01.02.2012 - 03.02.2012 29 °C
I left Luang Prabang by flight ( haha Pete !) LP is the smallest airport I have ever seen, literally a wooden check in desk and room with plastic chairs but it does the job efficiently and my 1 hour flight back to Chaing Mai was very pleasant on a very small but modernish aircraft. I'd pre-booked accomodation a little bit out of the old city, this time in a boutique hotel with a pool hoping I would have some chill out time in the sun but the weather was against me again and it was overcast and wet for most of the time. Boutique hotel sounds very flash and it is if you paid to stay in the luxury traditional Thai style section but me , nope I was in the backpacker lodge attached but it was clean and we had a better view of the luxury wing than they did of our concrete block !
So, no sun meant plan B, visit Tiger Kingdom which is about 30 mins tuk tuk ride away from Chaing Mai. So I wandered onto the road to find one just as the heavens opened again. Luckily a tuk tuk appeared out of nowhere in seconds which they normally do but this one looked like it was held together with bits of string and broken umbrella's and was being driven by a very old man who spoke no english so bartering a price was interesting with a show of fingers etc and he gestered for me to get onbaord. We were overtaken by people walking so I was beginning to wonder just how long it would take to get to see the tiger's but a little further into town my driver stopped and spoke to a local who spoke english and asked me where I wanted to go so I quickly said 'oh night market please' which I was very close too by this point and hopped off to find a more stable vehicle. I tried to pay the old man and he wouldn't take any money so I forced him to take 30 baht, he nearly kissed my feet and I realised he wasn't really a taxi tuk tuk but just a nice man who'd stopped and given me a lift because it was raining. Thai people are so lovely :-)
Tiger Kingdom was so much better than I thought it would be, I got to spend about 15 minutes playing with babies less than 3 months old and then with their Mummy's and Daddy's. The babies were in a playful mood and the handlers shake a plastic bottle full of beans around like a rattle and they jump up trying to get it. I got nibbled a few times as they ran around me and very luckily they looked at the camera for about 2 seconds so I got some photo's.
The grown up tigers aren't playful. They were quite moody, I would be too if I had to pose with tourists every day for a living. You can't help but feel nervous in their company, they do what they want to do when they want to do it and regularly have a little roar and show their teeth. I think there were 5 in the enclosure I was in so all the time I was looking over my shoulder to see where they were and the handlers repeatedly tell you to move away if you are too close or too near the head but they do encourage you to pull a tail or stroke the backs whenever possible. At one point a tiger jumped up onto a table to eat some leaves and the handler said quick , quick lay on top of him but I was a chicken and declined plus it was raining and the fur was wet and smelly, good excuse I thought. They are amazing creatures to watch and be around and I do feel very lucky to have been able to experience being in such close proximity to them.
That night I visited the night market for the first time, a girl does need a shopping fix now and again ! It's a big market and sells a bigger variety of items than I'd seen previously, some nice jewellery stalls and different types of bags etc and it had a nice atmosphere walking around it. It started to spit with rain again so I grabbed a starbucks take away and a tuk tuk and headed back to the hotel for shelter. Good call as it poured again with rain for the rest of the night.
The following morning it was time to head off to Langkawi via KL so I arranged a taxi and again haggled on the price. I thought I had got a good deal until he then picked up some Malaysian guys from the other side of Chaing Mai and charged them the same as me so well done Mr Taxi driver double pay for a trip. The haggling is something I won't miss, I can't tell you the number of times I've overpaid during my time in Thailand and I thought I was a good haggler ! The Malaysian guys were lovely though and were sooooo excited I was heading to Langkawi and gave me lots of suggestions of places to see. One of them is a hairdresser who works next to the hotel I've booked in KL and has offered to sort my tangled mess out for me so that's something to look forward too !
Good bye Thailand, I'll be back one day :-)