Tigers and Elephants oh my!
Up ready(ish) after just over 2 hours sleep and got in the mini van waiting outside the guest house, we then drove around the area for half an hour picking up other tourists for the day long tour mostly japanese, a danish couple and two girls from Birmingham, Hannah a BA cabin crew member who was on a short break with work and her friend Bex along for the ride! Our first stop after 3 hours driving was a memorial to the hundreds of people who died building the railway and bridge over the River Kwai and had a wander around the museum there too, which included some hilariously well endowed statues depicting the men building the bridge and had a walk around the bridge where we met a man busking playing the fiddle, the highlight was when he broke into Lady Ga ga's 'Bad Romance' on the fiddle! I stuck with Hannah and Bex for the whole trip as they were a good laugh and was good to have company of fellow Britons. Neither of us had properly read the tour itinerary or had been informed of exactly what we were doing apart from the elephant ride and tiger temple so the whole day was a bit of a mystery tour but was quite entertaining that way. Next we arrived a the place for our elephant ride near the river, no safety briefing or introduction but just told to get on the elephant (2 people on one but I had one very small one to myself) and set off on a short ride down to the river and through a small bamboo forest, was lovely if a little scary going up and down steep slopes and especially when we went into the river on the elephant but was incredible sitting on top of this giant animal and way, way more comfortable than riding a camel!
Then it was back in the mini van and drove a short distance to a little floating restaurant on the river which you had to cross a very dangerous looking bridge to get onto and the floor was just made of bamboo rods with the river below and we had to take our shoes off which we totally did not understand. We had a small buffet lunch of Thai sweat and sour chicken with rice and vegetables and ate it over looking the river outside was just delightful! After lunch they handed us each a life jacket, another surprise and I saw the wind had picked up but thought was this really necessary? We were then taken on to a small bamboo raft (still not really sure what we were doing) a small boat attached ropes to the raft and started pulling it up the river away from the floating restaurant then a little up the river the boat left us and we floated down the river with a thai guy at the front paddling with a single oar. Was lovely floating down the river on the bamboo raft with a nice breeze and my feet dangling in the water, altogether a nice surprise! After this we got back into the mini van and had a quick stop at a waterfall before heading onward again to the tiger temple.
I had read previously in reviews about the controversy surrounding the tiger temple, a small sanctuary (or zoo) where tame tigers were bred in captivity and looked after by Buddhist monks, some people however beleive that the tigers are drugged and the whole place is mearly a money making tourist attraction and I decided to make my own mind up and visit anyway. In the end it was all a very strange experience as we were taken to the area where about 10 tigers were lying around in the sun most on a 2/3 meter chain around their necks attached to the ground. We were then briefed by a loud Australian women about the do's and dont's (only stroke it's back, not allowed to wear bright colours etc) and then we passed our cameras over to a member of staff and I was led literally by my hand from tiger to tiger and had to pose for photos with each one. The whole thing was very odd and the two girls agreed, it was like a conveyor belt with tourists in a photo op factory and with not a monk in sight! It was a unique opportunity to get that close to tigers and so easily but I would much prefer it to be in a wilder environment and not under such strange and suspicious circumstances. The best part of the tiger temple for us was the amusing cows that wandered around who looked stoned and the tame deer that would eat out of your hand. After this it was back in the bus bound for Bangkok I got out in Koasan Road area and agreed to meet the girls later on for a drink, it was Hanna's birthday too! After I had showered, changed and eaten more pad thai I got a taxi into the city centre to the state tower which housed the Sirocco sky bar on the 64th floor. It was an extremely fancy and when I got to the top, which was so
high up my ears popped in the elevator, the views were and atmosphere was breathtaking! You could see right across the heart of Bangkok, mingling with the hoi polloi (plus the rich american tourists with high class escorts in tow) and sip cocktails listening to soft piano music by the live band until you went bankrupt as it wasn't cheap. We stayed for just a couple and then headed back to Kaosan road to explore the nightlife there. We went to a club appropriately called 'the club' where we had quite a few cocktails and had a wee boogie to the electronic/house, was a pretty cool place though. When that shut around 3am we headed out to find somewhere else that was open, clubs are supposed to shut around then in Thailand but Kaosan rd seems to have it's own laws and as long as there are still people out to party, there will be somewhere to go. We went to an after hours club but the entry fee wasn't worth it so we wandered down the road and found an impromptu street party around a drinks stand blaring out cheesy 90's pop like las ketchup and the spice girls, was even more fun than the club and we joined the small crowd dancing in the street. Then we ended up joining a group of thai's at another drinks stand where I bought my first bucket (a small bucket a child would use at the beach filled with a lethal concoction of your choice of soft drink, red bull and a bottle of vodka) but luckily shared it with Hannah. We sat there and chatted to the group of Thai peeps who were hilarious by the way and I tried to practice the few phrases I knew in Thai and learnt some new ones too, we were also sometimes joined by people passing by but we stayed there until about 7am! Then went and got a KFC which I hardly ate and said our goodbyes and I headed back to my guest house for a few precious hours of sleep before I had to check out at 11:30! A pretty damn good first proper day in Thailand!