Tiger Kingdom, Mae Rim, Chiang Mai

Many backpackers speak highly of Chiang Mai, Thailand’s second largest city, claiming that its “chilled out” and easier to navigate than Bangkok. Personally, I highly disagree with both of these. Whilst it is a small city, Chiang Mai is far from being chilled out and the rivers and walls that run throughout the city make every main road look exactly the same. Don’t let this put you off though, because there’s absolutely no shortage of things to see and do in and around Chiang Mai. There is a lively backpacker and expat scene with excellent nightlife, enormous markets and hundreds of tours to be booked, such as trekking, zip-lining, animal encounters, white-water rafting and even cooking classes.

A particularly popular attraction is the Tiger Kingdom, just outside the city in Mae-rim. Now before you get all worked up about ethics and morals and mistreatment of animals, I’d like to point out that these tigers are NOT DRUGGED. Unfortunately, there are tiger facilities in Thailand that sedate the tigers in order for them to be petted and played with by humans, without the tiger becoming aggressive. The tigers at Tiger Kingdom, Mae-rim, however, are trained from the age of one month old, and grow up with constant human attention, affection and guidance. In fact, they are so used to humans touching them that they are practically desensitised to it enough that they don’t even notice. The tigers are happy and healthy and the guides and trainers are more than happy to answer any questions. Truthfully, from my experience, the tigers are treated as well as they would be in any zoo of Western standards and at no point did I feel as if I was doing the morally wrong thing by being there. If you’d like any more information about how the tigers are treated then head on over to Tiger Kingdom, Mae-rim’s website.

I opted to go inside the cage with the smallest tigers currently at the kingdom, who from memory I think were about three-six months old. The whole experience seemed to be both too nerve-racking and exciting for me to manage to smile normally in a photo, so here are a few photos of me looking like an idiot, and some very pretty kitties.

Omg! A tiger!
Omg! A tiger!
Omg, please don't hurt me.
Omg, please don’t hurt me.
Omg he's moving.
Omg he’s moving.
Omg he's so sweet!
Omg he’s so sweet!
Omg, I'm using a tiger as a pillow.
Omg, I’m using a tiger as a pillow.
Omg he's moving again.
Omg he’s moving again.
Omg! Tiger!
Omg! Tiger!
Omg! Tiger!
Omg! Lying next to a tiger!
Pretty kitty #1
Pretty kitty #1
Pretty kitty #2
Pretty kitty #2

Quick Catch-Up and Kanchanaburi

Wow. Turns out its pretty difficult to keep up with blogging regularly when I’m busy having fun and meeting awesome people 24/7. Who knew travelling could be such hard work? There’s still a lot more that I wanted to write about South Korea, but I figure I should just move right along and launch into Thailand, and save the rest of the South Korea adventures for catch-up posts when I get back home.

I’ve been here three weeks already, which is weird, because it feels like I was in Korea a much longer time ago. I am currently sitting in a café in Chiang Mai, enjoying an extremely delicious curry chicken panini, post horrendous hungover bus journey from Pai. Let’s rewind. I flew into Bangkok, and spent five days there with my friends Candyce and Carlos, who I met way back in Niseko. I had an amazing time exploring the city with them, and learning about their life as expats in Bangkok. I was in 100% non-tourist mode the whole time though, not taking any photos or hitting the top sights, but just hanging out. I’ll be passing through Bangkok again in July, so I saved all the touristy stuff for then. So, for now, I don’t have anything insightful to write about Bangkok, which leads me to where I (slightly regrettably) went next, Kanchanaburi.

I can’t tell you why I decided to go to Kanchanaburi, because I still have no idea. I went to the train station in Bangkok with every intention of booking a trip to Koh Tao, and somehow walked out with a ticket to this small town, three hours north-west of Bangkok. The main draw card for tourists here is war related history. It’s the site of the infamous Burma Railway, commonly referred to as “Death Railway” due to the large portion of labourers and prisoners of war who died whist building it. There are lots of tours available to visit various other war sites in the area, none of which I thought were worth it for me. Due to the extreme heat (40 degrees), I didn’t actually explore much of the town except for the area in which I was staying, which was the main strip of guesthouses and bars, which I found rather seedy and uninviting. I did see the Bridge over the River Kwai though, went to one of the night markets to purchase the famous elephant pants and witnessed a particularly amazing sunset as well. I also ate THE BEST PAD-THAI I’VE EVER HAD. Whilst there honestly isn’t a lot to do in Kanachanaburi, it was a good way to escape the chaotic mess of Bangkok, chill out and decide where to go next. But in saying that, I’m not in a hurry to go back any time soon. Getting out of there was a mission and a half as well, crammed in an overbooked mini-van back to Bangkok for four hours, that picked me up from my guest house two hours late. Oh well, that’s South East Asia for you.

