A tricky trip to the insect zoo, learning all about beetle fighting, and Jim holds a venomous scorpion.

Day 169: Chiang Mai, Thailand. We were up late again, after a late night of music. Nights out on the town and early mornings just don’t mix too well.

We decided to push out our hike again, and instead visit the Siam Insect Zoo, about 20km north of Chiang Mai. Getting there proved to be a bit tricky – an online app called Moovit showed a series of buses that leaves from outside the nearby Design College, and either go right to the Insect Zoo, or drop passengers on the main road a few kilometres away.

We walked to the Design College to catch the 12 noon bus, but couldn’t find a bus stop, and a girl at the college said she’d never seen a bus pass by in all the time she’d worked there.

We waited until 12.15pm, then gave up and walked to the bus terminal, further to the north of town. The information desk has a window at waist height, so Lil crouched over and had a tricky conversation with the girl behind the desk, who pointed us to the yellow taxis around the corner.

The yellow taxis were pretty expensive, so we went back to the regular buses, and asked if one of the buses going up the main road towards Doi Luang could just drop us off. After trying to sell us tickets to a completely different town, then to the Tiger Kingdom, we eventually managed to buy the tickets we needed.

The bus trip took around 30 minutes, and after being dropped off on the main road, we walked the last 3 and a half kilometres to the Insect Zoo.

The Zoo is fabulous – a huge collection of insects and arachnids, some we’d never heard of before. We spent a couple of hours wandering through the exhibition area, peering at lots of live bugs, shining torches in the cages with tarantulas, walking through a butterfly garden, and taking the opportunity to hold some live critters.

We read about beetle fighting – a gambling sport in the north of Thailand, particularly in Chiang Mai. Locals search out the large horned beetles, then feed them with sugar cane stem, train them to be more aggressive for fighting, and sell them on roadside stalls.

There was also an information stand on the nutritional value of bugs, so now Jim can check the protein and fat content when he scoffs crickets, silkwork pupae and other delicacies at street markets.

One of the staff at the zoo let us climb into a cage with three large iguanas which we were allowed to touch but not hold, then afterwards we were able to hold some smaller ones. They’re such fabulous creatures.

And for anyone who’s keen to have an iguana as a pet, there was a tank full of small ones on sale for 420 Baht each (around 20 AUD).

Jim held a small but interesting caterpillar, a huge Jungle Nymph stick insect, and then was super-brave and asked to hold a venomous scorpion. Lil was happy to just watch.

When we’d had our fill of critters, we had some great coffee in the outdoor courtyard cafe, then walked back to the main road to catch a bus home again.

The first two buses that went past were full, but then a songthaew which had a couple of seats spare pulled over and gave us a ride back to Chiang Mai.

We dropped our packs off at the guesthouse, then went straight out again for dinner, back to the restaurant from a couple of nights ago where the lovely lady cooked us some more sensational food – red chicken curry, fried chicken and cashew nuts and the great papaya salad she makes right on the spot.

Then home for a much needed chill-out evening with some rubbish TV and a couple of beers, followed by an early night.

Tomorrow we’ll walk to the base of a nature trail, then hike up through the woods to an old temple, and on to some other scenic attractions. And hopefully we won’t see any of the icky bugs we encountered at the Insect Zoo today.

More then.

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