Day 12 (December 6, 2010)   Chiang Mai and flight to Phuket


Flight route Chiang Mai-Phuket

   This day is for exploring Chiang Mai. We’ll visit the most relevant temples in the city and complete our visits with Doi Suthep and Tiger Kingdom whether by taxi or tuk tuk. The idea is lunching at Tiger Kingdom where they offer a cheap buffet. At evening we will go to the airport to take our flight to Phuket at 9:30 PM for crossing the country, North to South. We will arrive late, at 11:30 PM, where we only will reach our hotel and sleep.


   This morning is for resting, so we are in bed until the breakfast time allows. When we finish I ask to hotel desk for the best way to go to Doi Suthep and he answers me it is by taxi and the price is 1000 Bahts. I’m shocked as that was my calculation for the expense for the all the transportation today. When he answers me this rate is for a return journey I explain I don’t want to come back directly, but visiting Tiger Kingdom and lunching there and he, after a short call, answers me it is going to be 1500 Bahts. I say no, but he tells me cannot cancel the taxi as it is already coming. I’m thinking about he is looking after a commission here and we tell we want to go, but he convince us to wait for the taxi driver. When he arrives I tell him directly we want to cancel the service because we think it is expensive but he, after a short talk with the receptionist, offers 1000 Bahts and we accept it.

Views from Doi Suthep   I’m upset as we’re accepted more because of the pressure than our true will as I’ve read a tuk tuk to Doi Suthep is about 300 or 400 Bahts and it never would be as far as 1000 Bahts going from there to Tiger Kingdom but, at least, we’re comfortable in a car with air conditioning.

   When we reach the top of the mountain where the temple is sited our taxi driver points us where he is going to wait for us. We know one of the highlights here is the beautiful staircase, but it has got more than 300 steps, so we go to the funicular: admission fee to the temple is 30 Bahts and funicular 20 more, so 100 Bahts later (about 2€) we’re in the temple.

   On the top there are amazing views of the city and around but the fog is preventing us of part of it. The area is crowded and there are some festivals, with attractions and dances. There is a row of people just for ringing the bells, with low tone, and you must take your shoes off for getting into the temple, where there is a beautiful golden chedi and other Buddhist icons with a lot of people in religious fervor.

Dancing in Doi SuthepDoi Suthep's entrance

   We choose going down using the crowded staircase, with two long and colorful snakes at both sides. Then we keep walking down to the spot where the taxi is waiting for us. In our way, my wife wants to ask for the price of a bamboo parasol, the same we already purchased in Khao San Road, in the street market. My advice is not doing it as I already know it is going to be quite lower and want to save her of being upset about it. But curiosity is stronger and the seller asks 150 Bahts for it. And without any bargaining! So we can easily say those 500 Bahts we paid for it is like 5 times its real price.

Doi Suthep's templeDoi Suthep's temple

Doi Suthep's staircase

Doi Suthep

   We finally meet our taxi driver and go to Tiger Kingdom. In the way he explains King’s birthday is three bank holydays in a row, which explains the amount of local people in Doi Suthep on despite of being Monday.

   After 20 minutes driving we’re delivered at Tiger Kingdom’s door and we’re told he is going to wait for us there. I recall to him we’re going to take several time as we’re going to lunch here too, but he answers it is ok and he’ll wait for us just there. Eva thinks he is going to take us to the hotel by the same price but I cannot believe on that as it is out of the deal, although I’m sure he’ll wait for us as we still must pay.

   There are a bunch of packages for visiting tigers here and we finally take the one including smalls, big and babies by 1200 Baht each, so we’re going to only miss the medium ones. The package let us save 150 Bahts.

Small tigers in Tiger Kingdom

   We’re taken into the reserved area for the ones who are going to be with the tigers and wait in the middle of the different areas with a Spanish family. It seems we’re going to start with the big cats, but we finally are taken to the small ones first. My first words here are: “These are the small ones?!!” They are the ones in the picture above and below at left.

Small tigers in Tiger KingdomTiger in Tiger Kingdom

   As they’re nocturnal animals, they’re mostly sleeping at this time of midday. That’s why I’ve read the best time to visit them is early in the morning or at late afternoon, as they’re more active, but the buffet lunch here convinced us to come at this time. On despite of that, the caretakers do their best on keeping active the awaken ones and you can end hugging whether the slept or the active ones.
Big tiger in Tiger Kingdom

   The visit for cubs works different: they’re in a room with roof. Eva was lucky enough as per petting one of the babies (which are already bigger than any big cat) it wakes up and groans, which seems to be the sign for the caretakers it’s time to be feed and let my wife to use the feeding bottle.

Big tiger in Tiger KingdomTiger cubs in Tiger Kingdom

   When leaving the area we could see the youngest cubs, with just a few days of live, through the opened window, inside a building. We take the photo below with full zoom. One of them growls to us and it seems the fiercest of all the tigers today.

Baby tigers

   This place is expensive for Thailand standards but it is so unique and wonderful experience that this visit must be a must-do.

   Once back in the common area we go upstairs to lunch in the buffet, with views to the tigers, by 200 Baht per person. When we finish our taxi driver is there waiting for us. I was expecting some king of offer or proposal, but he only asks us where we want to go. I show the two temples, in Chiang Mai city, we want to visit and he takes us to both: Wat Phra Sing and Wat Chedi Luang; and then back to the hotel.

   It’s only then when I realize we had hired a taxi for the whole day by 1000 Baht, which is really good.

   Wat Phra Sing is a complex with various temples and beautiful buildings.

Wat Phra SingWat Phra Sing

Wat Phra Sing

Wat Chedi Luang

   Wat Chedi Luang is also a complex, but the buildings are around a big chedi made with stone and looking old. Its shape recalls a Mayan pyramid to me. There are a lot of monks around, wearing the typical orange clothes, and the buildings are looking different, in shape and color, each other. The snakes in the doors are not nagas, so they must be another mythological animal.

Wat Chedi Luang's ChediTemple in Wat Chedi Luang

    Curiously we’ve got a taxi for the whole day a day with a lot of spare time, it is a pity. Anyway, we spend the time in hotel’s lobby, using internet and taking some drinks. We also go for a one hour’s massage later nearby.
Route for our visits in Chiang Mai and around
   The visited spots today, marked on the map, are:

 0- Banthai Village
 1- Doi Suthep
 2- Tiger Kingdom
 3- Wat Phra Sing
 4- Wat Chedi Luang

   We finally leave at dark in a taxi to the airport, which is 180 Bahts. Our Air Asia flight to Phuket is just perfect.

   When we’re waiting for our baggage I go to the exit just for seeing our transfer options. It’s too late for regular buses so I’m expecting some kind of abuse from the taxis, but I find a stand for a transfer service in 10 person vans leaving everybody at their hotel by 100 Baht per person. It leaves when the van is full and I take my tickets with no second thoughts before coming back with the people waiting in the baggage claim of our flight. I did it right this time, what it was unexpected is the strong rain outside.

   We reach our hotel, in Phuket town, so late and go directly to bed. We previously decided not taking the 8:30 AM ferry, but the one after it in order to get the needed rest.