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My Time in Thailand: Tigers, Farms, Royals, Rivers

A Buddhist temple, known in Thailand as a wat, on the bank of the Mae Ping River.

A Buddhist temple, known in Thailand as a wat, on the bank of the Mae Ping River.

The 66th annual conference of the International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations, IFALPA, was held this month in Chiang Mai, Thailand. My father was awarded with the Scroll of Merit for his work with IFALPA, and I joined him on a brief trip to Chiang Mai to receive his award.

A farm on the Mae Ping River.

A farm on the Mae Ping River.

After traveling for over 36 hours from Tampa to Washington, D.C., D.C. to Toyko, Japan, Toyko to Bangkok, Thailand, and finally from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, we arrived just in time to hear the key note speaker, Ambassador Duane Woerth, US Representative to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

Euro, a four-month-old tiger, at the Tiger Kingdom.

Euro, a four-month-old tiger, at the Tiger Kingdom.

After not having slept in a bed for the entirety of our travel, and jet lag tricking our bodies into thinking we were 11 hours behind local time, we spent the rest of our Thursday unpacking and relaxing in our hotel room.

A river view of the self-sustaining farm.

A river view of the self-sustaining farm.

On Friday we attended the conference’s opening ceremonies, with plenary in the morning, and a visit from Thailand’s Crown Prince in the afternoon.

Shortly after we ate lunch we were ushered through temporary metal detectors that had been set up for the Crown Prince’s security.

Once inside the grand ballroom, we were instructed on when to stand up, be seated, and bow or curtsy while royalty was in the room.

The women then had a lesson on the official way to curtsy. We waited patiently for three hours before the Crown Prince, the Princess Consort and their son entered the room.

The Shangri-La hotel in Chiang Mai where we stayed.

The Shangri-La hotel in Chiang Mai where we stayed.

Because of the heightened security measures, no cameras other than the official press cameras were allowed.

Saturday we had an early start. We rented a car for the day, and the driver took us to the Maesa Elephant Camp.

We watched an elephant parade, talent show, and soccer game. The elephants then painted for us–one elephant even painted a self portrait.

Our driver lead us over to the elephant ride area, and we then rode an elephant named Mae Mai to the Huai La Development Karen village, over an hour away.

The Karen indigenous people are known for their long-neck tradition of placing metal rings around the women’s necks starting when they are children and adding rings every year to “lengthen” the neck. Our driver met us at the end of the village with cold bottles of water.

The people of Thailand say that they have two seasons, hot and very hot, and we visited at the beginning of the very hot season.

We then traveled to the Tiger Kingdom, where for a small fee you could chose to go into the cage of “smallest, small, medium, or big” tigers.

A downriver view from the farm’s dock.

A downriver view from the farm’s dock.

My dad and I chose to go into the smallest and big tiger cages. The smallest tigers were 4 months old, and about the size of a great Dane.

The big tigers were 17 months old and were almost indistinguishable from the tigers you traditionally see at a zoo.

We purchased 15 minutes of time in each cage, which was an amazing experience. These tigers are nocturnal, and hand raised, so they were very docile while we were in the cage with them.

Our last day was Sunday, and we chose to spend it on a river cruise on the Mae Ping river. The company that ran the cruise also owned a self-sustaining farm about 40 minutes upstream.

When we arrived there, we were greeted with fresh pineapple and watermelon grown on premises.

A Karen long neck girl.

A Karen long neck girl.

After an eventful day on Saturday, and our travel back home beginning that night, we quietly drifted back down the river observing the peaceful fishermen along the banks of the muddy river.

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