Following our afternoon at the Chiang Mai Zoo, we ventured on foot to a restaurant that seemed to be adjacent to the alternate zoo exit on our Nancy Chandler Map. I love this map. With it’s details and annotations, it’s become my all in one guidebook to Chiang Mai. I am so full of love for this map, that I underestimated the disclaimer on the legend that reads “This scale is approximate only. We consider content more important than 100% adherence to scale.”
Finding the alternate zoo exit was a challenge in itself. After the hyenas, the only sign we saw was a wooden board than read “Tropical Forest.” That was not an exhibit. We were in the tropical forest surrounding Chiang Mai. By this time it was dusk and I did not want to be stuck in a zoo in a forest with toddlers as bait. After several minutes of complete solitude a motorbike passed and then made a U-turn. The concerned rider came back to ask if we needed help. “Yes!” The four of us seemed to exclaim in unison. “Do you know the way to Palaad Tawanron restaurant?” She assured us that it was 1 km away, to the right of the zoo exit.
We walked uphill for what seemed like 1 km, by which time it was getting darker. We finally found the zoo exit. The watchman was as surprised as the motorcyclist to see a family on foot. Once he knew our destination, he told us that we were 1 km away.
At this point we saw signs for the restaurant, which should have been assuring, except this is where they told us to go.
Sandeep carried Ava up the steep and windy hills while I pushed Kayan’s chubby body up in the stroller. And just when I had convinced myself that the worst that could happen is we spend the night in the forest eaten by mosquitoes, we came face to face with a very large and very angry looking wild mountain goat. Sorry, no picture. I was in full panic by now.
The goat ambled on his way while I fought thoughts of him being followed by the Wild Africa exhibit. Another motorcyclist passed us and asked if we needed help. “Yes!” We panted. We explained. “Only 1 km.” With that, he sped off.
And then I saw the light. Quite literally.
We’d never been so happy to find a restaurant. The view was spectacular and the food very satisfying after our adventure. We ordered the house special fried pork leg, which was really an entire pork leg. We thought we’d never get through it, but were famished from our ‘trek’. Even the kids ate everything, including their vegetables.
If you get a chance to go to the Chiang Mai Zoo, go. It’s set on expansive grounds in the hills west of the city. The kids enjoyed the many parks and Kayan even fed an elephant for the first time.
If you go to the zoo, do make the trip to Palaad Tawanron. Just know that it is not as close as your map may say. Anyone who tells you it’s 1 km is using that as some bizarre figure of speech. And it’s all uphill. If you trek it, you will have earned your meal. That is if you escape the wild animals on the way.