How a sleeper train looks like in Thailand.
Tiger Kingdom and the Elephant Sanctuary.
Playful big cats in the cage. The one at the bottom is a female and the one on top is a male. All this happened with tourists inside the cage.
The resident lion at Tiger Kingdom. This was the first time in my life I've seen a tiger this close... and my heart was beating really fast with awe and amazement. I stared at him, and he stared back, straight in the eye. It was a bold, piercing stare. Then, he snapped and jumped at me. The fence between us protected me from being mauled, but I still felt my blood freeze and my entire body tremble with fear. Then the lion started roaring, which was also something I'd never heard before. It sounded like a dog barking, but much, much louder, and somehow heartbreaking.
The next day we went to an elephant sanctuary located in the jungle a few hours north of Chiang Mai. We rode in the back of a pickup truck that was equipped with two benches on the sides. This is the road we took.
This is the first sight we saw when we arrived at the elephant sanctuary. The elephants were waiting for us to arrive, knowing we would feed them lots of bananas. Apparently, they roam around free at night on the property, and come back by themselves willingly at 9am, as they know they will be fed bananas by tourists.
On the way to the elephant sanctuary.
Elephant caretaker peeling bananas for the baby elephant. Adult elephants can eat bananas with peel (in fact, they gulp down an entire bunch of bananas if they manage to grab it from you with their trunk.) However, baby elephants can only eat peeled bananas. How cute, right?
Me and Ratong, my elephant for the day.
We spent our last night in Chiang Mai having dinner with the family that hosted us in their guesthouse, O-boon. They graciously invited us to join them and their relatives for dinner and we loved the opportunity to experience real life in a Thai family. Apparently, at a Thai dinner you need to serve more dishes than people sitting at the table. All dishes are served at the same time and each person gets their own plate full of rice. You then sample from the other communal dishes and add them on top of your personal rice plate. In South East Asia rice is in general the counterpart of bread in Western culture. It comes with every dish, and is used as a filler or a way to balance the spicy dishes.
Both Anne and I fell in love with Chiang Mai and wished we had more time there. We both agreed that we must come back there again one day. There are lots of volunteering and English-teaching options in Chiang Mai, and the city is very livable. It's also Thailand's second largest city, with lots of colleges, medical schools and excellent hospitals. The only downside to living in Chiang Mai for a long period of time is the pollution. During the time of the year that we were there (February), the locals perform slash-and-burn agriculture, which generates huge amounts of smoke. The entire area is covered with a thick layer of grey smog and as soon as you get there, you might experience problems breathing, coughing or a sore throat. Many locals ride their motorbikes wearing masks over their mouths and noses.