Day 29 - Off to Tiger Temple
Trip Start Sep 30, 2012
105Trip End Jan 09, 2013
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We travelled for around an hour and a half to our first stop, the floating market. It's basically a canal lined with stores and long tail boats floating up and down it mostly carrying food and fruits. We walked along it and enjoyed looking at all the Thai wares. It really is quite a unique place although not much of the market is technically floating any more. Mom did some shopping and enjoyed finding all the uniquely Thai goodies and then doing some bargaining. Although its all a bit overwhelming with the shop keepers trying to push you into buying its quite a fun experience in the end
Its an impressive set up for tour groups as when you arrive you are directed to your table that is already set with plates of rice and several stir fried dishes. You sit down and start eating straight away. The food was also very delicious which was surprising for this "fast" food style. After the lunch break we drove onwards to the bridge over the River Kwae. Famous (or infamous) this railway line was built during WW2 to connect Burma and Thailand by the Japanese. The Thais signed an agreement with the Japanese and allowed them to complete the railway using prisoners of war and basic slave labour. Tragically over 100 000 men died building the track whether it was from malnutrition, cholera, other tropical diseases or just shocking maltreatment by their captors. Tracks ran through dense jungle so the prisoners also had to deal with wild animals and the task of trying to cut through the thick vegetation. On the way out we spotted a book entitled "A life for a sleeper" which chilled us to the bone. The actually railway line was rebuilt by the Thais after it was bombed by the Allies during the war and is operational today. Walking along the tracks and overlooking the river in the scorching heat one can only imagine the horrendous conditions these men worked and died in
We then climbed on board the bus and headed to our final destination, the Tiger Temple. This temple was started by monks who decided they needed to protect tigers in Thailand and formed a very special bond with the tigers. Today tourists swarm through the grounds into the tiger canyon where around 8 tigers are lying around with collars and chains and tourists can have pictures while touching the animals. International and Thai volunteers and permanent staff organize the tourists and run it very professionally while a monk stands with the animals and keeps an eye on things. For us as South Africans seeing wild animals chained and seeing tourists pat them is not a very comfortable sight but when you look past this and understand the whole temple philosophy and vision it becomes more tolerable. The tourists bring money into the temple so the animals can be cared for and conserved. The idea is to eventually build a sanctuary for them on an island type of enclosure where they can roam freely although this seems to be a slow project in motion. The tigers are only on show for the tourists during the afternoons and during the mornings are exercised, and roam more freely around the temples. There are currently over 100 tigers at the temple and they continue to breed quite happily. The monks and the staff know each tiger individually and truly love and understand them. We heard that the tigers are only vegetarian since the monks are vegetarian but we still need to find out if this is really the case. Anyway after having photos and chatting to the volunteers we were informed that the next thing would be the exercise time. The staff build a small cage for the tourists, only a small number, and then the volunteers and staff surround the cage. They then release the tigers and throw them play toys and encourage them to play, swim and just stretch their legs for a bit while the tourists look on. If you paid some extra money, you could go inside the cage but we decided to give it a miss. Instead we were lucky enough to walk with the monk and one of the tigers out of the quarry and towards the area where they sleep at night. We got to have some pics during the walk and then watched as the monk bottle fed the tiger with milk. Really fascinating. So despite the heat and the long driving from spot to spot it was an interesting day. We enjoyed a curry dinner at the hotel and headed for bed. Dad and mom are holding up well and having fun, fighting through the jet lag and culture shock like champs. Another sizzling day in Thailand.