December 29, 2012. Saturday. 6:30AM. Probably, I was one of the earliest “birds” who left A Little Bird Guesthouse in this narrow alley in downtown Chiang Mai. My gameplan for the weekend? Nada! Nothing much except to see pandas in Chiang Mai Zoo. And since I didn’t set a concrete plan, neither did extensive research prior to this solo backpacking trip, I was happy at the end of the day where my foot took me. These are the things I saw, the food I tasted, the scents I smelled, the scenes I experienced and a few lessons relearned that day.
Few steps away from the guesthouse, I found myself standing in Tha Phae Road again. I saw monks carrying bowls for their most humble daily routine. Regardless of religion, humility still rocks in any part of the globe.
Handsome orchids in the streets. Penalty for picking : 2,000 baht. I didn’t know if that fine is per flower or worse, per petal. What I know of, laws are implemented properly in this Northern part of Thailand. Obviously, it’s not as urbanized to other Asian cities I’ve been to–Singapore or Tokyo but just the same, local people and tourists are as impressive for being law-abiding.
Tha Phae Gate. I’m back at Tha Phae Gate again; the main landmark in the middle of the road of downtown Chiang Mai. I strolled and crossed the street and looked for something to warm my tummy.
Starbucks Coffee. I know, it’s not Thai but I failed to resist the lure of grande cup of Christmas blend, Toffee Nut! It really perked me up; my morning started right, thus the entire day turned out to be one of the grandest!
Around 7:30AM, I walked towards Tha Phae Gate again, crossed the road to hail a songthaew, or a red taxi cab to take me to the zoo.
This park at the middle of the road is alcohol-free. The lateral streets aren’t. At least they have controlled areas while in other countries -hmmm, nevermind!
Inside the iconic, Songthaew (literally, “two rows”). Of all the red taxi cabs or songthaew, I was fortunate and happy to find this one on the road that morning! Other than the fact that the driver instantly agreed to take me exclusively with no other passengers to Chiang Mai Zoo from Tha Phae Gate for only 60 baht (6 ringgit or US$ 2), I felt ultimately safe inside and did not entertain evil thoughts about the driver. How could I? Look what’s written inside this cab…
Low cost in Chiang Mai. In my 4D3N stay in Chiang Mai, I appreciated the fact that almost everything, if not all are cheap. Case in point, the 60-baht-fare in that “special trip” via songthaew; the trip took around half an hour and it’s still budget-friendly.
Welcome to Chiang Mai Zoo! I shelved the fact that I will enter a facility that cages animals and displays them far from their natural habitats. I gave Chiang Mai Zoo the benefit of the doubt.
From its facade, I walked my way to the main entrance of Chiang Mai Zoo. It appeared to me like a huge medical institution back home (reminded me of East Avenue Medical Center!) rather than an animal park.
Its admission rate of 100 baht per adult (US$ 3.40) was so easy on the pocket.
After a bladder break and purchasing a ticket, I was ready to explore Chiang Mai Zoo! But wait, someone didn’t tell me the roads will be uphill and the vicinity is as huge as you can imagine (think of Camp John Hay in Baguio City or UP Diliman campus in scale).
Tip : Best to go to Chiang Mai Zoo at its opening -1oAM. Less crowded, not so humid, more time to roam around.
I reached this entrance part by walking uphill. Repeat, uphill! *panting* I smiled upon the sight of Bus Stop sign.
Gelo, Welcome to Chiang Mai Zoo! I never thought Chiang Mai Zoo has manicured and lush garden to boast! Happiness and satisfaction are what we get when we don’t set great expectations.
I hopped on the shuttle bus and sat beside the driver. First stop was approximately 1 kilometer from where I waited. Pandas!
Excited and clueless, I got off the bus without asking if it’s the panda station already. Turned out negative! I walked my way up rather than wait for few minutes for another bus. Didn’t I tell you the roads inside Chiang Mai Zoo is uphill? Repeat again, uphill! lol
Finally, PANDAS!!! I purchased again another ticket to see the pandas. OK. Some may considered it ain’t cheap anymore! Can’t blame you. But it’s still pocket-friendly compared to other attractions I’ve been to. All in all, these were my tickets inside Chiang Mai Zoo. I still think it’s cheap for it didn’t cost me my arms and legs.
