At the moment we are in Chiang Mai, located in northern Thailand and once the capital of the ancient state of Lanna Thai. Among a whole host of attractions vying for your attention here, there is a large zoo which I’ve regretted not seeing 7 yrs ago when we were here last, particularly for its Giant Panda exhibit. So this time, with children in tow, there was definitely no excuse!
As far as zoos go, Chiang Mai Zoo seems pretty good. The zoo is set on a 200ish acre property in the forested foothills of Suthep Mountain, so the setting offers lots of natural shade and a beautiful backdrop. Luckily they run shuttle buses on a hop-on, hop-off basis which makes it very manageable to explore exhibits. Most of the enclosures are very natural and of a good size, especially the Giant Pandas, gibbons, lions ,giraffes, elephants and zebra exhibits, although the reptile and seal displays did look a bit outdated and sad. Best of all, you can actually get pretty close to the animals, inspite of the enclosures.
|A visitor to our bus|
|Black and White Gibbons|
And the Giant Pandas did not disappoint! They looked like people dressed in Panda suits! Their eyes and motions were startlingly human. The exhibit also detailed the journey (in English too!) to artificially inseminate their female panda, with a successful result in May 2009 with the birth of a baby Panda. It further explained that without domestication and breeding programs, Giant Pandas are on the road to extinction due to the rapid disappearance of their natural habitat in the jungles of northern China due to forestation and human migration.
|Munching on his favourite food, Bamboo|
We ended up spending an entire day here, and better yet only spent $25 USD for all of us, which included admission, shuttle bus (0.60 cents per adult), Giant Panda exhibit admission, pony rides for the girls, and lunch. The girls were pooped and asleep by 6:30pm that night!! We highly recommend you check out the Chiang Mai Zoo if you are in this part of Thailand, even if you don’t have kids!
TIP: If you do go, be sure to check out their website http://chiangmaizoo.peam.biz/ for the complete info and timetable of the free shows which are included. There is not much information on-site in English so we ended up missing the shows :(
|0.60 cent/20B Pony Rides!|
Travelling with children now, we’re conscious to include activities which we think they would enjoy and even better yet, if it's also got some educational value. When planning for the trip, we knew from our previous experiences that Thailand would offer lots of (affordable) opportunities for us to expose the girls to ‘large’ animals in captivity. The problem though is that there are also lots of exploitation of animals too so it’s tricky to be able to find a balance between education and blatant capitalism. Zoos and ‘animal attractions’ can be a huge topic of contentious discussion. But at the end of the day, I believe that if the animals are treated well and placed in appropriately sized enclosures with access to water, food and shade, then the good that comes from children and adults having access to such animals that they most likely never ever encounter in the wild, is a worthwhile result.