- What did you do today Kitty R.? Do you recommend any attractions?
- Well … I haven’t done anything special. I walked around, I looked, I lied down, I took pictures. Nice day.
Attractions. Kitty R. looks at the piles of leaflets in the hostel’s vestibule.
Tigers. You can come and take a selfie with them, the price depends on the size, age and color of the tiger. A controversial place, that divides internet society into two opposite groups by the question: do they drug / abuse the tigers there or not? And then some decide to go to see it: out of curiosity, to find the truth through their own experience, or to prove something to someone. And this is the moment when people unite, because purchasing a ticket equals the financial support for the place and the reason for the visit simply becomes invalid.
Kitty R. thinks that whether tigers are intoxicated or not is just a distraction from other key questions. For Kitty R., the place from the very beginning is simply bad. It has nothing to do with any good action for the tigers, both those in the wild and those brought up in captivity. Tigers are kept either in small cages or on short chains. They were born in this place only to bring in a profit of 6 million dollars a year, which doesn’t go to any meaningful activity outside the place of exploitation of the tigers. There are also no educational activities, no one speaks either in the place or even on the website about tigers as such, their history, species, lifestyle, threats or even just about their diet. Zero knowledge. Tigers Temple, a place after the scandal, when 40 tigers cubs were found in the freezer, prepared for trade, seems to still have it’s alternative existing, which is Tigers Kingdom (basically same place, different name). Kitty R. doesn’t have to go there and experience it on her own, to say a categorical ‘no’ to such a tiger business.
Elephants. Not sure if you know, but nowadays the elephant ride is very passé. Most of tourist agencies are roaring that trips to elephant sanctuaries, orphanages, parks are: no rides, no hooks, pure love. The locals have already realized that Western tourists have more and more awareness about phajaan (breaking the psyche of young elephants with the help of tortures such as detachment from the mother, tying, starving, driving hooks in their head), so now visitors are taken for pity. Poor baby elephant, come, wash it, feed it. And pay. You can also stay longer in the role of a volunteer, of course that’s the option to pay even more. Kitty R. is not convinced by a place where the relationship of elephants and people is based primarily on money. Maybe Kitty R. is unjust to some, but she leaves both tigers and elephants in peace.
People. There is a photo of a woman, with golden circles piled up around her neck, which optically lengthens it (in fact their weight just lowers the arms slightly). Her image is already copied on paintings, mugs, in the museums and even on some street walls. This is an incentive to visit the Karen tribe (Padaung), meaning people who are refugees from Myanmar. As refugees, they received land from Thailand, which they could not leave until recently, even to go to school or hospital. They can’t undertake any work other than tourism and handicrafts, or leave the village; all that under the threat of arrest. They do not have any legal document (ID) entitling them to provide a normal life and having rights like other residents in Thailand. Their main task is to smile to please tourists and not to leave the village. Is visiting this so-called ‘human zoo’ a support for an ethnic group or does it further their exploitation? Kitty R. wonders what motivates people to join tribal tourism? Making a lush photo or getting to know another culture and tradition? In the case of the latter, this raises another question: what is authentic there and what is done just for tourism? Maybe if Kitty R. had the certainty that these ethnic groups really wanted it, that this is their decision and the money goes all the way to their hand-stitched pockets, that they have any choice at all… then maybe Kitty R. would look at tribal tourism more within a favorable, less disturbed eye.
(a short documentary on the topic)
Kitty R. recommends. Whether it rains or the sun is shining, you can always go for a walk and discover many places on your own. Entertain yourself with some art (‘Hells bells, what a interesting street art they have here in Chiang Mai!), admire a red-blossoming tree by the river or have a photo in an old telephone booth. If you miss having close contact with animals, you can pop in for a coffee in a cat-café and if one of the little furs agrees (comes to you), you can then hug and pur together (a milder alternative to the tiger attraction, a cat is a cat, isn’t it?). Or you can go and try various strange flavors at the night market or rent a bike and check the surroundings from the perspective of two wheels. You can also go for a massage from ex-female prisoners or never to be prisoners (Kitty R. respects criminal history, but when it comes to a massage having it or not, that’s really not important). You can spend hours wondering where to go to eat something (and then end in an awesome Japanese milk bar* or Indian food as delicious as ever!). You can also sign up for yoga (Kitty’s first time and yay!), Thai boxing or play badminton. You can get acquainted with the hosts of the accommodation and get to know their everyday life a bit better (‘I bought this cat on the Saturday market and after a few weeks it disappeared, and then came back pregnant, funny, huh? …’ or ‘Kitty, would you like to pose as a model in an abdominal massage workshop?’). You can also go to a jazz club (jam session - full respect for those pro and laid back musicians!) or karaoke. Or sign up for a cooking class to support your future memories with a taste.
You can simply live peacefully in another country, get soaked in a different culture and climate.
And you can also do nothing; just sit, look around, lie down, drink a mango smoothie very slowly … because when else is it better to do nothing in peace if not while on a long journey?
*milk bar - a polish type of eatery serving cheap and very homey food