North Thailand

After crossing the border into Chiang Khong we started to work our way down to Bangkok where we would catch our flight to Singapore. I was in Thailand for a few days last year and visiting the more 'cultural' North was something I had been anticipating.


In Chiang Mai we visited the Maesa Elephant Camp. I would cautiously say that I enjoyed the experience, the elephants are well looked after and are inherently playful animals. We went for a ride through the jungle and then watched as they skilfully showed off their painting, football and dart skills. While I wasn't completely comfortable with everything that went on, I think the camp is putatively better than the alternative; Which can either be more severe captivity (such as circus work) or into the wild (where insufficient protection exists to insure their safety). After spending the morning with the Elephants we visited the nearby Tiger Kingdom.


If the Elephants were borderline, Tiger Kingdom sprinted past the lines of acceptability. It is hard to write this and not appear particularly moralistic but I think, on some things, the issue of right or wrong can be fairly clear. Tiger Kingdom is a business where people pay money to take photos with the animals. The smaller the tiger the more you pay. People are able to get near to the Tigers as they have been heavily drugged which leaves them lying lifeless on the floor. The owners try several tricks in order to try and get the the tiger to lift their head off the ground, they do this so the tourists can get a photo which creates the allusion of the tiger actually being in a normal state. The tourists, when prompted by the owners and sadly also by their own initiative, take advantage and do various things which humiliate and degrade the prone tiger. These include pretending to bite the tail and by straddling the animals back. While others from our party went in, we looked into the cages from the café on the side. We were there for a couple of minutes before deciding to wait in the car park instead.


The View
It's not one of the things I will have fond memories of. I hate feeling powerless to stop something such as this. They are amazing animals and have had their dignity stripped away from them. As Thailand is one of the most popular destinations for my peers, the least I can do is raise a bit of awahness.


As is our wont, we visited several different wats and palaces during our time in the country. The White Temple or Wat Rung Khon was unique to anything we had seen before. It was pristine white and dotted with crystals and glass. The most quirky aspect was the wall of hell which I briefly mentioned last time; It had a fat, happy buddha at one end and a wall of hell (featuring anything remotely western) at the other. Its message is that through consumption of our converse shoes and superhero movies we become corrupted and are therefore unable to reach 'enlightenment'. I guess the monk we found conversing on his iPhone 4s is treating it as a work in progress. Other tourist check points included the Grand Palace and the worlds largest recling buddha at Wat Pho (he was huge). 


Moving past the everyday pad thai we experienced two extremes of the food scale during our time in Thailand. We had a representation of both its cultures, the traditional meal of roasted insects and a glowing tribute to the western world with its fast food on steroids. Two highlights from the latter were the double big mac from Mcdonalds and then the triple outlaw from Burger King. The double was literally two big macs one on top of the other, the outlaw was a triple whopper with onion rings and bacon squeezed in between. Needless to say, both were incredible. The insects, however, were foul and were only consumed on the basis that it was a 'cultural meal' and therefore it had to be done. Joe distinguished himself during the ordeal as we each worked our way through seven different weird and wonderful insects. The grasshopper was the final straw for me but Joe nobly went on and finished the brutal cockroach. 


Words:
Wont - An established custom
Putative – Generally considered to be