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Chiang Mai Zoo, Thailand - a Visitor's Guide
Chiang Mai Zoo is located in the north-west corner of the city and set in a beautiful, naturally forested location at the foot of the Doi Pui-Suthep mountain range, which borders the western edge of the city. I have to say, it's not the best zoo that I've ever visited, but it's not the worst either, and it does have some interesting features - and a pretty good collection of animals.
A major feature of the zoo is the walk-thru Aquarium with both freshwater and marine environments and species, which I'll cover in a future Hub. This HubPages Hub focuses just on the outdoors zoo.
Getting there is no problem from anywhere in the city. A 'tuk-tuk' taxi will take you from the city centre to the zoo for around 3 or 4 dollars in around 20 or 30 minutes. Alternatively, a red 'songthaew' shared taxi/ pickup will take you for around 2 dollars per person. That option may take a bit longer as other passengers get on and off at various places along the route.
The zoo is located at 100 Huaykaew Rd in the north west of the city, next to Chiang Mai University, and is open daily from 8:00AM to 5:00PM.
Chiang Mai Zoo (top left corner of the map)
Here is the first negative aspect of the zoo. Foreigners pay more than Thais for an entry ticket here (and at some other places in Thailand). The rationale behind this practice is that if you can afford to fly thousands of miles to get here, you can afford an extra dollar or two to get in. They do try to make it less obvious by printing the entrance fee in English for foreigners but in Thai for Thais. It's just how it is, and even at the foreigners' price, it's still a lot cheaper than any western zoo.
There are two ticket booths at the entrance - one is for the zoo, and one is for the more expensive (again, especially for foreigners) walk-thru aquarium in the zoo grounds.
1 US dollar equals around 30 Baht and Prices for tickets are:
Adults - 150 baht (Thais pay 100 baht)
Children - 70 baht (Thais pay 20 baht)
Adults - 290 baht (Thais pay 210)
Children - 200 baht (Thais pay 110)
All children under 90cm - Free
While it's possible to walk around the zoo, it's definitely not recommended. As mentioned, the zoo is at the foot of a mountain, but it extends a good way up the mountainside. Walking up steep roads in tropical heat is no fun, and nobody in their right mind does it. In any case, the animals are located at several 'stations', so you'd be walking for long stretches without any animals in sight.
Instead, you have two choices. One is to take one of the many shuttle buses which pass every station where the animals are located. The other is to take the overhead monorail which gives a bird's eye view of all the animal enclosures at four of the stations. The shuttle bus is far more practical and covers all the animal stations. You can get on and off anywhere along the route that you like, and you can choose either a single circuit ticket or pay extra for an all day ticket. There's no dual pricing involved in either mode of transport.
Shuttle Bus/ Monorail
Adult: 100 Baht, All day (70 Baht single circuit)
Child: 50 Baht
There is a pretty good variety of animals at each station, and the zoo collection includes: lions, tigers, leopards, hippos, giraffes, rhinoceros, zebra, elephants, crocodiles, gibbons, orang utan, meerkats, ostriches, snakes, deer, giant lizards, giant panda (separate entry charge), koalas, penguins and a wide variety of birds including peafowl, flamingos, toucans and hornbills. There are also shows that are regularly scheduled, such as seals performing tricks. The timetable for shows can be seen at Chiang Mai Zoo Show Schedule.
Unfortunately, there are quite a few enclosures without any printed information letting you know the exact species that's inside. There are also quite a few empty enclosures with no indication of why or for how long they're going to be empty, although, keep in mind that in some cases, they might not be empty as the animals may be keeping well out of sight
Feeding the Animals
At many enclosures, you can feed the animals. It's not allowed at most zoos as feeding them the wrong kind of food or even too much of the right kind of food is bad for them, but here it's allowed and there's usually an employee selling the right kind of food (grasses, plants. etc.). It's a great experience for kids and the animals obviously have no complaints, but most zoos consider it a practice that does more harm than good.
Other attractions and facilities
In addition to the zoo's collection of animals, there are various other facilities including restaurants and snack areas, souvenir shops, a kid's Go-Karting track and ancient Buddhist temple ruins over 800 years old.