Wednesday, November 20, 2013

I Fed a Hippo!

What a day I've had.  The Chiang Mai Zoo was crazy.  It's spread out over 200 acres and most of it steep hills.  I can't believe how much walking and climbing I did.  Thank god I was able to get a good massage tonight, or I probably wouldn't be able to walk tomorrow.
So the first real exhibit (I'm not counting the flamingos) was the hippo family.  There was a big old male, two mammas and a little 3 month old baby!  You could buy a little basket of cut up carrot or yams for 10 baht and feed them.
And by that I mean drop the chunks of stuff in their huge open maws.  I actually patted one on it's muzzle (but it was too slimy to want to do that again).  Can you imagine a situation like this in the US?  I'm not using a zoom lens here.  I could literally have stuck my hand (or whole arm) in the hippos mouth!
This was the high point of the whole zoo for me, and I came back before I left.  The baby was hanging out under water and only came up once in a while for a quick breath.  So damn cute.
Then the whole family came out to stand on the bank.  I took about a million photos.  
The next stop was feeding giraffes!  Holy shit!  Once again I walked up and couldn't believe what I was seeing.  So freaking awesome.  I fed them something like very long green beans, though bananas were also on offer.  They have super long, agile tongues that actually would wrap around the bean and grab it.  There were two of them and they were both so beautiful.  
They have this velvety pelt.  And such goofy yet intelligent faces.  And of course they are truly enormous. Both of them were a bit skittish, but I managed to touch the female's nose.  This was so awesome!
Of course there were droves of other animals--the giant panda, lots of kinds of monkeys, an entire aquarium, birds galore including ostriches, an otter, penguins, an asian bear and many many Thai school children.  
The kids were my least favorite critter, mainly because there were hundreds of them jabbering excitedly and making an awful din.  Worse, they were being guided by adults with bullhorns who blasted out information, jokes and directions all at top volume.  I encountered them first at the big cats exhibits.  There was a lion, jaguar and tiger and the awful racket of 150 school kids with the blaring adults seemed to be driving them frantic.  Well not the lion.  He wasn't moving.  Maybe he was stunned?
Fortunately we went in separate directions and I didn't have to endure them after that.  Seriously freaky.  
The aquarium featured a tube you walk through and the fish swim around and over you.  It was pretty cool I guess.  It was here that I met Chen, a tourist from Beijing about my age.  I offered to take his photo with the fish behind him and after that we were fast friends.  It was really good to have a buddy going through the ginormous compound.  Kept me going really.
I enjoyed watching these monks watching the panda. One of them had an iPad and was taking photos or video with it.
I'm happy to say that the elephants I saw seemed to be treated well enough.  Some of them were being used to give rides to tourists, but there you go.  It takes a LOT of food to keep them and they have to earn their keep.  Actually I paid to feed the hippos, the giraffes and this elephant.  All of them earning their keep I guess.
Speaking of feeding, I was operating on a small plate of sticky rice and mango for breakfast.  Not a lot of ballast.  So Chen and I stopped for lunch and I had two young coconuts, slurping down the juice and eating the soft slippery innards.  Doesn't seem like much but it kept me on my feet somehow.
Near the end of the long long slog, we came across the orangutang.  It has a huge compound and was ambling down toward the front, toward us.  I thought I knew what they looked like, but this one at any rate was different.  It was very big and heavy and its hair was super long.  It had such a weird way of 'walking' and they finally sat down to nibble on some grass.  I'm certain it was aware of us (it was just Chen and I for quite a while) but it didn't really react at all.  It seemed totally meditative.
We actually stayed until 5pm and the park seemed to be shutting down!  Chen offered me a ride back on his scooter.  At first I declined, feeling it would be too dangerous.  But then, this guy lives in Beijing. I'm certain the traffic there is much much worse!  So he gave me a wild ride back and I lived to tell the tale. 
For dinner I went to that really gorgeous restaurant I've posted photos of.  Despite my fascination with the place, I've never eaten there before and this was my last chance.  I had some sort of Pad Thai, not spicy, and it was incredible.  That place was hopping, I tell you.  I counted at least 8 waiters too.  
After dinner I wanted a massage but was feeling too full.  So I walked a few blocks to my favorite Wat, the teak one where the monks were launching the lanterns.  
There I was treated to another beautiful sight....about 30 saffron robed young monks were in the Wat, being led through some kind of chanting.  It was beautiful to see and moving to hear.  To be honest it was a bit overwhelmingly wonderful. 
And yes, those are two temple dogs soaking in the vibes...
Then a really gentle (thank god) massage, and here I am at the Peppermint Coffee House blogging it all over more sticky rice and mango (not as good as Kajana's I must say).  Back to my room soon to pack  for Siem Reap.  I'm feeling a bit sad really.  The first few days here I was caught up in a 'been there done that' sort of feeling.  I think it came with the jet lag.  That's all gone now and I know I'll really miss this place and all the people I've seen over the years...the cafe folks, the massage people, the laundry lady, the drivers, even my guest house hosts.

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