Kanchanaburi: Playing with Tigers on Christmas Day


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Asia » Thailand » Western Thailand » Kanchanaburi
December 30th 2012
Published: December 31st 2012
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Getting to Kanchanaburi from Bangkok was a piece of cake. We caught a $3 cab to the bus station, bought our bus tickets upon arrival and 3 hours later were in Kanchanaburi. This is another city that Tyler visited last time he was in Thailand so he knew which area we wanted to go to. We ended up staying at the exact same guesthouse he did last time. It had rafts of rooms floating on the Kwai River that were cheap, basic and perfect for our limited needs. As usual, the first thing we did was wander around our part of town to see what it was like. It seemed really quaint, friendly and pretty; it was also full of expats. There were plenty of older Aussie's and Brit's all over the place either for a vacation or owning a business and calling it their home. When we come across a large expat community we know it's probably a really nice area to be in. Westerners don't just set up a new life in a rugged undeveloped city. While Kanchanaburi is relatively small (about 170,000 compared to the 8 million in Bangkok) there is plenty to see and do in the surrounding area. We had come to Kanchanaburi for pretty much one reason, the Tiger Temple.

Since we had separate rooms at this guesthouse and had a few crazy days in Bangkok, we spent a lot of time relaxing and enjoying some private time floating on the river surrounded by mountains. We had a quiet morning doing just that before regrouping around 11:00 when we packed our day packs and went to find a tuk-tuk. We found a lady who said she would drive us to the Tiger Temple, wait and bring us home when we were finished for a reasonable price. The drive was about 45 minutes and very scenic. We have come across so many different types of mountain ranges on our travels. The mountains in this area were just as unique. The land seemed very flat except for when a small mountain range would poke out of the world. They were rounded like humps on a camels backs and were covered in full green forests. It was a beautiful drive; the scenery helped take our minds off of how uncomfortable is was, with the three of us in a 2-seater tuk-tuk.

We made it to the Tiger Temple in great timing. We were walking up the entry path when Tyler said “When you see a tiger you're going to be like holy f*cking sh*t” and then the tigers appeared and we definitely thought just that. Paul and Rebecca were stunned to see how big the cats really were. We got a chance to walk around petting a few tigers before the employees and volunteers herded all the tourists into a small area. Then we each got a turn walking the biggest tigers on a leash down into the “canyon”. While it was uber touristy and we aren't always into that sort of thing, it was still really cool to feel the weight of the tiger on the leash and really appreciate how majestic and powerful they are. While in the canyon their was a talkative, humourous, well-informed Kiwi telling us about the Tiger Temple and answering questions people had. There are 114 tigers in the Temple as of Christmas Day (that's the day we went, Merry Christmas us!!)

When all of the tourists made it to the canyon and all the tigers were in their places we were allowed to be guided around to take photos of us with the full-grown tigers. By this time it was about 1:00 – the hottest part of the day – so the tigers pretty much napped in the shade while people walked all around them and pet them. Once all three of us had gone through the canyon we made our way back to Tiger Island. This is where the rest of the tigers are housed. The tigers that we were allowed to get close to and take pictures with were all born and raised at the temple. They have only ever been fed whole boiled chickens and were brought up by monks so they are fairly tame... for tigers. Tiger Island is where rescued tigers live. The public is not allowed to get close to them because they are more likely to be aggressive. Amazingly there has never been any serious injury caused at the Temple. Apparently there have been a few bites and scratches in the baby area (that's what happens when you put your finger in a tigers mouth) but no attacks or problems with the canyon tigers.

When we made it back to where we had started there was an enclosed area where “toddlers” were playing with toys. They looked just like kittens playing the only difference being that these kittens were about 200-300lbs.

We were told that there were two lions at the Temple but they are very good at hiding so we weren't able to see them in their large confinement that had fences like Jurassic Park. However we found the three bears!! In another section there were three very well fed Asiatic Black Bears. Two of them (the one that climbed down the ladder and the one sleeping in the den) were chubby, but the third bear – that seemed to be putting on a show chomping at a log searching for bugs and rolling around in the dirt – could have been a sumo wrestler. Actually he was probably bigger than a sumo wrestler. We had so much fun watching the bears. While the big fatty was scratching at his log the other active bear climbed down a ladder, got a little wet in the pond/pool and tried to get in the den. He wasn't able to get into the den at first because the other bear was blocking the door and second because when he tried to climb over his pal, he got stuck like a teeter-totter on his round belly.

When we made it back to our guesthouse Avi and Dan were there with their other friend Elliot who came to spend NYE with them. It turns out we missed them and they missed us. We had been travelling with them for almost a month by this point so it felt like they are part of our group. Unfortunately we had to separate the next day. They were heading South to party on the islands and we were heading north going into Laos in the new year. With it potentially being our last night together (they will be coming up to Laos in January as well so we may still meet up) we went out for some drinks and had a great time.

The next morning they were off on an all day tour they had booked so we were left to pack up our things and find something to do until catching a bus in the afternoon. We walked to the famous bridge you may know from the film “The Bridge Over the River Kwai”. It was built and bombed during the second world war and is a big part of the war history in the Golden Triangle . We hung out there for a little while, grabbed some food, walked through the souvenir shops then found a driver who would take us on a few errands before we picked up our backpacks and got dropped off at the bus station.

We had a long travel ahead of us that meant going back to Bangkok before catching another bus north to Chiang Mai. The adventure never stops!

Xoxo Ty+Becs


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