Monks, Tigers, and English – Oh My!

Good thing they fed the tigers today…the one I was scratching lazily rolled on his back and looked at me with one eye. It was obvious that he was too hot, too full, and too lazy to rip my throat out.

Today, my Italian friend Romina and I walked 2 km to the bus station and took a bus in the direction of the tiger temple…a temple where monks raise orphaned tigers and you can interact with them in the open.

We had the driver stop on the main road and we hopped out and started the dusty 2 km walk up the road to the temple. It was hot…very hot. I picked up my first good sunburn here. A kind soul picked us up and took us the rest of the way up the roasting, gravel road. The temple proved to be very disappointing. The grounds were barren, 300 Baht to get in, and it was run by a very pushy English woman…not monks. It was very controlled, you walk up, put your hand on a tiger, the workers take your picture and of course they dont know how to focus a digital camera, then you walk back to the tourist area. They hold your hand literally the whole time. My tiger time was about 30 seconds and travel time was hours. Still, I guess my options for playing with full grown tigers and living to write about it in a blog are limited so I’ll take what I can get. Honestly, the scariest part of today was using the toilet at the temple, check it out: photo removed.

The adventure in this country lies in the fact that even simple things are quite the challenge. For instance, getting to and from the temple was crazy today! When we finished with the temple around 15:00, we walked the 2km down the hot dusty road and hit the main highway thinking….now what? We began walking and eventually hitchhiked (you dont hitchhike in Asia with your thumb, you point at the road) until a truck got us and took us within 6 km of Kanchanaburi. Once again, we began walking until a crammed full truck taxi got us and took us into town. Then another 2 km walk back. We came back sunburned, hot, and exhausted but alive and grinning from ear to ear. Romina was a good sport in putting up with my lost, American butt trying to get us home. :)

The Thai are very superstitious…if you ask them if they believe in ghosts they will laugh and say no…but today there were offerings everywhere. There are “ghost houses” built almost near every house in the country, its to make the spirits comfortable so they will stay out of the main residence. The bus drivers sit bananas and food in the dash so the ghosts will leave the bus alone. Today, the ghosts got coffee, fruit, whiskey, packs of cigarettes, you name it…every ghosthouse we passed had a spread fit for kings. I guess its their way of starting the new year out right. By the looks of it, the spirits had barely touched their breakfast, but the insects were helping themselves. :)

That night, Paolo, Romina, and I walked into town for the New Year celebration….there were food and drinks to be had everywhere but it was winding down. We drank some Singha and watched a thai band cover songs from CCR and Van Morrison in their language…it was awesome. What a life…sitting in Thailand with 2 Italians celebrating Chinese New Year…..I would have never dreamed of being in this situation a few months ago!

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