Eenie, Meenie, Miney, Mo ...

Trip Start Nov 20, 2013
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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

We caught some tigers by their toes!

Our day started with a fun hike in Erawan National Park, up the Erawan Waterfall. This waterfall consists of seven tiers and the climb gets more challenging the higher the tier. We were thankful we got to the park early in the morning so we could do this hike before it got way too hot outside and also before the bus loads of other tourists came. I hiked up to the top of the sixth tier and Jason continued to the bottom of the seventh. On the way back down, we were excited to jump into the water for a refreshing swim. We went to level four for our swim because there are a couple cool natural water slides at this tier, but neither of us actually went down the slides. The water was really cold at first, but quickly became refreshing. Neither of us were huge fans of the many fish, both big and small, swimming around us and nipping at our feet, but it was worth it to deal with this for the chance to cool off. The water felt great!  On our way out we noticed that the place wasn't only busy with tourists, but lots of locals come as well to enjoy the water and a picnic.

From the waterfalls,we headed to Tiger Temple. This is a somewhat controversial temple as there are some people who accuse the temple of being cruel and inhumane to the animals. We definitely did our homework by reading many online reviews (some good, some bad) on the topic before making the decision that we were comfortable with going. This is a Buddhist temple what has become an animal sanctuary over the last bunch of years. We walked toward the Tiger Canyon and even before we arrived there, we saw tons of beautiful tigers lying on the grass under the shade of trees. We were just about to take some pictures with a tiger when one of the volunteers asked for everyone to go into an area for safety as the tigers will be walked down into the canyon. We didn't know it before, but we had come to the temple at a great time. We each got a chance to walk a tiger! Jason and I both have experience walking dogs and this honestly wasn't much different, except that instead of a domesticated dog at the end of the leash, we were being walked by a massive wild cat! 

Once all the tigers were in the canyon, we learned a bit about how they are well treated and looked after here. Along with the first and second generation Thais who are local to this area, there are a number of international volunteers working with the tigers here. We also learned that the entrance fee into the Temple goes first and foremost to the welfare of the tigers and other animals here (there are numerous wild boars, deer, buffalo, birds, and more) and then any money left goes to the local community for educating about the negatives of poaching, schooling, water, and various other necessities. After learning a bit about the Tiger Temple and the tigers themselves, we were given options for pictures with the tigers. Of course Jason and I chose the paid option, rather than the free one, but we are glad we did because we got a ton of pictures this way and were able to sit with more than one of the 136 tigers that are cared for here. We first got pictures together and then we each were taken into the canyon by a guide a second time for individual pictures. There was a bit of minor panic with the first tiger we posed with. There were 3 volunteers around us and one of them put the tiger's head in Jason's lap while another started taking photos. As this was happening, we all heard a woman scream somewhere else in the area. She must have been startled by something, but the tiger in Jason's lap was also a bit startled and lifted his head up. Jason was a bit concerned and looked up at the volunteers for confirmation this was ok, but the volunteers weren't even looking and were more interested at what the woman was shrieking at. It was a tense second or two for Jason who obviously didn't want to be tiger meat for the cat that just lifted his head up. Everything ended up being ok and we continued to get our photos with some more tigers. These animals are absolutely gorgeous and to be able to get so close to them was an unbelievable experience. They were very calm during the photo shoot as they were certainly used to it. After petting and posing with the grown up tigers, we headed to the cubs' area to see them playing with some tourists. This is another program the temple offers and it was fun to be a spectator of this event. The cubs are lured around with broom sticks that have plastic bags attached to them and they react to these toys similar to how house cats react to strings or laser lights. It was amazing to see them jumping around and being so playful with each other. The adult tigers are given the same opportunity to play each afternoon, but the tourists need to stand in cages while this happens. The tigers are used to humans and would not intentionally hurt the volunteers at the temple, but they are still wild animals and are not familiar with new people. Even with the volunteers they've known from birth, they sometimes want to play with them the same way they did as cubs, not realizing how much bigger they are now. As a result, many of the volunteers here have scratched and beat up legs. 

Upon our return to the area we were staying, we walked along the River Kwai Bridge.  This bridge was built by the POWs we learned so much about yesterday.  This is part of the 412km Railway of Death and is still standing today.  It was definitely a more somber part of the day.

Later we headed to the Kanchanaburi night market one last time and ate more delicious food for a crazy low cost. Tomorrow we will head back to Bangkok for a flight to Chiang Mai, but our out of the way visit to Kanchanaburi was definitely worth it!

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Comments

Dad on

Years ago Esso had an advertising champagne. Esso patrons would put a "tiger in their tank." Older people would remember the ads very clearly. But, "a tiger in your lap?" Wow. Not sure I'll show Zaida the photos. Let's see, bungie jumping off the middle of a bridge, diving with exotic underworld life, hanging out with tigers.............what's next? Is all this true or are you just "LYON."

South East Asia, I'll have to rename it "home of the brave!" Continue to have fun but be careful!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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