Not So Tiger-tastic

Trip Start Jun 13, 2008
Trip End May 25, 2009

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Friday, February 6, 2009

Having spent about a month in the north of Thailand, we decided it was time to head south... so Tom, Mike and I took a night bus to Bangkok, arrived at 5a.m. and then got straight onto another bus to Kanchanaburi, about 3 hours away, which is famous for its Bridge over the river Kwai.

As is customary with our little squad these days, we got mopeds almost immediately and spent a day ranting around the area to see exactly what it had to offer.

First up was the famous bridge, which was built during the Second World War by Prisoners of War, and then bombed.  It is still standing, although not all of it is original, and you can take a pretty thrill-less train ride over it and back again... which we did!  It all made for a good start to the day though!!  Unfortunately as we were going over the bridge I saw a begging elephant chained up under the bridge that was pacing back and forth in distress... it broke my heart, especially after everything we learned at the elephant sanctuary in Chiang Mai.

Getting back on our bikes we decided to head to Tiger Temple... we had heard from some people we met at the elephant sanctuary that you could go here and stroke a tiger, that it was a bit of a personal experience and that the money was all going towards building "tiger island", where the tigers that had been rescued at the temple could roam free.  The temple itself is run by one monk who started by looking after one tiger, and it just grew from there.

Unfortunately, this description wasn't entirely accurate... We got there and were ushered (with about 60 other people) to where a number of tigers were lying down, chained to the ground.  You could then queue up and wait to have your picture taken with one of them, but not touch them... and there were keepers around with Fanta bottles on a string that they were dangling in front of them, like over-grown house-cats....

Once you had had your picture taken near to a tiger, they were walked by the monk down to their 'play area' with 20 people at a time, each person taking it in turns to walk and stroke the tiger... so at any one time each tiger was absolutely surrounded by people.  Once they arrived at the play area, they were once again chained to the ground so that people could go up one-by-one with a keeper and have their picture taken stroking them, or if you paid extra, with a tiger head on your lap.

I'm sure it's obvious by now that I didn't really enjoy this trip... and it shows in the photos - I'm trying to smile, but it's not really coming through... don't get me wrong, I was in absolute awe of these amazing animals and I really wanted to stroke them... but at the same time it felt wrong... they were out cold when we were all allowed to stroke them - we're told it's because they had just eaten which makes them groggy, but I am pretty dubious... does a tiger really sleep to heavily during the day that a person can walk up and stroke them and they don't react?

I felt much better about having given my money to this place when I heard about the tiger island plan, but since I have also heard that they should have made enough money to finish it by now, but still say they need a lot more... so I don't know what to think... everyone likes a conspiracy theory, that's true, and I usually like to give the benfit of the doubt... but in this case something just doesn't seem right...  so my advice, if you really are an animal lover... don't go here... I just felt sad all day :(

The rest of our time in Kanchanaburi was spent relaxing... reading a lot and then drinking around a sheesha on the street, courtesy of the lovely Sugar, who let anyone sit outside her place, as long as they chatted and sang along...!

Our time in Kanchanaburi was pretty short lived though, as soon it was time to move on (with two new friends in tow) to Bangkok.... watch this space!
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