2009 Thailand # 8: The Laughing Tuk-Tuk Driver and Fluffy Snake Fodder

Sign at Wat Umong, Chiang Mai

Sign at Wat Umong, Chiang Mai

Yesterday we travelled out to Wat Umong. Yes folks, we made it outside The Wall. We jumped into a tuk-tuk with The Laughing Tuk-tuk Driver who giggled at everything he said, so we figured either he must be a very funny man or we’re extremely amusing from his point of view or he’s slightly gaga. Or maybe all of the above. He had by far the slowest tuk-tuk we’ve been on by far so we got to appreciate the unlovely eau-de-exhaust coming off all the other vehicles as they passed us most the way there. Come to think of it, maybe that’s why he giggles so much – he’s high on carbon monoxide or whatever it is that cars breathe…

Wat Umong was pretty cool. It’s a Wat out of town a little, built by one of the past kings for a monk that was apparently a little deranged and liked to wander into the forest sporadically. The king liked to talk with this monk, so he built a Wat for him in the forest so that he could consult the monk whenever he liked. It’s a peaceful place with tunnels built overground (not quite what I expected in a tunnel, but there you have it) with Buddhas sitting inside niches in the walls. It has sayings (many in Thai but some in English) nailed to the trees, a large lake where you can sit and feed the apparently starving hoards of catfish (that’s their story and they’re sticking to it), a museum which, unhelpfully remained closed, a statue of the Emaciated Buddha (a depiction of what he looked like after he’s starved himself for about three years before discovering that excesses in action weren’t actually all that useful – you can imagine what he looked like, I’m sure), various buildings here and there and, best of all, a cup-cake lizard! We didn’t see him but we heard him and a monk confirmed for us that it definitely was a lizard. He also went on to mime (which is largely how Gill and I communicate here) that it indeed will stick to your skin and possibly bite you, and he’s scared of them. Huh. So Gill and I have now had our suspicions verified by a monk, so we now see that the locals on our soi (street) are definitely either deaf or in denial due to lizard-fear.

Our laughing tuk-tuk driver took us from there to the Chiang Mai Zoo. The zoo is on thirty something acres of land at the base of and part way up the Doi Suthep (mountain) nearby Chiang Mai. Here you pay 220 baht for an all day pass which lets you in to see the pandas (all 2 of them) on loan from China, the rest of the zoo apart from the aquarium (which we didn’t need to see, coming from New Zealand) and ’service cars’ – open air buses that you can hop on and off all day to see various parts of the place. There’s no way you can walk around this zoo as it’s just too big and you’d probably die of the heat if you tried. The first thing we did was stop to feed an elephant. Talk about big Trev! It had impressive tusks that curved round in front of it and when Gill fed it some bananas it curled it’s trunk around her hand. She got a heck of a buzz out of that.My favourite part was the reptile section. At last, I got to see snakes. (I hate the things, I think they’re creepy – it’s downright unnatural to have fangs and no legs.) I wanted to make myself look at them to try and get over my ridiculous fear of them. Ridiculous because we have no snakes in NZ, so it’s not like it’s going to be a problem. They were in netting cages, kind of like medium-size aviaries, and were pretty hard to see at first. While I was peering into the first one, Gill touched me and I nearly jumped out of my skin. They really do give me the creeps! But once I got used to being around them and convinced myself that they couldn’t slither through a millimeter-wide opening, I was quite fascinated. They weren’t very big, but there was quite a variety of them and it was amazing to see just how well camouflaged they are. You could stand there for several minutes before you realised you were staring right at one. Sadly, most of the larger snakes were absent, as they were building new glass enclosures for them, so the biggest ones I got to see were Burmese Pythons that were sleeping in one big coil on the other side of the room from me. I’m working up to visiting a snake farm next. Or whatever they call the facilities where they milk them for venom.

The pandas were pretty groovy. They look just like panda bears, funnily enough, but it was still really cool to see them with our own eyes (as if you’d borrow someone else’s – that’s such a stupid saying). They were in separate enclosures from each other and one was lying around on a high branch portraying the epitome of having had a hard day, while the other one was chewing enthusiastically on some branches of bamboo. After a while, this one got up and came down to look at the people that the zoo kindly puts on show for it, then it climbed back up the wall, turned around and gave a demonstration on how pandas use the toilet. It would seem that there are only two places in it’s enclosure it uses for this purpose and when you go back out of the room, it’s possible to purchase your very own supply of Panda Poo toilet paper. No, the pandas don’t wipe their backsides, before you ask…

We watched gibbons swing around their island. These creatures are the most amazing acrobats, and so graceful about it. But their arms are so long that when they walk, they have to hold their hands out sideways else they’d keep getting tangled in the foliage, I suppose. They come in various colours and some have white gloves on their hands, or so it seems.

Other reptiles included enormous crocodiles that lay so still we wondered if they were stuffed, monitor lizards, other colourful little lizards and turtles of so many types we lost count. In one enclosure, there were a whole lot of rabbits socializing with the turtles. I suggested to Gill that these rabbits may be snake fodder but we’re not going to talk about that any more…

Miraculously, we were sitting out at the gate wondering how to get a ride home when our laughing tuk-tuk driver pulled up beside us. We know he wasn’t waiting for us as he knew we’d be hours at the zoo, so this was rather a happy coincidence (pardon the pun). On the way home, we tried to get him to go to Warorot Market so I could pick some clothes up from my tailor and he took us to two other markets before we actually got to the right place. He didn’t charge us any extra and he was still giggling a lot, so that was okay. When we finally got to the right place, he got out of the tuk-tuk and walked off. We stood around wondering what we should do when he finally came back, having gone off to get change for us when we hadn’t even paid yet! Yet another demonstration of the amount of trust these people have. (There’s been a few times when I’ve left my shoes or something lying around, to find it still there when I’ve gone back hours later.)

We got home at about 6.30 p.m., had a rum each then promptly fell asleep for the next 12 hours. Who would have thought that looking at things could be so exhausting?

I’m sitting in an internet cafe down the road from our place and Ugly Cat (one of the toms around here) has just walked in mewing loudly and plonked himself behind me. He’s got a lot to say for himself and I think it’s my cue to leave, as he’s rather large and seems pretty annoyed about something. We’re off to find a scooter a bit later and if I can remember how to ride a motorised 2-wheeled thing, we’ll wander around inside The Wall on it and see how well two blondes can get lost.

Snake at Chiang Mai Zoo. Creepy...

Snake at Chiang Mai Zoo. Creepy…

Mandatory panda photo, Chiang Mai Zoo.

Mandatory panda photo, Chiang Mai Zoo.

One of the tunnels (umongs) at Wat Umong, Chiang Mai

One of the tunnels (umongs) at Wat Umong, Chiang Mai

Buddha statue inside one of the tunnels (umongs) at Wat Umong, Chiang Mai

Buddha statue inside one of the tunnels (umongs) at Wat Umong, Chiang Mai

Emaciated Buddha, Wat Umong, Chiang Mai

Emaciated Buddha, Wat Umong, Chiang Mai

Cool little lizard at Wat Umong, Chiang Mai

Cool little lizard at Wat Umong, Chiang Mai

A man making a plinth for a new Buddha statue at Wat Umong, Chiang Mai

A man making a plinth for a new Buddha statue at Wat Umong, Chiang Mai

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Your thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s