MAR 17 // DAY 47

Today is Tiffanie’s 28 birthday! As such, it was a day filled with animals, motorcycles and tequila. We found a delicious breakfast at a German Beer Garden right across the walls of old town before heading to Mike’s Big Bikes to rent a Honda CBR with 250 cc. The bike was significantly more powerful than the one we got in Myanmar, which was amazing in the countryside and downright awful in traffic.

After eking our way north through morning rush hour, we finally made it to Tiger Kingdom in Mae Rim. This was a hotly debated visit, with a huge range of opinions gathered from various sources over the past month. Are the tigers drugged? I don’t think they’re drugged, but if that’s true, then Tiger Kingdom seriously downplays the number of injured tourists. Is it cruel to keep a tiger in a confined space? Yes, cruel to keep a cat who should have a multi-acre territory confined to a cage the size of your backyard. Yet, out in the wild they are subject to poaching and habitat destruction. What about training them to sit patiently for selfies? You can’t have a giant tiger in the same space as a human without some training, so what if the training is to not eat something you’d very much like to and pose nicely for a camera. After our big and little tiger rendezvous, I still don’t know how I feel about it. Snuggling one of those giant, majestic creatures was pretty cool, but I don’t need to repeat it.

Animal treatment went from questionable to worse when we discovered The Monkey School on our way to the waterfalls. It was fairly quite, obviously the attraction was meant for large tour groups. After feeding a few little guys in cages, we had the uncomfortable pleasure of watching a little show where monkeys demonstrated various human-like skills. We much preferred the Monkey Forest in Bali. Go there instead.

The day was incredibly hot. We had high hopes of taking a dip in the waterfall further up the road, but after paying an exorbitant tourist fee, we discovered that you can only look at the gushing, cool water from a distance. Not awesome. We much preferred the waterfalls in Australia and New Zealand. Go there instead.

Upon our return to Chiangmai, the day took a turn for the better when we found a vegetarian restaurant and a tattoo shop for Tiffanie’s sak yant. She’s been planning it for months and we were able to find a newer spot that offers both bamboo and regular needle options. A sak yant is comprised of a few pillars of ancient Hindu writing thought to give the recipient a “boost” on useful things like wealth and attractiveness.  I mean, I like her how she is, but it can’t hurt.

After a henna tattoo for me in the market, we wandered around the night market and completed the evening at Zanzibar. Our final uncomfortable animal encounter takes place tomorrow morning and–much to my chagrin–it’s with elephants.