We had a short wish list for Thailand: pet tigers, have a spa day, and watch a Muay Thai match. We accomplished all three in one day in Chiang Mai.
Petting tigers is a lot easier than it seems like it should be. You would think that such a dangerous-sounding activity would be heavily regulated. It’s not. All you need to do to pet a tiger is get to Tiger Kingdom and pay an entrance fee. Any tuk tuk can get you to Tiger Kingdom from Chiang Mai. You probably shouldn’t trust our pricing. We pretty much always overpay because we’re white and don’t haggle at all. I’ve been told that there are set prices for drivers in Chiang Mai. I can tell you that our driver did not have a set price. We ended up paying 700 Baht for a round trip to Tiger Kingdom and back. At first he wanted 500 Baht one way then 800 Baht round trip so we were okay with 700 Baht, but I’m sure you could find transportation for less.
The pricing for Tiger Kingdom is based on the size of the tiger with the biggest and smallest being the most expensive (600-700 Baht) because they are the coolest. The medium and small tigers cost 500 Baht per person. We opted for the small tigers, which are not small at all. All I can say is that I am glad that we didn’t select the biggest. The small tigers were intimidating enough!
After reading a list of rules for tiger petting (don’t approach from the front, don’t let the tiger lick you, etc.) we entered the cage. There are several employees in the cage with you whose job it is to prevent the tigers from eating you. They cannot take a photo of you, but if you are there with someone else that person can take as many photos as you like. There is also an option to hire a photographer for 299 Baht. It’s worth considering. Our photos didn’t come out that well because I was unexpectedly frightened by the tigers. They are very big and very strong. At one point, Patrick was trying to get me to snuggle a tiger, but every time I leaned in the tiger swatted me with his tail. It was not gentle. Tigers are scary.
Massages are available everywhere in Thailand. Walk down any street in Chiang Mai and you will encounter a plethora of massage parlors. At several of our hotels, you could get a massage in your room. And the best part is, they are insanely affordable.
Our first spa day attempt was in Phuket. We wandered into a massage parlor. Patrick opted for the aloe vera massage (we were very sunburnt), and I chose the body scrub. I am not big on massages. I want to end a spa day feeling more beautiful, not necessarily more relaxed. We headed towards the curtained off beds and stripped down to our unmentionables, which was not far enough. When my masseuse entered she popped the elastic on my panties and asked, “You want take off?” So I did. Why not get my rear end as smooth as the rest of my body? The entire massages lasted a good hour and cost less than $20 total for both of us.
But Patrick wanted more. So in Chiang Mai he decided to do a full spa package: body scrub, oil massage, facial, foot massage, hand massage, manicure, and pedicure. It was a three hour ordeal so I dropped him off and went in search of someone to dye my hair. I wanted to dye it back to my natural hair color, but the stylist did not speak a lick of English. I now have black hair, but Patrick had a great spa day. The body scrub was very thorough. They scrubbed everywhere. Babies now strive to be as soft as Patrick’s bottom.
The next day we continued our Thailand spa experience with a fish foot scrub and massage. The fish tickled as they nibbled the dead skin off of our feet, but our feet did feel much softer once they were finished. If you are ever in Thailand, have a spa day. You can afford it.
There are a lot of Muay Thai boxing rings in Chiang Mai, and a fight is happening pretty much every night of the week. Most of them are geared towards tourists, including the one we attended. Hawkers stand out on the streets handing out flyers and trying to sell tickets. We ended up buying our tickets at the ring when we showed up without a problem. The tickets cost 400 Baht per person, and they seat you at a bar inside the arena. We had a good view of the ring and easy access to drinks if need be. Some of the fights were silly. Some were children fighting. At one point they had a group of blindfolded people in the ring swinging at each other. I’ll admit, it was entertaining. All of this leads up to the big fight, or real fight as it’s sometimes referred to on the flyers. The big fight lasted all of six seconds. It was terribly mismatched. All in all, though, it was still a fun night.
Thailand has a lot to offer. Beautiful landscapes, friendly people, more temples than you can shake a stick at. I’m sure every visitor has their own wish list. What’s yours?
P.S. Internet in China sucks so pictures will be posted later. Sorry, folks.