A ride on the wild side

laelene Post in general blog,Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Wow, what an amazing excursion I went on yesterday!   Though it had a rocky start, it quickly picked up and turned out to be a great tour.  The day began at 6, when I woke up to get ready to leave.  It was surprisingly easy to wake up and I quickly got dressed, put my things away, and headed out to Khoasa(r)n Road, the street where lots of foreigners congregate.  It was there that I had booked my trip just the day before and it was there that we were due to meet to head out.  It’s about a 20-minute walk away, which felt good in the early morning.

khao san road where expats congregate in bangkok

Completely empty at that time.

I happily arrived ten minutes early and at seven, a lady came by to put stickers on us to indicate which sights each of us had signed up for.  Upon seeing me and checking my itinerary, she shook her head and told me I couldn’t go to the Tiger Temple because I was wearing shorts.  Apparently at a Buddhist temple, you’re not allowed to show your shoulders or knees (you’re also not allowed to wear red, orange, or bright pink, since that may aggravate the tigers).  Shocked and frustrated, I asked if the van could drop me off at my hostel so I could run in to grab long pants to wear (it would only be a 5 minute detour as compared to the 40-minute round trip walk), but they refused.  Well, at least I had chosen to wear a half-sleeve shirt that day and opted for dark colors rather than my red shirt.

wwii cemetary in thailand for pows

So many servicemen…

Sadly, the service level in Thailand generally isn’t very high, so I was left angered that nobody warned me and now they didn’t care a bit that I couldn’t see the one thing that I had chosen that tour for.  They nonchalantly told me to just buy a pair of pants, but I was low on cash and did not have a functioning ATM card with me to withdraw more.  Plus, the shops and stalls weren’t even open yet.  Thanks for the help – NOT!  Desperate, I asked when the bus would arrive and was told 20 minutes, so I hired a taxi to take me on a quick back and forth that got me back in time for a decent price.  This time I armed myself with two pairs of pants and a t-shirt, just in case.  We didn’t even leave until 8, so I totally could have walked had I known!  Oh well.

death bridge by JEATH museum in thailand

The bridge the POWs built with sweat and blood.

Once the journey got underway, I settled in for a nap and tried not to worry about whether or not open-toed shoes were allowed.  I figured they should be okay, since the monks’ shoes have holes, but they also bare a shoulder, so I wasn’t sure.  That was something I couldn’t help though; I had no close-toed shoes with me, so I was out of luck if they didn’t allow it.  After a two-hour drive, I woke up to find we had arrived and the WWII cemetery for POWs.  We got off for a brief stroll on the grounds, looking at some of the headstones.  So many of those men were only my age when they died.  🙁  Next, we were then taken to to JEATH Museum and Death Bridge/Railway, where many of those men lost their lives.  This whole time I had ignorantly thought that they just horribly mis-spelled death, but it actually stands for Japanese, English, American/Australian, Thai, and Holland(ese?), the nationalities of the soldiers who died working on the rails.  I went around the museum and walked along the bridge in the time allotted, then returned to the van for the next leg of our journey.

floating restaurant on river in thailand

bamboo raft with capacity for ten floating down river in thailandWell, it turned out our next destination was lunch and they drove us out to a cute floating guesthouse, where some of the other people in our van would be staying for their two- or three-day tours.  We all had a rice and vegetable lunch, then the one-dayers headed out on the river for our bamboo rafting.  It was pretty amazing how many people we could fit on a little seating area that had a super thin layer of bamboo and none us understood why there were nine of us squeezed on one raft and only four on the other.  However, we just went with it and had fun enjoying the flow of the current and the surprisingly strong waves that the motorboats made, rocking us even when they were on the other side of the river.

riding elephant in thailand as it stopped to urinate

He must have had a lot to drink!

Next up was elephant trekking, where we were taken two or three at a time sitting atop an elephant for a stroll in the brush.  I was grouped together with a mother daughter pair from the Czech Republic and we gasped and giggled as our elephant, a thirty-year-old male named something like Soomhoop, headed off and sent us swaying with his footsteps.  I took off my shoes to enjoy the texture of his skin and marvel at his bony ears and wiry body hair.  We were high enough to see a pair of giant butterflies mating in the trees and at times it looked like some of the other groups were floating on the foliage.  At one point, Soomhoop just started peeing out of nowhere and it was as powerful as a fire hose – thank goodness we were nowhere near that!

multilayer waterfall in thailandAfter that exciting ride, we were given a moment of relaxation at a waterfall.  Though I had bought a swimsuit for the occasion, I didn’t have much time to dry off if I went for a swim, so I just waded and enjoyed the trickling water.  There were a lot of families there laying on bamboo platforms or sheets, having picnics and otherwise lazing the day away.  I can see how it’d be a really popular place for the locals to go on the weekends.  I certainly wish there was something like near my house! Guess I’ll just have to settle for the pool instead.

petting adult tiger laying on its back at tiger temple in thailandThe last stop of the day was the Tiger Temple, where Buddhist monks raised tigers on their monastery grounds.  I threw on my gauchos over my shorts before heading in so I’d be properly covered.  We all had to sign liability forms to waive the temple from responsibility for any injuries we may get and then we went in, ready for some special encounters.  The first thing I did was go to Tiger Canyon, where a line was quickly forming for pictures with the adult tigers who were lounging there.  We were led in one by one by a caretaker as another took pictures for us.  Each person got to pet about six or seven tigers, from ones who were sleeping with their bellies up to ones who were sprawled on rocks tanning.  You could tell these people were seasoned picture-takers from the bored way they’d snap photos for you.  However, they were pretty good and got about three shots for each tiger, though some were blurry.

monk holding tree branches for tiger to play withFollowing my turn, I took a small break sitting nearby, watching as others took their turns.  There was an express line for anywhere from one to five people who could pay 1000 Baht per group to get in with no wait and be allowed to hold the tiger’s head in their lap.  One day I’d like to do that, when I have more money to spare.  I’d also like to find a white tiger to pet.  I then made my way out of the canyon to find the baby tigers, who were out to play.  I squatted just out of paw reach of one of them and took pictures as the monk handling him teased him with a branch of leaves.  The monk invited me to take a picture with the cub after he had tired it out a bit and so I got some more shots.

monk feeding adult tiger milk from baby bottle as we posed behind them for picturesAs I was trying to head out, I was stopped because they were about to walk the tigers back from the canyon and I needed to stay out of the way.  Two came along and one was tied to a tree nearby as an elder monk began to feed it milk from bottles.  A line quickly formed as we were invited to take a picture with them before they closed for the day.  I waited my turn for one last photo op and then had to weave around cattle as they were being fed for the day.  On my way out I also came across horses, deer, wild boar, and even a camel!  It was a bit smelly, but what a great time anyway.  🙂

All in all it was a fabulous day, though a bit rushed.  Next time I’d want to try an overnight trip so I could have more time at each place.  I’d also need an extra battery pack, since I barely made it through the day with the one I had.

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