Chiang Mai Adventure 1: Elephant Trekking and Big Cats

Lach + a Sleepy Tiger

This Tiger's name is "Meatball". Looks like he's had a few.

This is not a travel blog! Just thought I would make that clear from the outset in case the next couple of posts leave you in any doubt. It’s not about far off exotic locations per se. But it is about adventures. And currently my adventure playground of choice is Thailand.

The adventures I will be writing most about concern smashing through the fears on my Awesome List. There’s a couple of Awesome List updates coming up very soon (see below), but in the meantime I thought I would regale you with a few adventures from earlier in the year. These are slightly out of date (since I didn’t have a blog in January), but they make a nice prelude for what’s coming up this weekend.

Elephant Trekking

Not as comfy as it appears

If you’re a budding adventurer, visiting Thailand for the first time, you’ve probably got Elephant rides somewhere on your to-do list.

It’s one of those things that everybody should do once in their life… But once is probably enough. Elephant back is really the worst form of transport that has ever been conceived of (superseded only recently by the intolerable Loastian Tuk Tuk).

It’s slow, bumpy, extremely uncomfortable; and takes constant concentration to keep you from toppling out of the carriage.

If that sounds appealing to you, get on down to the Maesa Elephant Camp near Chiang Mai where you can enjoy one of the most precarious elephant back sojourns available in South East Asia.

Admittedly, this particular trek is mildly thrilling. The great beasts carry you up and over a mountain along a narrow trail which has been hastily dug out of the hillside.

While I’m sure Elephants (or Chang, as the Thais call them) are very sure-footed creatures, when you’re perched on top of one of these 10 foot giants as it meanders its way up a steep hillside, you can’t help but feel a little bit vulnerable.

The pass seems rather narrower than the animal’s great span and you hope a wrong step doesn’t send you careering over the edge. The scariest part is when Dumbo leans over the precipice to munch on some tasty leaves, tiling the cabin and its helpless inhabitants forward as they struggle to stay fixed to their seats.

The Elephant master, unfazed, eventually manages to cajole our hungry Sherpa back from the ledge and we all breath a sigh of relief.

Okay. Despite my winging, Elephant Trekking is a pretty neat way to spend a morning, if you’ve never done it before. I prefer to skip the stupid-pet-trick shows that they often have at these places. Unfortunately you usually have to pay for them anyway.

But what’s even better than riding an Elephant is bathing in the river with one. However, those pictures will have to wait for a future update.

Tiger Kingdom

Another adventure that is available in Chiang Mai is getting up close and personal with Tigers.

Warning sign at the Tiger Kingdom

Don't say we didn't warn you

Despite the ominous warnings, the truth is this is really not very scary. The cats are well tame and well fed. Sadly, in fact, the whole thing feels a bit artificial.

It’s a pretty slick operation they’re running at the Tiger Kingdom: You choose your package, pay your money, then you go and wait your turn for a photo-op with the feline celebs.

You know that scene in in Notting Hill where where William is pretending to be a reporter from Horse and Hound magazine so he can get a second chance to talk to Anna, while her publicists are busily trafficking the press in and out? It’s a little bit like that.

Except instead of Julia Roberts, it’s a great, man-eating cat that you get to spend 10 minutes with… And they’re not very talkative… And there are no magic moments filled with Grant’s patented brand of charmingly-awkward-yet-endearing romantic comedy. Other then that, very similar.

The most dangerous part of the day was probably the taxi ride to the hotel.

Awesome List Update

Enough talk!

I’m returning to Chiang Mai tomorrow to face my fear of plummeting from a 50 metre high platform: Bungee Jumping at the X-Centre. I was just reading up on it and starting to feel the nerves kicking in. Wish me luck!

How to be an Adventurer

If you haven’t had your daily fill of adventures yet, get on over to Jodi Sagorin’s wonderful blog. She wrote the book on adventuring—and it’s coming out on Friday!

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