Saturday, September 09, 2006

the jolly frog, the tiger temple and jungle ride with elephants, kanchanaburi, thailand

i arrived in kanchanaburi by bus and then a lady rickshaw driver asked me where i wanted to go.. so i said the 'jolly frog' guest house cos' the lady behind the tour desk at the easy joe guest house in bangkok recommended it to me. i felt really sorry for the lady pedalling 3 kms in the baking sun to take me there.

the jolly frog is a really nice place to stay.

it has a gorgeous garden with hammocks, deck chairs and palm trees right next to the river kwai. it wasn't a heavily manicured garden or a posh place by any means.. the room was simple but nice - it reminded me of a teenager's bedroom cos' of the bed sheets that were yellow with words like 'dreaming' and 'cool' and teddy bears on it.

the garden at the jolly frog - right on the river kwai. great value for 70 baht (or 1 dollar/2 pounds a night) i think it was the cheapest place i stayed at on my whole trip but also one of my favorite.

the room had a basic fan and a really cool way of saving electricity. the power to the room only worked when you inserted your key fob into this slot. the floor was tiled and the bed was single with a futon style matress. it was only $2 a night..!!

my room at the jolly frog

there was a cafe/bar/restaurant in the lobby.. when i walked in they were playing none other than nick drake's pink moon album.. i was really happy to hear it.. but happy in a sad kind of way.

anyway, i highly recommend the jolly frog guest house. even though i did have a hard time persuading the restaurant to sell me 4 bananas and 2 bottles of water to take on my elephant safari trip.

they also have a tour book desk right there in the restaurant which is where i saw the elephant riding/bathing tour. more about that later.

the tiger temple was the real reason i came to kanchanaburi! that guy chris (TM guy i met on the plane and former natural law party candidate, (what a trip they were! i voted for them in one election because i loved their yogic flying in their party political broadcasts) recommended i go to the tiger temple. i arranged a ride there from the 'good times' tour office which was next to the hostel.. a songhaw (pick up truck with benches on the side) came to pick me up at 2:30pm. there were already 3 people on board. 2 australian women who both worked in a prison and an israeli guy who was going to volunteer at the tiger temple for 3 weeks.. lucky him!

after about 32 km - we turned down a dirt road for another 3 km, then up to the temple gates. the entrance fee to the temple was 300 baht. everything costs in thailand.. but this is ok.. it was for a really good cause. we were taken up a dirt path on foot, through some shrub land with wild boars, peacocks and cows roaming around to a canyon where there were 10 tigers all basking in the sun. some of them were sleeping on their backs with their paws in the air - just like remy used to do. there were 2 monks with the tigers and _ alot_ of volunteers - both thai and western. we were instructed to form a line and have our cameras ready and then were lead by the hand to the first tiger and asked to crouch down next to it to have our picture taken. we were allowed to pat them gently - but i got told off by one of the thai volunteers for being a little 2 friendly with one... cos' i leaned over and tickled it's cheek. the tiger didn't seem to mind though... i loved it.. every minute of it.. but is a shame we weren't allowed to spend more time with them. it was over too fast. i got led around to 4 different tigers. 2 of whom were sprawled out on a big rock and i stroked both their bellies at the same time....... they were so cute.

tiger photos

the orderly queue to meet the tigers

the monks = the "tiger masters"

the first tiger i ever touched.. all i did was ruffle the fur under it's chin! it didn't bat an eyelid - but seemed to like it..

me touching 2 tiger tummies simultaneously. for a brief moment i was in heaven

i wasn't allowed to touch this one.. he did growl a bit though. also - the others were fast asleep and pretty docile

the monastery also took care of other animals aswell - including a female leopard - who was in a cage (presumably because she hadn't been hand reared or couldn't be tamed.

a baby bear who was keeping cool in a barrel of water



dogs taking shade under cars at the carpark

construction work at the monastery.

the grand plan for the tigers and why the entrance fee was to build a tiger enclosure where the tigers can roam free. i think only the monks would be allowed in here because the idea is to prepare some of them for release back to the wild...

the main buddha in the 'bot'. i have been calling it a 'gompa' but i think this term is only used in tibetan monasteries??

if you had paid 500 baht more you got to have a tiger's head in your lap and put your hand in it's mouth. (at least this is what the 2 australian ladies told me). one time i would like to volunteer there because you get to walk them and really play with them and as the take home booklet in forms you - tigers love to play! i think the reason the visitors are allowed to see the tiger's at this time is because they are at their least playful and are in fact all sleepy and dosing... because they are nocturnal animals. i only saw a couple of tigers growl once and this is when one of the volunteers was trying to move it and it didn't want to be disturbed.

the take home booklet is really cool. it has photographs and descriptions of each tiger's personality in it and all of their names.

a monk with a really kind face at the monastery. i think he was overwhelmed by all the people wanting his photo!

it was a really special place that i will always remember.. it was true dharma being practiced towards the animals.. since buddhists believe in showing kindness to all living beings and helping animals achieve a higher reincarnation next time.

it was interesting to read that none of the monks had any training in tiger care or training when they started receiving tiger cubs that had been orphaned by poaching. they just showed a lot of kindness and compassion and did not believe in caging them.. so they became very used to humans.

on the way back from the monastery it suddenly turned very dark and started to pour with rain. our driver had to pull over and batten down the hatches of the songthaew we were in. (a songthaew is a jeep with benches either side and tarps that can be let down in the event of rain).

the dark sky and sudden downpour

me and the austrailian ladies (who worked as prison gaurds in alice springs) took turns in taking pictures of each other.

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