Published: July 3rd 2012June 30th 2012
I woke up at 6:15am. I really hate getting up early and I count it as one of the best parts of my traveling days that I don't have to get out of bed until I want to. Though in the effort of living life to the fullest I try to average a 9am wake up call. So 6:15 am is quite early for me. At 6:30 a hostel employee knocked on the door and told me that they are waiting for me downstairs. I was almost ready anyway, so I grabbed my bag and hat and rushed down the stairs only to be told that I had to wait until 7am. They only sent someone to make sure I was ready. Since they are probably used to dealing with drunken backpackers I don't hold the trick against them. I figured I might as well have some breakfast so I wandered into the hostel resteraunt. The menu only offered varients of bacon, eggs and pancakes. I ordered an omelet with tomato and green pepper. I got scrambled eggs with tomato and green pepper. I really hate scrambled eggs but what do you want for $2?
When 7am rolled around the
lady in charge of the travel desk, with whom I had booked this tour the day before, led me and three German guys to the Holiday Inn parking lot about a block down the street. I suppose it is utilized as a pick up point because out hostel doesn't have a parking lot. The minibus we were shuttled onto had four occupants already and we proceeded to battle Bangkok traffic to pick up seven more people. I had a nice seat right next to the door with an air vent that poured cold air right onto my arm. I basked in this sensation even though my arm was going a bit numb because I knew that later I would be thrust back into the steamy Thailand heat and I tried to deposit the sensation of cold like a temperature bank to help me through the hot times. Previous to this day I had been traveling around the city solely using public transport so it was interesting to see how drivers fight for their lives in traffic.
Around 8:30 we stopped at a gas station and my name was called by the driver. Apparently everyone in the minibus is not
on the same tour and I am shuffled to a different minibus. I am not really happy about this because I lost my nice seat and ended up sitting in back with two other girls and giant Australian guy who took up his seat and half of mine. I tried to relive my air conditioning experience but all my coolness was soon spent.Around 10 am we arrived in Kanchanaburi where we met our tour guide who used a particular brand of English where her pronunciation was perfect but her grammer sucked. This suits me perfectly since I can actually understand her.
Our first stop was the war memorial for the people that died building the Bridge over the River Kwai and our tour guide further differentiates herself by lilting "the Bridge over the River Kwai" until it is practically a song lyric and you can really tell that she does this tour every day. We're allowed exactly 25 minutes to view the memorial and then we got back on the minibus. We drove maybe a mile down the road and stopped at a place called the "JEATH war museum" At first I thought they had misspelled "Death" which would
have made the museum a very interesting but morbidly named kind of place. JEATH actually stands for Japan, Europe, America, Australia, Thailand, and Holland to represent the countries whose prisoners died building the Bridge. It costs 40 baht ($1.30) to enter the museum. Our tour guide gave us an hour and twenty minutes to see the museum and walk down the block to view the bridge itself. I am not very impressed with this museum as everything is very dusty and not exactly cataloged. So after a brief visit I wandered down the block and stopped to buy a drink from a vendor. I turned around after putting my change in my bag and saw a small crowd gathered behind me at the next stall. Some people seemed to be playing with a dog or something. But when I got closer I could see that it wasn't a dog, it was a baby leopard! The local wildlife shelter had set up a fundrasing stall selling a chance to hold a baby leopard and take your picture with it for 100 baht ($3.30). This was absolutely priceless so I got in the back of the line for my turn. There were
only about 15 people so the line went quick. The leapard is trained to hold onto its bottle with all four paws so it won't scratch who ever is holding it. There is no way you can do anything like that in America.
After my epic leopard holding experience I finally made it down the block to see the Bridge over the River Kwai which was one of the things I wanted to see when I booked the day tour. It was a bit boring after holding a leopard. But I was struck by how small a bridge it was to have dealt death to so many of the people who worked on constructing it. I wandered back to watch more people hold the leopard cub until time was up and I had to climb back on the minibus. From the Bridge over the River Kwai we had a 20 minute drive up river to a floating restaurant where our included buffet lunch awaited us. I was very wary of the buffet nature of this meal as there is no way of knowing how long stuff has sat out. I just picked a bit of fried rice and some
stir fried vegetables and hoped for the best. I guess since I haven't gotten sick it was fine. The restaurant was also the launch point for out bamboo raft ride. The 15 of us piled onto two bamboo rafts that had been roped together and then a motor boat tugged us up river a bit and then detached us and let us float back down the river. Instead of going back to the restaurant though, we landed at an elephant sanctuary where we got to ride an elephant for about 30 minutes around the jungle in a big circle. The person that shared my elephant ride with me shall remain nameless. I said to him "Hello my name is Jennifer, in case you wanted to know who is in your pictures with you." And he said, "Okay." I don't know for sure but I bet he was an American. Probably from New York. This is actually the second time I have ridden an Elephant since I did it in India as well. I kinda liked my Indian Elephant ride better. There you sit on this mat inside a little box. The Thailand Elephants have double seats on them and you
can feel the lumbering gate of the elephant every time they step. Our elephant was particularly hungry as it stopped to snack on the foliage every few meters. It was fun to see the drivers climb up on the elephant, where they sit on top its head and direct its movements. In order to climb up they poke the elephant on the leg so they bend it and the driver steps on the elephant's knee and clambers up. At the end of the ride you can buy bowls of bananas to feed to the greedy elephants for 40 baht. I didn't buy any but I enjoyed watching other people feed them and get attacked by elephant trunks. The baby elephant was particularly fun to watch battle it out with the other elephants for his share of the bananas.
After our ride we got back on the mini bus and headed to a local park to see a waterfall. There is also a pond that forms at the base of the waterfall that attracts swimmers. We were only there for about 20 minutes and then we were all shuffled around amongst three minibuses. Apparently there is another version of our
tour that stays overnight at the floating restaurant and then heads off somewhere else for a second day of fun. I was amazed that they seemed to know how to organizes us all. My tour guide kept calling me by my hostel's name "Saipaipae" in order to direct me. "Okay, Saipaipae you are in this bus." After out refreshing waterfall and musical bus stop we headed toa place called the Tiger Temple. It is a Buddhist run wildlife sanctuary. Here you can have your picture taken with a bunch of different tigers and for an extra fee they will let you sit with the tiger's head in your lap. I didn't really want to pay extra just for that, especially since I just got to hold a leopard, so I just did the basic photo op. Two workers hold you by the hand and one directs you where to stand and where to pet the tiger and the other one takes your picture. There about 15 different tigers in "Tiger Canyon" and you get to pet them all!At 4pm I was put in yet another minibus for the trip back to Bangkok. It took about 2 hours to reach the
city and almost 3 more hours to battle traffic and deliver all of us to our hostels. This was a great tour for the cost of $60 (leopard holding extra).
There are more photos below