A Travel Guide: Chiang Mai, Thailand

Chiang Mai was by far my favorite place in Thailand. It is the most culturally significant city in Thailand, and it really embodies the nature and demeanor of the entire nation. The native Thai people I was fortunate enough to meet in this city were some of the kindest and most genuine people I have ever met. They live very simplistic lifestyles and are extremely respectful and caring to everyone, including strangers and foreigners.  This was one of the most significant differences from the United States. Everyone was so welcoming and excited to share their culture with us. A huge aspect of the city of Chiang Mai is their wildlife. During our three days there, we we rode elephants, visited a tiger farm, as well as a place where local Thai natives train animals, such as monkeys, to interact as humans. Our experience with the elephants was not nearly as enjoyable as expected, being that animal abuse in these places is very prevalent. Having witnessed it first hand, we decided to leave immediately. We had a much different experience at the other animal farms, however. With the animals being cared for by trainers, there was much more affection and responsibility. At the tiger farm, the tigers were separated into three categories: the newborns, one year olds, and the full grown. The baby tigers were adorable, playful, and friendly. I would have taken one home in a second! (really, though). By the time we got to the fully grown tigers, I was a little nervous. Not only were they absolutely huge, but looked a little riled up as well. I knew I was most likely never going to have this opportunity again, so there was no way I was going to opt out. The trainer went in with me, and it was us and ten fully grown tigers in fenced in room. I stood pretty far away at first, and the trainer, with his camera in hand, kept encouraging me to get closer and closer to the tiger. Still afraid, he approached the tiger himself and began to hug and kiss it. To my surprise, the tiger had little reaction. I eventually grew comfortable with the tigers and was able to get some amazing pictures. I really, really love these animals and am amazed at how well taken care of they are. Since they are trained to interact with humans since birth, they are not aggressive or defensive. Bottom line: if you ever find yourself in Chiang Mai, never pass up this opportunity- you won’t regret it!

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