked him around for us to pet. Of course when they got to Dave, they pretended to have the snake jump at him, once again, causing our heart rates to increase.
Next was the jumping snake. They made a big production of trying to get the snake out of the box and next thing you know, the snake goes flying into the air, straight at Dave. By this point, it was obvious they had some sort of vendetta against Dave. Luckily though it turned out to be a piece of green string.
Finally was the python and the man was nuts. threw the snake in the water and went in after him. Crazy!
After, we decided we had had enough of wildlife for the day and headed over to Silk Village. This is where we were recommended to in order to get real Thai Silk. However, no one mentioned the incredible prices! It was interesting though, we were able to see the life cycle of a silk worm (never realized that the worms had to die for our silk) and how the women hand string the silk on the looms. Very nice. We walked around for a bit and of course were able to buy some souvenirs, but not the nice comforter ($450) we were looking for.
Back to the hotel where we stopped at a nearby restaurant and ordered non-other than Pad Thai and Pad See Ew. DELISH once again!
We headed out into the old city then to walk around town and saw some gorgeous Wats. Check out the pics, but due to time, we won't go into each individually. Just beautiful though. Back to the hotel around 4 hours later and then off to dinner to at the night Bazaar where we split pineapple fried rice, Tom Ka Gai and Pad Thai. Delicious and wasn't scary to eat from these stalls at all. we then walked around the night bazaar and of course overloaded on souvenirs. Then we headed to a massage parlor for the best 1-hour foot massage for only 150Baht (around $5). We instantly fell in love with these. After the long night, we called it quits and headed home. Afterall, we were getting picked up at 7 am the next day for our tour to the Golden Triangle.
We woke up the next day at 5:30 and got ready and grabbed some muesli and granola with fruit down the street at a nearby breakfast place. We were picked up promptly at 7 and were stuffed into a nice AC minivan where Dave got his own seat and I was crammed in the back between a father and his daughter (why they couldn't move over so I didn't have to sit in between, I will never understand). Plus, did I mention that it was 7 am and there was already a strange odor coming from one of them? Oh well.
It was a slow start and we already had to make a bathroom break 5 minutes into the drive, but an hour later, we ended up at the Hot Springs outside of Chiang Rai (the old city). Normally, hot springs sounds like a nice relaxing place, but this one was so built up for tourists, with the water spitting out from pipes in the ground and women walking around selling eggs for you to hard-boil in the water, that all we could do was laugh.
Next stop was an hour more to the White Temple. This place was amazing! It is all white with mirrors in mosaic patterns all over it. It happened to be a gorgeous day, so the whole place sparkled. The artist has been working on it for years and hopes to have it done by 2070. Now, I don't know if I would call this man a genius or ask what drugs he was smoking, but they must have been some strong stuff. You start out walking over a bridge which crosses over hands coming out of the ground to symbolize hell. Then, you walk into the main hall which looks somewhat normal with the huge Buddha and the was statue of a monk sitting in the front, however, when you turn around, there is a huge mural on the wall with modern-day depictions, i.e. the twin towers being hit, superman, the matrix... Very strange. To top it off, I have officially found the world's nicest bathroom. It has a gold roof and most people who walk by it think it's a temple and stop by to pray. Very funny.
After about an hour, we headed back into the van for another hour drive to the Golden Triangle. This is the place where Thailand, Laos and Burma all meet. Since Dave and I had already been to Laos, we decided to fore go the boat-trip and just walk around. We were able to see a huge Buddha statue as well as walk up to the top of a summit for a great view of the three countries. Very cool being that close to all three. And wonderful views.
We got back in the car and drove to the actual border crossing into Burma (we weren't actually allowed to cross). Lots of begging children and people hawking cheap wares brought in from China. We took a picture at the northernmost point of Thailand and then hopped into the van to the Messai border for our buffet lunch. This wasn't that good, so I won't even go into details.
Next stop was 1 hour away to the tribal village. This is a place where people from 5 different tribes live together in one village. It's set up somewhat like a zoo for humans, however, after talking to our tour guide, she informed us that the people do this for several reasons, the major being that it brings in money for their family, is closer to free schooling from the government, and helps them in their quest to get Thai citizenship. Overall, it was very cool to see these people (the long-neck tribes were amazing). It's also very interesting to note that all of the cultural dress lies in that of the woman and you would never know a male tribal member by looking at him.
We headed back into the car for the 3 hour-smelly ride home. Oh well. All-in-all it was a really nice day and a very nice trip. It satisfied our curiousity about the Golden Triangle and was a relaxing, enjoyable day. We headed home and immediately left our hotel to grab dinner once again in the night market. This time we went to Ping Ping (a restaurant in the seafood stalls). Dave got Pad Thai and I got Pad Cha (seafood in a spicy sauce). Mine was really good, Daves was decent, but no worries, there will be many more Pad Thais to eat over the next few days. We decided to walk around and just look, no purchases. We came home with 5 bags.