Search This Blog

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

When Tigers Beckon Again : Tiger Temple

The tour van was here to pick me up from The Siam@Siam Hotel by 6.45am. Yup, my 2nd day with the tigers!

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.

Cincau in buckets!

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.

a monk's love

me & Payak

We all arrived at this really arid area, greeted by wild boars and cattle.
And then the journey to the tigers started with this long walk through very dry grounds. You'll find peacocks everywhere too. At first, this monastary was a wildlife santuary to start, with an injured wild fowl given to the monk by the villagers. Peacocks then came, attracted by the calls of, by then a rather large colony of wild fowl. An injured wild boar also stumbled into the monastery which the monks cared for until it was released back into the forest. Apparently, this boar came back in a group of about 10 animals the next day!
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).

queueing for pictures with tigers at the Tiger Canyon


So each tourist from the queue will be given a green person each to literally, take you by the hand, to each tiger and snap photos for you while you pose. It's annoying being led like this by the hand but that's how they control people from straying and wondering around. They're also there to keep you away from approaching any tiger from face front.

Then when you're done with all the tigers, like in 10 mins or so, you're then led out to this seating area on the other side. We moved on to the next spot and saw one monk with this very cute tiger on leash. The monk was trying to make it stay still for picture but the kitty preferred to be taken for a walk instead...

Thai-speaking tourists do get certain privileges la...Me & monk we joked, laughed and played with 4 month-old Payak while others looked on.

Payak is very playful. Likes to play and gnaw on things like plastic bottles and twigs. Acts like a domesticated cat, but you can never be sure what to expect when it turns cranky. Many times, a growl may scare you but it's actually, really just a purr...

This tiger monastery is currently building a new home for tigers which they call Tiger Island. Purpose is to rehome them in a more natural forest environment so as to rehabilitate the new generation of cubs in order to release them back into the wild. The temple is lacking funds because this project requires at least 20 million Baht.

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 :
S.R. Tour
452, Rongmuang Rd. Pathumwan, Bangkok
Tel : +66 (02)-613-9696

But bear in mind, you gotta do the rest too like it or not - coconut-sugar making, floating market, wood-carving, museum, river kwai, that is. But what the hack, kan?

Now I recommend this company because I've personally found them to be reliable and affordable. I can't stress enough that I DO NOT take responsibility of any dissatisfaction or disappointment they may cause should you engage them one day.

Anyhow or any which way, get your butt to this awesome place on earth!


k.t.x said...

wow, sanoook makkk! maple kor pood thai dai lor? lol.

well, hv not been to tigercanyon yet. so wanna go but no time. 2000Bt for the few places looks steep. I remember the last time i took a tour of this sort minus the tigercanyon was juz 250Bt, serious, 1996...including lunch.

yak glub meung thai leaw, kid teung makkkk! lol.

Maple Loo said...

Sawadeekah khun k.t.x (heheheh...)
Sanook mak maaak! Pood thai dai nit noi, mai geng.
When are you going to Thailand again? I went to Hua Hin the last trip as well but didn't blog about it, but i really like it.
Then again, I love the whole of Thailand la.
You let me know if you find anything extraordinary ok?
Chok dee kah!