We get up in the morning with plans to go to Doi Suthep and the Chiang Mai Zoo. We walk down to the temple near our hostel where the songtows wait to collect passengers. Two American girls and two European girls were waiting and we tried to negotiate a songtow with them but they were unhappy that the driver would “only” wait 1.5 hours at Doi Suthep and wouldn’t take them only one way. They also wanted to bargain hard over every last baht. Fortunately for us, two young Chinese ladies walked up and asked whether they could go to Bhubing Palace and Doi Suthep. The driver wanted 800 baht for the day, regardless of where we went and how many of us went in his truck. The American and European girls were adamant they did not want to go to Bhubing Palace and we had no idea what Bhubing Palace was. But, being open to adventure, we decided to join the Chinese ladies for the ride up to Bhubing Palace at a cost of 200 baht each (because the American and European girls walked off to find other transport options).
Bhubing Palace turned out to be a fantastic bonus for our day. The palace is the holiday home of the Thai Royal Family and boasts stunning gardens. We both love gardens and flowers so had a field day.
It wasn’t just the flowers that were beautiful but the whole landscaping design was amazing. There were rooms, like the rose garden, fern garden, lake garden, glass house garden and clumps of bamboo. As we walked we talked about starting our own little potted garden at the house we rent. Maybe just some peas, broccoli, leafy greens and flowers. Nothing too difficult to maintain or large, just something that we can transport if we have to move in future and something we can leave while we travel and not be worried if it doesn’t survive our absence.
After an hour at Bhubing Palace the songtow took us back down the mountain to Doi Suthep. This is a mountain temple where you have to walk up 302 steps to reach it. The steps are quite small and the climb isn’t as bad as it sounds. It was very busy, but as usual in a Thai temple it felt calm and peaceful inside. Foreigners have to pay a small entry fee, which I don’t ever mind paying when it is only small. It reflects that tourists come to see the temple while locals come to pray (and, in doing so, leave lots of money at the temple). We have started to actively participate in the way of the temple by making small donations, buying incense and candles, and paying to pour the oil into candle holders at the Buddha images that reflect the days of our birth. The temple itself is large, gold and beautiful.
The Chiang Mai Zoo is located at the base of the mountain under Doi Suthep. We’d read about the zoo at Dusit Zoo way back in Bangkok so had to go. What we didn’t realise is how big Chiang Mai Zoo is. There’s a reason they allow people to drive around the zoo and hire out golf carts for people who do not have cars. But we didn’t realise until it was too late. You could easily spend a whole day here at this zoo, exploring the various animal exhibits, sitting in the bird aviary and wandering through the aquarium.
We paid about 20 baht (80c) to feed a jaguar and elephant (not at the same time – haha). The jaguar had the most amazing eyes. They were big, clear and intelligent. It’s paws were huge as it padded around its enclosure. The elephant was kind of scary because it was so big. We took turns feeing it and hoping that it didn’t break out of its enclosure, which was only closed by a flimsy post and rail fence with a chain gate. It might have been a zoo activity but feeding an elephant is a pretty cool experience. We also visited the two pandas. One was asleep but the other saw us arrive, walked down to inspect us and then wandered around its enclosure. There are only 35 pandas in zoos worldwide and very few left in the wild. Having now seen one, I know what people mean by panda eyes.
But my favourite part of the Chiang Mai Zoo was the aquarium. I loved walking around looking at all the different types of sea life. There were mangrove fish, prawns, coral fish, small blacktip sharks and many more sea creatures. It made me want to learn to scuba so I can see these all in the wild (well, maybe not the sharks).
It was a big day of sights, walking and travel but well worth the effort. In the evening we returned to the Sunday Walking Street to buy gifts and souvenirs for home. This represents a shift for me because it means I am ready to start acquiring possessions and settling down again after giving away or selling almost all my possessions last year when I embarked on this journey of Looking For 42.