The Chiang Mai zoo’s star animals are undoubtedly the pandas, which are on a 10-year loan from China, and for which you have to pay extra to see. That’s partly because they have to live in an air-con enclosure, which rumour has it even has occasional artificial snowstorms… which brings us on to the “snow dome”, another popular attraction for Thais who’ve never seen snow before, and which also charges a separate entrance fee. The snow dome, of moderate interest to Westerners, is a kind of overgrown deep-freeze with a toboggan slope and igloo among its attractions.
Other non-animal viewing attractions in Chiang Mai zoo include go-carting, elephant rides, inflated plastic balls on the lake, a trained bird show and an “adventure railway” ride. The latter is so kitsch it’s good, and involves a brief ride around a deer and goat enclosure with added plastic dinosaurs that move their heads when you pass and a giant King Kong that roars and flashes his red eyes. Even odder are the model Akha and Mabri exhibits.