It's not at the top of our list of things to see in Chiang Mai, but if you're spending more than a few days in the area, the Chiang Mai zoo is definitely worth a visit. Located on the road that takes you to Doi Suthep, right at the base of the mountain in fact, the zoo is easy to find.
Up close and personal with an elk.
It's not quite so easy to negotiate. The zoo is situated on the side of a hill covering about 200 acres. From the entrance a long looping road takes you through the park. There are trams between some of the major sights, but it's still quite a hike to get around the whole place.
The collection is fairly common. Its the setting that makes it interesting. There are some old-style small cages, but most animals are displayed in quite large enclosures. They also seem quite well cared for. The buck at right seems quite healthy. He stood quite still for me to take this picture, though I can't quite read the expression in his eyes.
A couple of the pens allow you to get quite "up close and personal" with the animals. One was shared by a family of giraffes as well as a couple of zebras. A ramp allows you to walk up and into the middle of the enclosure where you can get almost eye-to-eye with a giraffe. A nearby vendor will sell you some long beans, which the giraffes seem to like. The zebras don't like to be left out either! Their coloration was quite a bit more sharp than I expected.
Giraffe's view of a zebra.
You can easily spend a whole day looking round the zoo. Check out the signs near the entrance to make sure you see what you want to see. There are plenty of places to stop and get something to eat if you get hungry.
Late in 2003, Thailand was loaned a pair of pandas from China. The pandas went on display in October 2003 in a new multi-million dollar air conditioned enclosure. They're quite a huge attraction, with bus loads of Thai school children lined up to see them.
Hours and Admission Fees
General admission to the zoo is 30 Baht (0.77 USD) for adults and 5 Baht for children. Entry to see the pandas is another 100 Baht for adults; 50 Baht for children. The zoo is open from 8:00 in the morning until 18:00 in the evening. The panda enclosure opens at 9:00.
The zoo is located on Huay Kaew road at the base of Doi Suthep, just past Chiang Mai University. You can get there by tuk-tuk or songtaew (a pickup with benches in the back). In Thai, the zoo is called "suan sut." You'll have no problem getting transportation back into town center, as there are always some songtaew waiting outside.