Nov 21, 2008
May 29, 2009
A 7:00 bus dragged a drowsy Anna, Karen and I on a day trip to Kanchanaburi and even as the sun knelt over the eastern horizon I could feel its heat through the window of the minivan. After a cheeky snooze in the back seats we passed by the Kwai River of world war II film "The Bridge on the River Kwai" fame and stopped at one of the two cemeteries created by the Thai people for the Allied forces that fought in the war here. Viewing the monument and the rows upon rows of graves of young men who gave their lives during the war for the freedoms that are enjoyed in this country today and reading the epitaphs of these brave men mainly between 20 and 35 years of age, I found an immense feeling welling inside and I was choked with emotion for much of my time here. From there we were given the opportunity to visit the small war museum here and take a stroll across the famed bridge itself. From here we carried on for the included lunch of steamed rice with chicken and cashew nuts and chicken with pineapple and vegetables onto the Saikon Noi waterfalls where we wandered past the waterfall and followed the stream up to its source at the top of the falls. In the afternoon the mini-van collected us again and took us to Wat Pa Luangta Bua Yannasampanno Forest Monastery, more commonly known as Tiger Temple. Here the monks have established a Sanctuary, originally for orphaned animals, which now houses the original orphans and the 38 members of a tiger family including four of the most gorgeous 7 week old cubs, Otto, Mecca, Bota and Ravi One. The temple is only open for a few hours after the tigers are fed, during their appointed afternoon snooze, and the public is permitted to go and pet the young adult tigers and have their photo's taken with these awe inspiring animals. The largest of these was a magnificent 2 year old male measuring about 7 - 8 feet nose to tail whose paws were about the size of my head. Bearing in mind that the great cats are not necessarily asleep at this time, there is a prominent presence of aides that very carefully lead you around the canyon and tell you where to sit and monitor things while you stroke the tigers. Considering the disclaimer that I had signed on entry that effectively waived my rights in the event of me having my head bitten off, I wasn't entirely keen on waking the slumbering ones, but even then when an bright eyed youngster caught my eye, there was no aggression or irritation in its eyes just a familiar curiosity and acceptance. I understood later that there was very little chance of any of these animals harming us, all of these youngsters had been hand raised and imprinted to humans and have no fear of people, having said this I have no doubt that should even the smallest one wanted to do me harm a great swipe from it's enormous paw would have been grievous. From here we headed out of the canyon to where the adolescents were, and to our luck there were a couple of spaces available to feed and play with the 7 week old cubs in the nursery. Thrilled, Karen and I followed the aide onto Tiger Island and into the pen. The four cubs were adorable, and although they were sleeping when we arrived within a moment of us sitting down on their blanket they awoke and began chewing various parts of us in turn. Tiger cubs it appears are extremely playful, although not quite in the same way as kittens. One cheeky male took a liking to my shoe and while wrestling with the little tyke he got hold of one of my fingers. Even at 7 weeks old these little jokers have powerful jaws and even though my finger was protected by my fingernail and the cubs' teeth were not that sharp, he still managed to draw blood. An aide soon appeared with their milk bottles and with eager abandon they gulped down their lunch from the bottles in our hands. Tiger cubs double in size every month for the first few months of their lives and they are fed every two hours throughout the day. We could have stayed and played with them all day, but having a bus to catch, we waved them goodbye and started on the journey back toward Bangkok, a lifelong ambition fulfilled.