It was weird, waking up in the city. No roosters crowing. No gentle burble of the stream. It’s so… harsh. Especially the early/abrupt awakening and quick breakfast. No lazing around in city life.
We took a taxi to the Southern bus terminal (once the driver figured out that was where we were going), so called because it’s in the northwestern corner of Bangkok (huh??) But we took a 2 hour bus from there to Kanchanaburi Province, where the Tiger Temple is, and the famous Bridge Over the River Kwai.
We were met by Danny, a British elementary-school English teacher who’s lived here for 20 years. He doesn’t usually do tours, but Mom called his wife’s café looking for cars to rent and found him.
Danny first took us to a buffet lunch by the River Kwai (one of the two) and we walked a section of the Death Railway. Even saw a train pass by!
Next was the Tiger Temple. At first it was hot, arid, and lifeless – except for the large water buffalo. But down in the tiger canyon, we found some shade and some life.
I think there were 11 tigers there, chained separately, dozing in the shade or semi sun. For 1000B you could get a ‘special picture’ with a tiger’s head in your lap. Or, for free, you could get about 10 pics taken of you and five other tigers, petting only. We all did the ‘free’option, thus filling much of our last camera card. And then, back behind the barrier, using the long lens… Heaven. We ran out of pictures quickly, culled a few, and took some more.
There were other animals to see there. Other than the 11 adults in the canyon, there were 2 cubs sleeping in a cage. Water buffalo and cows roamed freely, as did the barking deer. We also saw pigs, horses, and peacocks.
The temple was cool, but basically just a temple
We went back into the canyon at 4. The tigers were waking up, some already pacing and looking restless. The last few pics were taken, then the staff pushed everyone back to the wall as they began walking the tigers out.
We had been warned there would be a massive rush to walk next to the last tiger. And there was, until they made it clear that EVERYONE who wanted their picture taken next to the tiger would get it. Towards the end, they were calling for more people but they were all enthralled by the young ones.
They fed all the animals at this point. The adult tigers got boiled, bloodless chicken – which is why they’re so calm. They don’t have a taste for blood. Out on the path, though, was a flood of cucumbers, and a stampede of animals. The deer, the pigs, the buffalo – they all wanted cucumber and were standing in the road, chewing it, trampling it, drooling it…
Well we escaped that and met Danny outside. He took us to THE bridge over the River Kwai, built by British and Aussie POWs and bombed by the Allied Forces. The middle two segments, damaged by the bombs, were repaired after the war… by a Japanese company! Weird. The bridge is still used, though the original gauge is much smaller and is there now only for show. They put standard tracks on for modern trains.
We had dinner at Danny’s wife’s café, which was good. Danny told some hilarious stories about different friends of his and what trouble they get him into – hot air balloons crashing and burning cane fields, crashing planes, getting lost in the countryside and along a river…
Danny finally took us back to the bus station, where we caught the 8pm bus back to Bangkok. The bus dropped us off considerably closer to the guest house than we expected, but it still took a long time to get it through to the taxi driver where we were trying to go.
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