After we ate, we headed back to the entrance and found a whole bunch of goats and ponies that we could pet and even feed. The boys had a great time giving the baby goats a bottle.
When we finally convinced them to go inside, we found we were just in time to pet and feed an elephant. Yup, an elephant! I was so thrilled that Derek and the boys got to touch, feed, and interact a little with one of these amazing animals. We feed that guy dozen of bananas and had a great time petting his trunk.
The actual night safari was nice. The animals were easy to see, and the guides shared good information about each species as we made our way through the park. The only downfall was that on the first of the two rides, we were in the very back and could not hear the guide at all. Many people were not following the rules, and we saw a little boy get bit by a zebra due to his rule-breaking.
While not the best zoo experience we've had in Asia (Singapore Zoo), it was definitely not the worst (Saigon Zoo). It is worth a visit if you are bringing your kids to Chiang Mai--even if all you do is feed the deer and play at the playground. I am glad we did it.
There are a lot of elephants in Thailand. A lot. And with so many elephants come a lot of, well, a lot of elephant poop. We found a little place in Chiang Mai that recycles a bit of the poop into fancy, decorative paper. I had the chance to make elephant poo paper on the field trip I chaperoned to Khao Yai, but I wanted the boys to have a go at it as well.
Making elephant poo paper was a great morning activity for the kids. They were able to learn the paper making process, and then they got to create special cards out of the poo paper. They had a great time getting a little dirty and then doing some arts and crafts. A morning well spent with young children!
I'm sure the grandparents will be delighted to get the poo-cards the boys made for them in the mail!
We have tried a lot of different modes of transportation in our time in SE Asia, but I think we have discovered our favorite. The Songthaew. Its a little bus with benches for seats. Not as dusty as a tuk-tuk but more adventurous than a taxi. They are easy to use, cheap, and efficient. We took the songthaews all over the place in Chiang Mai, and, if you ask the dudes what their favorite part about our trip to Chiang Mai was, they will both reply "songthaews!"
In fact, Owen loved the songthaews so much that he wrote about them and presented his writing at an assembly. Notice how he was very clear about the lack of seat belts? I'd like to say that that raised a few eyebrows with the other parents at the assembly, but it didn't because seat belts aren't too common in this part of the world...
Chaing Mai is home to over a dozen large, elaborate temples. I love walking around the temples, so we visited many of them during our trip to Chiang Mai--much to Owen's dismay. (Don't worry, he ended up having a good time.) We did not make it to the famous Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, but we did have a very enjoyable morning walking around the Old City in Chiang Mai visiting as many temples as we could.
I was fond of the elephants depicted everywhere as well as the animals from the Chinese zodiac. We took pictures with our respective animals at one temple. Derek is a dog, I am a pig, Owen is an Ox, and Oliver is a rabbit. The boys enjoyed searching for their animals at all the different temples.
Arguably the best part of our family vacation to Chiang Mai was the food. We had so many choices for delicious vegetarian food that we wanted to eat full meals four times a day. I finally had a chance to try all kinds of different Thai food without worrying that it contains meat. My favorites were a Phat Thai at the Sunday Walking Street and a pumpkin curry at a tiny street cafe. Though I had the mango sticky rice three different times--once with blue rice! Oh, and Chiang Mai has amazing strawberries! There were very sweet, and on the street, they are served with a sugar/salt blend sprinkled over the top. Incredible taste!
We tried so many different things and had a great time exploring the food options. But don't think Chiang Mai has only vegetarian food, there are lots of carnivore choices too! At our dinner on the last evening, we decided that we had not a single sub-par meal. In fact, we'd be willing to go back to every place we had been.