The next morning I proceeded to make us lunch to take with us on the day’s adventures. After not finding any plastic cutlery with which to spread the PB & J we had brought with us, I substituted with using a pair of chopsticks and made two delicious PB & J sandwiches. Somehow, our one-sided conversation with the driver from the night before had worked and he showed up promptly at 8:30. He waited about half an hour while AJK spoke on the phone with some United representatives and somehow convinced them to switch our flights onto the plane of his dreams.
We then jumped in the car and after a brief stop at an ATM, a tourist office, and a phone store for a Thai sim card, we were on our way. We decided to start our day at the Tiger Kingdom, a touristy, yet amazing experience.
The Tiger Kingdom offers people the opportunity to pose and take photographs with tigers ranging from newborn baby cubs, to fully grown, lethal tigers.
After arriving, AJK used every trick in his book to convince me to agree to get into a cage with a tiger whose head was bigger than my entire body. We started off with the small cubs and played with them while a photographer took some adorable shots. We both agreed that if we could bring back one souvenir from Thailand it would be a little cub. (The cub decision was later supplanted with the decision to bring back AJK’s favorite masseuse.)
We then moved onto the medium sized cubs. I was quite happy to stop there, as these 16 month old tigers were about my size but with much sharper teeth. The photographers and keepers have been with these tigers since they were born and obviously were amused by the fact that these stupid tourists seemed frightened of these massive, man-eating creatures.
Up next were the biggest tigers. These ones seemed a little more active than the rest of the tigers who were mostly lying down and napping. It’s unfortunate that the one group of tigers who could eat me as a before dinner snack were the ones moving around, fighting and playing with each other and basically making me extremely nervous. We got some incredible pictures with these tigers and then I was quite relieved to leave the cage. While we waited for our pictures to be developed we walked around the park checking out some gorgeous creatures that I was able to appreciate much more from the other side of the fence. [I didn't know it at the time, but apparently this one was stalking me, and a few seconds later, one of the trainers bulldozes/tackles me out of the way saying "no, look at him directly in the eye. he "play with you, and you no want that."]
After checking out some of our pictures on the computers that they offer for that purpose at Tiger kingdom, we then hopped back in the car and decided to go check out the Mae Sa Elephant show, about ten minutes away. The area where all the animal shows and tourist attractions are located is called Mae-Rim and it is about twenty minutes from the main part of Chaing Mai. It is extremely convenient as you can just hop from attraction to attraction.
In our case we hopped around with Sunekam, our driver in our air-conditioned car. Having the driver was probably the best decision of the day as were able to cram tons of activities in without wasting time waiting for taxis from place to place. Not to mention the air-conditioning as it was about 90 degrees out with unbelievable levels of humidity.
As we headed towards the Mae Sa Elephant, show we passed a sign for the crocodile farm. Seeing that we had 30 minutes to spare before the elephant show started, we decided to veer off to see some crocodiles for a bit. Pulling into the gravel parking area in front of the ticket hut we noticed that we were the only car there. As we walked up and paid our 200 baht ($6) entry fee, a guy strolled up holding a baby crocodile that he proceeded to hand over to AJK.
After holding and taking pictures with the tiny guy, who mind you still had razor sharp teeth and a rubber band around his jaw to protect the Americans, we proceeded in to go catch the show. The thing about this area of Thailand, and most of Thailand, is that tourism is their main source of income. So when two tourists show up and pay a few dollars to come see a show, the show must go on! Never mind that we were the only two people there. Never mind that a teenage Thai boy was going to put his life in danger for a measly crowd of two.
We settled into our wooden bench as the crocodile “trainer,” walked out. I use that term loosely due to the fact that these are basically mean, lean, eating machines and a little man with a stick looks more like a snack to these guys than a trainer. The stage was basically a large pool with about ten large crocodiles in it, and an area next to the pool with about five more.
The trainer proceeded to basically annoy the crocodiles by pulling them out of the water by their tails, picking one of them up, dragging them around the stage and then he culminated by sticking various body parts of his into the gaping jaws of the largest crocodile.
He had a little stick that he would tap the crocodile on the mouth with and then when the jaws opened he would tap around the inside of his mouth, desperately trying to look professional and like all this tapping would maybe allow him to see another day. All the tapping is supposedly to make the crocodile less sensitive or something like that…still unclear on that part. After about ten minutes of doing absurdly foolish things with crocodiles, the official part of the show ended.
At this point, he inquired whether either of us would like to come around to the area with all the crocodiles lying around and sit on the back of a crocodile. We both laughed uneasily and began to walk away. He called us back and told us that he was very serious. For the USD equivalent of 2 bucks we could sit on the back of a 12 foot long man-eating crocodile. Somehow, really not sure how, I let AJK agree to this ridiculous suggestion. Sidenote: what I learned in Thailand is, just because it is offered to you doesn’t mean you should agree. And, that they don’t seem all that concerned with your life. Sidebar over.
Here is where anyone who gave birth to either AJK or I should stop reading. While I watched from the other side of the fence, AJK proceeded to walk around into the crocodile enclosure. He gingerly walked past about ten lounging beasts and very carefully approached the largest one that the trainer was gesturing towards. The trainer proceeded to tell AJK to carefully put a leg on either side of the crocodile and then lower himself to a sitting position. I’m not sure why I watched this part; I probably should have looked away just in case. With AJK sitting on the back of a ferocious, violent animal you would think that the trainer would stand at the ready with his ridiculous stick in case the crocodile chose to make a sudden move, such as eating my husband for dinner.
However, that was not the case at all as he lay down his stick and offered to take pictures for AJK. Thankfully, as soon as AJK got a few good pictures he got up off the crocodile (faster than he had gotten on, I might add) and proceeded to get out onto the other side of the enclosure as quickly as he could. I decided at that point it was time to leave, before they offered to allow us to feel what it felt like to have your hand bitten by a crocodile. Who knows, seeing what AJK had just done we might have agreed.