Wednesday, June 29, 2005
Troy had to go to Bangkok for 2½ weeks so I went to join him for the weekend. You know, just another one of those weekend trips to Thailand!
Since we had been here before we moved to HK, I didn't want to do the same tours I did before. So one day I did a cooking class then the next a bicycle tour. The cooking class was fun. What I enjoyed most was talking to a group of high school students from Ho Chi Minh City and their teachers. I learned a few things about Thai cooking in the class, but I don't think I will be cooking Pad Thai from scratch at home anytime soon.
The bicycle tour was a whole different experience. There's nothing quite like riding a bike in rush hour traffic in the heart of Bangkok! We have a few friends in Colorado that are avid bike riders. I can't help to think that I might have out did them with this!!! :)
The tour guide stated that the route would be off the beaten path of where tourists normally go and he could not have been more right. We rode through slums, back alleyways, old neighborhoods and paths so narrow I almost hit an old lady! Every time we stopped for a break it was either on someone's porch or at a roadside kitchen eating traditional Thai noodles.
This was a fascinating experience because we saw first hand how the Thai people live as well as learning more about their Buddhist culture.
The afternoon after my cooking class I decided to walk around to see what interesting things I could find. I did find a place that you can get an express marriage for 5000 Baht. Do you think that is just the license or does that also include the girl? Anyways, as I'm walking along the edge of a park I notice something swimming in the water next to the sidewalk where I am. As it crawls out I realize I am seeing a 4' long lizard in the wild. It actually looked like a miniature Komodo Dragon. The Thai people even call the lizards dragons. It was probably one of the craziest things I've seen considering I saw 5 of them within 20 minutes! One was actually on the grass about 30' from a lady reading her newspaper.
As you have heard from Troy we went to the most amazing place on Saturday. I had read about this Tiger Temple in an Asia travel magazine that I happened to be randomly flipping through while I was waiting for someone. I decided that if Troy was to go back to Bangkok that I would go for the weekend and try to arrange transportation for us to go. We found out this place has been featured on several travel channels so if you watch any travel channels or Discovery Channel, you might have seen this place.
The Tiger Temple is about 150km west of Bangkok. People started bringing abandoned or injured animals for the monks to take care of them. Other animals started showing up on their own. Then people started bringing tigers. Right now there are 17 tigers with almost half of them being cubs that were born there.
There were 9 tigers in the canyon where we were, 5 of them being full grown adults. They are all tame (for the most part) and mainly want to sleep while tourists pet them because it's the middle of the day and not at night when they want to hunt. The other tigers are kept in cages while the tourists are there because they are unpredictable and sometimes uncontrollable. What is so funny is we are "seperated" from the tigers by a skinny rope - mainly to show where we need to stay if we are not being escorted to pet the tigers. Then there are 5 or 6 of these Thai men (boys actually) that are the handlers (for lack of a better word). They are there to lead us by the arm to the tigers and to also take pictures with our camera. They are the only ones to take care of a "situation" if one came up. There are no chains, weapons nothing if one of the tigers decided to get angry! In the 3 years that they have been doing this, there have been no accidents!
This was an amazing experience! Like Troy said it was emotional being so close to such huge creatures. As Troy was petting one of the cubs, the tiger actually put Troy's arm in his mouth. He didn't bite down (oh, that would have been bad) but the handler didn't like it. As I'm petting one of the humungous adults, the tiger slowly kept turning his head back to me to see what I was doing. Nevermind the fact that his mouth was getting closer to my hands, I didn't care. I just kept petting him and talking to him like he was Malachi "What are you doing?? What are you doing??"
Even though the drive was 3 hours, it was more then worth it by spending 2 hours roaming the grounds, seeing the wild horses, peacocks, water buffalo and deer. Oh yeah, and petting tigers!!!!