While visiting Chiang Mai, there are many spots you could consider including in your sightseeing, and the Chiang Mai Zoo and Aquarium should definitely be on the menu. Why? Pandas (including a cub), polar bears, giant manta rays and more, of course!
The Chiang Mai Zoo achieved international acclaim in 2009 thanks to the birth of a baby panda, Lin Ping, a rare event with pandas in captivity: pandas have long been considered an endangered species-the Ailuropoda melanoleuca, or the giant panda, was classified as such as early as 1984 by International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN); today their status is "conservation reliant." Among other factors that contribute to this, including but not limited to poaching and destroying of their habitats, their birthrate is extremely low even in the wild and more so in captivity. It is no surprise then that, up until 2009, only four countries have successfully bred panda cubs that survive past infancy-Canada, the United States, Japan and China. Thailand's own Chiang Mai Zoo joined that lofty rank after an artificial insemination of Lin Hui, the female half of the panda couple loaned to Thailand by China, successfully impregnated her. The birth of the baby, which came to be named Lin Ping, was carefully overseen by veterinarians and zoologists. An event that overtook media coverage for months to come, it quickly became one of the busiest attractions offered in the zoo: for a long time there was even a channel that let viewers at home watch the cub play, nap, and eat round the clock. China has been so impressed with this success that they have extended the loan of the pandas for five additional years. The Chiang Mai Zoo is also preparing for the care and exhibition of polar bears, which will commence in early 2012.
Apart from the pandas and the upcoming polar bears, this attraction also offers a flock of penguins, a snow dome, and a large variety of exotic wildlife where you will have to do considerably less queuing up the way you would have to do with the pandas. Short elephant rides are available, and you can get up close and personal with giraffes, among others; vibrantly colored peacocks roam freely throughout the complex for your viewing pleasure-and that is just the tip of the iceberg: the zoo's sheer size isn't for nothing after all, and you can spend the whole day walking up and down until you are footsore without having seen everything. What is very much worth a stop is the Aquarium. Opened in 2008 it still has that shiny newness to much of it, and boasts of being the largest aquarium in all of Southeast Asia: situated in a land measuring 4 acres, the aquarium building takes up a whopping 13,925 square meters of space. The tunnel is 133 meters in total, and is one of the longest aquarium tunnels in the world.
Once inside, you will be immersed in an air-conditioned, psychedelic dome filled with tanks of freshwater fish, saltwater fish, snakes, several species of lizards, and some of the most amazing, most interesting aquatic life on our planet (fish with feet!). More than 250 species are on show in this living museum and more are added by the year. Recently they have added a pool where you can not only see but pet giant squids. Once you are past this section, you can go through the tunnel where you will be treated to sights of colorful corals and fish that swim past you and overhdad: a truly awe-inspiring experience without the fuss and discomfort of going diving. If that's not enough yet, the aquarium also offers scuba diving and, outside the building, water balls: huge thermoplastic domes you enter which are then floated in the lake that makes up the habitat for the aquarium's exhibits. They are perfect for adults and children alike, and will make your experience truly unique and unforgettable.
Admission to the aquarium incurs an additional price on top of the zoo ticket, as does getting in to see the pandas; they are in the range of no more than $25 altogether.