My very first time to see PANDAS! At 36 years old, I felt like 6 again!
Chiang Mai Zoo houses 3 pandas but for unknown reason, I only saw two. The visit wasn’t time-pressured. I spent one hour outside their playing ground overlooking at one from a viewing deck. The area had blocks and piles of ice to keep the temperature down. To date, they’re the cutest creatures I’ve ever laid eyes on!
After an hour, I decided to go down and take a peek the pandas inside. I saw another one, munching at their staples -bamboos and wooden chops. I wondered where the third panda was. Must be sleeping somewhere.
I thought after seeing pandas for the first time, my weekend was done. I craved for more. Although I didn’t have the time to explore the entirety of Chiang Mai Zoo, I opted to spend a couple of hours more to maximize my stay and gladly, I made the right move.
Kids are blessed to be carefree all the time!
I didn’t dare try those water balls available at different colors for 90 baht. Neither I wished to sample their zipline; not because I chickened out; but because I didn’t have company to do it *lame excuse*
Brunch! This was my view when I was eating my late breakfast-early lunch!
Pork leg and knuckles. Chinese style. I died and went to heaven!
My well spent 50 baht (plus 20 baht for Coke!).
Brunch inside Chiang Mai Zoo. *Burp*
Another view from where I ate my meal. Oh, look! Monorail! hahaha! Talking to myself became so practically funny those days! lol
Brushed my teeth and took another bladder break before I headed to the waiting area for the shuttle bus. I went off the bus on its next stop : Children’s Zoo where the KOALAS are! Another first time to see such cute mammals! The 36-year-old-kid-in-me was smiling ear to ear!
And because Koalas are nocturnal, they have the license to sleep during daytime. I wished I could be narcoleptic sans being nocturnal *laziness kicked in*
My final ride on the shuttle bus took me to the Monorail station. Prior to that, an elephant dropped by to greet us, hello!
I regret not going down the bus where the Penguins are. I passed up the chance because Tina, Gabby and I already saw live penguins in Kelly Tarlton’s Antarctic Adventure in New Zealand back in 2005. Then I thought it would not hurt if I did go.
Then I rode the most sluggish Monorail I’ve taken ever. It took me around 40 minutes to cap the entire trip en route to the area near the gate. But I realized everything fell into right timing when I saw a parade coming! This must be my lucky weekend!
Amused at how Chiang Mai Zoo parades its animals.
Thanks to the parade, I had an up close encounter with those koalas! Of course, they became wide awake!
I saw other animals like lions and lioness, white tigers, girraffes and others. There were aviary and aquarium too that I didn’t go to. Nevertheless, I was happy to be in Chiang Mai Zoo before it was packed by other tourists! By the time they’re entering the gates, I was already finding my way out! It always pays to be early all the time!
A zoo offers children and people of all ages an opportunity to somehow interact and learn essential concepts about environment and the ecosystem as a whole. And if learning would be too heavy, at least develop or enhance appreciation. Obviously, not everyone has access or can afford to go to a safari or at least a forest, so visiting a zoo is the next best thing.
With its vast area, it goes without saying that animals in Chiang Mai Zoo have the freedom to roam around despite being “caged”. They’re given an artificial habitat almost similar to their natural ones. And for that of course, Chiang Mai Zoo, I like!
- Padaung / Long Neck Women & Other Hill Tribes in Thailand
- Doi Suthep Buddhist Temple
- Elephant Show, Elephant Ride, Ox-Cart Ride, Bamboo Raft Ride, Orchid Farm
- Chiang Mai Zoo : Pandas, Koalas And More!
- Beyond Boundaries : Penang-Hat Yai-Bangkok-Chiang Mai
- Anusarn Market, Tha Phae Gate Night Market and lots of Thai Food!