I've gone on tour trips alone before so I didn't feel awkward. I knew what to expect, it's a packaged deal in all sense of the word. So, this day we were to go out of town to The Old Floating Market first.
On the way, after an hour's drive, they stopped at this coconut sugar-making village shop to see & learn about coconut products. We were told to hang around for 20 mins at this place that totally didn't interest me as I've seen all of this many times before. Besides, it's a tourist trap! So those who bought stuffs here - YOU GOT RIPPED OFF. Nothing you couldn't find in street markets down town Bangkok.
Then on the road again for another hour and came to this used-to-be-less-touristy place called Dameon Sanduak Floating Market. I'm sure you've seen images like these on postcards.
I think it is so exotic to buy fresh fruits, vegetables and your breakfast from these vendors on sampan.
There's no place more authentic to buy some Kuey Teow Soup, Sweet Crispy Mini Crepes or Cincau for only 20Baht.
All the other tourists just looked on as I schnarfed down these yummy and strange-colored food, seemingly wondering what it tasted like.
Apparently, you can buy all kinds of things from this floating market, including exotic animals like snakes, baby gibbons and sometimes even baby sun bears. It's believeable though I didn't see that - thank god.
Now it's inevitable that these vendors always start with a high price. The perils of civilization...While such ventures might bring in the villagers a welcome influx of cash, it seemed to me like a tragic loss of innocence.
Well, you gotta really, really haggle. I helped Veronica (from Mexico, like me she was on-tour alone) negotiate with my good-enough Thai from 500 baht to 350 Baht for 2 of these hats.
And I bought a really cool rafia hemmock too for only 300 Baht!
I realize Thais are relatively simple, happy people. They get especially thrilled when a foreigner tries to speak their language. But the problem is, Thai is a pretty hard language to speak due to the intonations hence once you start filling the words or sentence with cadences of your mother tongue, you'll end up either being misunderstood or totally incomprehensible. Could be quite dangerous actually hehehe...However, the reality is, if you do speak enough Thai to get you by and appear friendly, you won't end up having to write off the extras that you're paying as donations;)
So where are the tigers? Not quite yet....we still have to go to the WW2 Museum & the Bridge on River Kwai. I thought, what the hack, just go learn more about how more people were tortured to death and be reminded how cold-blooded the Japanese were.
So here it is, THE bridge you see in the movie. Again, far too many people : DANGER DANGER DANGER.
You risk falling on your ass, or worse, plummeting down into the river below (YUKK!) just like all those who died building it. Sharing this narrow track with so many other people walking on it at the same time is just far too dangerous! Some just push you to make room for themselves, forcing you to 'kangkang' with one foot outside the track. Others who are old and gray just puts your life in danger when you attempt to avoid their fall if they ever lose balance.
Furthermore, this is a working track, not just a show piece like it should be! Suddenly, a hideous yellow train came passing through with passengers of this "theme park" onboard. So you can see how much fun I had lah...
So we went and had lunch (which was part of the package - I paid 2000Baht which was pretty cheap because others paid between 2500 - 2700 Baht. Again, the art of haggling...). What's for lunch? The regular uninteresting tourist food - rice with stir-fried mix veggies, omelette + sweet & sour chicken bits. After lunch, one more tourists' trap - wood-carving center - before the much-anticipated tiger temple.
The monastery is situated in Kanchanaburi province - an area lying adjacent to Burma. Large protected areas and national parks along the Thai-Burma border are believed to contain the largest surviving populations of tigers in Thailand.
Today, countless number of boars find shelter in the monastery. Villagers also started to bring in unwanted pets: four species of deer moved in, followed by buffalos, cows, horses, wild goats and even gibbons. All these animals roam freely on the grounds of the monastery. And I thought all these animals are food for the tigers! :P
Then only in '99, the monks received their very first tiger cub, of the Indochinese species. It was only a few months old when the mother was killed by poachers near the Thai-Burma border. In pretty bad shape, the cub was initially sold to to someone who had wanted her stuffed. So sad, read more here.
Today there're 17 tigers here - 7 rescued from the wild, 10 born and bred here. On display were about 6 tigers for photo-taking. Unfortuntely there were no monks around, instead only workers/volunteers in green everywhere. Also at the queue, they spilt people to 2 lines; one for FREE pix, the other for pix with holding tiger's head or something for 1000 Baht. Expensive, but they need huge funds to build this enormous project for the tigers (more on this at the end of story).
Thai-speaking tourists do get certain privileges la...Me & monk we joked, laughed and played with 4 month-old Payak while others looked on.
So if you're planning to go to Wat Pa Luangta Bua but don't really know which tour company to contact, you may try :
452, Rongmuang Rd. Pathumwan, Bangkok
Tel : +66 (02)-613-9696
Anyhow or any which way, get your butt to this awesome place on earth!