My second full day in Chiang Mai:
I went to the Tiger Kingdom. Kingdom-goers can buy time with a tiger based on the tiger's size: fifteen minutes with a small, medium, or big tiger. I, thinking to myself that I will probably never get to do this again, went big. As a bonus, three big tigers shared the same space, so I got to chill with a trio. Yep-- you can't quite tell from the pictures, but I am spooning with not one, but three different big tigs. When it comes to tigers, I get around. (For pictures, see facebook).
At one point, I was leaning down over a tiger when it whacked me up side the head with its surprisingly forceful tail. The keeper explained to me that the tiger thought I was a big fly-- my necklace had been tickling it. The necklace in question is the one with the pendant on it that has "frolic" stamped into it. Yes, I'm going around Thailand wearing my blog title and annoying large animals with it.
After the Kingdom, we went to prison. The women's prison in Chiang Mai has some sort of program where the inmates work at Thai massage; the money they earn is held for them upon their release. Apparently it's appealing to tourists to have convicts put their hands all over them. Our group being of the same opinion (this particular day I was traveling with a Brit, a Canadian, and a Swiss), we made our way over, but they were booked through the rest of the day. Luckily, massage parlors are about three a block in this place, so we were soon accommodated somewhere else, and I got my first Thai massage.
First they gave me some loose pajama-like things to wear, and then they sat me down and washed my feet. Then I laid down on my back, and the lady started rubbing my feet and then my legs. The experience was lovely but mostly unremarkable until the stretching started. They STRETCH you. When you're on your back, they bend your leg and push your knee to the floor beside you. They twist you into a diagonal backbend. It's like Cirque de Soleil training. At one point, I was on my stomach, and both of the ladies' knees were on my hamstrings, and she pulled both my arms behind me until I was essentially kneeling on the floor. As I said in a facebook status update, it's like they do yoga TO you. And it feels wonderful. I SO recommend this. On top of the awesomeness, the massage cost only 180 Baht for an hour-- roughly five or six dollars. I've seen places that offer it for as little as 120 Baht, or around four dollars. The quality does vary though- the second Thai massage I experienced wasn't as magical- probably because the masseuse was sub-100 lbs and couldn't do the heavy lifting.
On a non-PG note, I've heard that some massage parlors, especially in Bangkok, serve as thin disguises for brothels where patrons can request a "happy ending" to their massage. I'll try and make sure my frolicking steers clear of these places. I'd much rather be mistaken for a big fly than a sex tourist.