Cuddle A Tiger?

Trip Start Aug 06, 2011
Trip End Oct 06, 2013

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Flag of Thailand  , Kanchanaburi,
Wednesday, November 30, 2011

DH refuses to give up the pen.

Today we had booked a very long day adventure and were picked up early in the morning at our hotel and transported along with many others in a packed van. We met our nameless driver and our " guide" Bert. First stop was the Floating Market, a very old and famous market. We jumped at the opportunity to take a boat ride (canoe style boat) to see the market and observe women actually cooking in their wooden dugouts, selling fruits, vegetables and all manners of food.  What we actually saw was other tourists sitting in the boats doing the same thing as us. We were all in these boats floating up and down these canals looking at each other as we all passed so close to each other you couldn't put your hands on the edge of the boat as they would get pinched by the boat beside you. The canals were lined with souvenir stalls. This was not what I wanted or expected. As time went on though we did see several women in their cooking boats and it was truly something else. It did give you some sense of what the market was like in it's heyday. Vic truly captured the essence of that market and the beautiful faces of these hard working women.
We were then ushered into another van and driven to the bridge over river Kwai- new driver and no Bert, actually all new people in the van. Anyway we soldiered on and got to the bridge. What? This is it? I really thought it was so much bigger, at least it appeared so in the movie. It just seemed so small for having such a horrific history. Made a mental note to rent the movie again.

Into another van with a new driver, but the same people, and headed for a really good Thai lunch that we ate at break neck speed. Ushered into the same van, different driver but the same people. We had some great chats with a Brazilian couple and a Dutch couple, all world travelers, all with great stories.

Tiger Temple was our next and final destination. Our good friends Dave and Deb B raved about the place, especially Dave B. This place has almost a magical history as it was a monk who took in various animals and was able to nurse them back to health. This was a forest temple that in 1994 became an animal sanctuary. In 1999 first tiger cub, found by some villagers, arrived but died soon after. Later several cubs who had mothers killed by poachers were taken there. Tigers that were "pets" and grew too big were also taken there. Now there are over 90 tigers at the temple. Now none of the tigers are being raised or taught to go back into wild- the intent is to give them a better life than they would have otherwise.

Rules: no bright colours, and appropriate clothing as not to offend the celibate monks. The tigers used to roam free but now there are too many tigers and too many visitors so they are chained and handled by the monks. It truly was an amazing time there. They are building a new facility which is supposed to more accurately reflect their natural environment as the one we explored was actually sparse and not what we expected. We walked to tiger canyon where there were at least 20 of these magnificent creatures all in various positions of sleep or sitting quietly. Every tiger had a handler who stood by. There was crowd of about 30 of us and one by one you would be be taken by the hand by another handler and taken to a tiger you were followed around by your own personal photographer who would take pictures of you near the tigers with your own camera. Personally I would have preferred just to stand that close and watch them. Incredible beasts, paws the size of dinner plates, the color of them, and their eyes, Gifts from God, and yet nearly extinct. We did get there late in the day and as a bonus of being the last group through, we were able to participate in the " walk with the tiger" and all took turns in leap frog fashion at walking the tiger on a lead, but again, it was all about the photo.There were other creatures at the temple, a couple of Moon bears, deer, horses, water buffalo, bush pigs but they were all kind of ignored by all of us and just went about their business, swimming and grazing. 

Back on the van with a three hour trip back to Bangkok. We got to the center of town ( luckily for us only about 15 minute walk from our hotel) and the driver suddenly stops and says "everyone out, no more drive, call agency, call taxi, get out now, out" so we all climbed out of this van and went our separate ways, still not sure of what just happened???
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Doe on

Love those Tigers, there were less than a dozen when I was there last.

Chris G on

Magnificent & beautiful creatures - truly a once in a lifetime experience. Your are so lucky.

Martin on

Amazing. How different the ways of different cultures. Let's hope the world remains that way. The variation here in the west (city to city) is basically limited to the amount of square footage of the Kelseys/Galaxy Cinema/Canadian Tire/Bank/Shopper's Drug Mart/etc stores in each strip mall. Vic seems to be adept at handling tigers. Next stop, Vegas, to fill the opening created by the near-demise of Roy. Look forward to the next blog!

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