 

River Guest House
River Guest House
River Guest House
River Guest House
River Guest House
River Guest House
Sunset
Sunset
Sunset
Sunset
Sunset
Sunset
The legendary Pad Thai
The legendary Pad Thai
Bridge Over the River Kwai
Bridge Over the River Kwai

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Chiang Mai adventures coming soon!

“Iced Tea and a Poodle, Please.” Korean Puppy Cafés

A few people have asked me about the puppy café I went to in Seoul, so this post will be covering the whole experience in detail. Hopefully you find it interesting, as I suppose it is quite a bizarre concept to the Western world…

Visiting a pet café had been on my South Korea Bucket List since before I had even committed to going to Seoul. Most Seoul dwellers live in small apartments that aren’t allowed pets, so thats how the whole pet café concept came to be. I was tempted by the cat cafés I saw in Tokyo, but let’s be real here, you’re kidding yourself if you honestly think that cats are more fun than dogs. Of course Seoul has a café to satisfy both the canine and feline inclined, but its not just pet cafés that are common. There is a smorgasbord of different themed cafés and restaurants such as the Hello Kitty Café, a Charlie Brown café, and even a café devoted to camping (this site lists a few great ones). I was easily able to find three puppy cafés within walking distance of my hostel alone, so I picked the one that looked the most inviting and got excited for some puppy love.

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I can’t read Korean, so I have no idea what this place was actually called, but its in the Hongik University area (Hongdae), which is loaded with awesome things to see and do. Use Exit 9 from Hongik University station, walk straight ahead for one block, and then turn left. Walk straight up this hill. You should pass the tourist information centre somewhere on your left. Keep going (about 500m), until you reach the last set of traffic lights and you can see the university straight in front of you. Turn left, grab an egg bread from the smiley lady on the street, and walk straight until you see the puppy café sign. From the outside, you’d never guess that this ordinary concrete building is home to a pack of pups. The sign is the only clue.

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Because I’m an idiot, I didn’t take a photo of the actual entrance, but once you’ve found the sign then its obvious where you need to go. Walk down the stairs and take your shoes off, placing them in the rack on your right. Put on a pair of trendy communal slippers.

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It was at this point that I had no idea what to do next, so I waited in this little pen for one of the staff to come and sort me out. Eventually one of them noticed me. She pumped a generous amount of hand sanitiser onto my palms and showed me to a table in the corner. There were around only 20 seats in the whole café and most of them were taken up by young, Korean couples. I was given a menu and I placed my order. Unfortunately I didn’t take a photo of the menu, but rest assured they serve tea, coffee, juice, soft drink and anything else you might require to quench your thirst. I got a peach iced tea, and it was delicious! Super sweet, just how I like it. This puppy café didn’t charge an entry fee, but buying a drink was compulsory. For that reason, the drinks were very expensive. My iced tea was around $7, which I easily could have bought for $2 at a stall on the street. As I understand it, this is the system at most of the pet cafés in Korea, so don’t arrive thirsty or you may end up spending much more than you’d like to.

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I should point out that whilst the sign said “puppy” café and I’ve also been saying “puppy” café this whole time, none of the dogs were actually puppies. As far as I know they were all fully grown. Some of them were teeny tiny adorable little fluff-balls though, and they’re all very cute, so don’t let this put you off.

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After you’ve acquired your tasty beverage, you’re all set! Grab one of the blankets that are probably already strewn all over the floor, and plonk yourself down. It might take a while for the dogs to warm up to you, for me it took about ten minutes before I had any of them coming to say hello. You can spend as long as you like playing with them, I spent about an hour and a half. If there are any rules, then they aren’t displayed in English and they weren’t explained to me, so don’t worry about them. My biggest piece of advice would be to go as early as you can. This café opens at 12:30pm, so if possible, get there at 12:30pm. I got there at about 4:30 and the dogs were already exhausted. Most of them just wanted to sit and be stroked, and weren’t interested in playing.

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I don’t remember there being any sort of gross “dog smell.” It was very clean, and the dogs were calm and well behaved. They only barked occasionally when a new customer arrived. They’re all very friendly dogs, even if they are a bit tired.

IMG_2178 IMG_2183 IMG_2157 IMG_2169All in all this was a really cool experience, and something fun and quirky to do in Seoul. I highly recommend it to anyone. I’m definitely not some crazy dog obsessed animal lover so don’t worry if you aren’t either. Give it a go, you might just make yourself a new best friend.