Last night we went to the Chiang Mai Night Safari, and if ever there was a place which achieved the perfect combination of spectacle, danger, and kitsch that I have come to expect from and Asian theme park, this is it.
Ostentations statuary? Check.
Giant light up plastic animals? Check.
Eardrum shattering sound system? Check.
Dangerous wildlife wandering about, uncaged and uncomfortably close? Check.
Dancing women (who might actually be men?), dressed to represent each ASEAN member nation? Check.
Laser light and water show? Check.
The Night Safari is a combination zoo/theme park/resort. There are things to do there during the day, but the more popular option is to go at night. It is both as amazing and as awful as you think it’s going to be.
The main attraction is the tram ride which takes you – in complete darkness – through two separate open habitat animal enclosures.
For the more dangerous animals, there is a large trench that protects you from attack. For the less dangerous animals, you’re on your own!
Our driver warned us repeatedly that the zebras have very sharp teeth and may bite our fingers off, but she didn’t warn us that the zebra will stick its face in your lap looking for hidden food.
There were some rare animals, like these rhinos:
There were lions, tigers, bears, and hyenas all around us! I am not convinced the depth of the trench was enough to stop a truly determined Siberian tiger from reaching the tram, but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt since we made it out in one piece. After the tram ride, you are invited to enjoy the shows put on in the courtyard. There was some kind of cowboy/roping demonstration, fire eating, a tiger show, and the aforementioned dancing ASEAN countries. The night was closed out by a laser light/water fountain spectacular.