Day 6: They’re Grrrrrrrrrrreat!

Urgh, an early start, and I thought this whole travelling thing was supposed to be enjoyable. Six a.m., was the time the alarm went off, so out of bed we both staggered, and headed for the showers, to be alleviated from this tiredness. For it would be at seven o clock, we were to be collected from our hostel, for a day trip to visit three separate locations. This was one of two day trips, that we booked during our first experience with a tuktuk driver, after he had dropped us at a random tourist information centre.
The air conditioned mini bus pulled up outside the hostel, bang on time, and in it we climbed, to be greeted by two other couples, who had been picked up previously. Not much farther down the road, we stopped for one final pick up, this time it was a group of four men from Nepal. With a mini bus full, we all set off for our first destination, “the floating markets.”
This place was great, it sold similar items to the markets we had already visited, however, the clue is in the title, instead of just walking around the stalls inside, you could hire a paddle boat, and be chauffeured around the stalls either side of the river. This was a magical experience to see how the locals arrive and buy their goods. It’s also a brilliant place to take photographs, for obvious reasons. The highlight of the floating markets, for me, was when Sarah showed an interest in a certain pair of trousers, and, when she disagreed with the seller on price, the lady kept asking her, “how much you give me?” To which Sarah constantly replied, “no, I’ve changed my mind, I don’t want them!” “How much you give me?” “No,” “how much,” “NO!!!!!” This went on for what seemed like an eternity, as our driver wouldn’t move on for some reason. Eventually she did, and, we passed several more stalls, selling things like cloth, home decorations, trinkets, one stall even allowed you to pose for a photo with a constrictor. It wasn’t long before we were back to the beginning again, and, back in the mini bus for destination number two.
The next destination was called “the death railway.” This location didn’t really appeal to me, as, it sounds ignorant and horrible to say, but I’ve never really been a fan of history, I achieved a grade E, in my history gcse, so that goes to show my level of interest in the subject. Nonetheless, with Sarah’s help, I shall do my best to explain what the attraction is. During world war two, when the Japanese were trying to inhabit Asia, many of the British and American sent to stop the invasion were captured by the Japanese, and alongside the captives from the Thai and Burmese resistance, were sent to prisoner of war camps. During their horrific imprisonment they were forced to manually, and without the aid of machinary or modern tools, build a giant bridge to link Thailand to Burma so that the Japanese armies could continue their invasion. During this time hundreds of soldiers contracted malaria and were forced to work until they died. The monument, and bridge stand tribute to the men who lost their lives during this dreadful time.
The group didn’t stay here for long, but for the time that we were there, Sarah and I, wandered around, looking at all the old pieces of equipment that the prisoners used to build the bridge, and the recreated prison cells (in the form of train carriages), which held the prisoners. The translations of Thai to English, were quite poor, sometimes done literally, meaning it didn’t make much sense, leading you to put the pieces together to figure out what it was trying to say. We took some pictures of most of the works, including that of a train they used during the war. After, we walked along the actual railway bridge and took some photos, then, headed back to the bus.
The next stop, would be our final destination of the day trip, “Tiger Temple”. The tiger temple is on Buddhist grounds, and, the story of how it came to be was quite entertaining, it all began with a monk walking through the jungle one day, and him noticing a single infant tiger cub, whose mother had been hunted by poachers, so the monk seeing this, decided to bring the cub in to the temple grounds, and raise him. Not long later, they introduced another tiger, and, after a few successful tiger dates, they had some cubs. Unfortunately, the monks soon found, that they had too many tigers, so, they tried releasing some back into the wild, but, they kept coming back, as the home cooking was too good. In the end, they kept the tigers, but learned, it would be easier to control the balance of tigers, if they only allowed certain ones the privilege of keeping their danglies, this way, they wouldn’t end up with tigers being born left, right, and, centre. Nowadays, they have fifteen different tigers, each varying in size.  
At tiger temple, you could pet, and, have your photo taken with tigers, actual fully grown tigers. However, upon arrival, you had to sign your name on a piece of paper written in Thai, that, was clearly a waiver to void them of any damage you incur from the tigers, during said photographs. Now, there are a few debates we’ve heard along the way, about, wether or not the tigers are drugged up to keep them docile, but, the story we were told on the mini bus, was, the tigers are fed only white meat, e.g chicken, turkey etc, so they don’t have a taste for human red meat. The other thing was, the tigers are fed in the afternoon, and, that is why it’s then, and only then, that people are allowed to be among them for photos. After signing away our lives, Sarah and I, proceeded along the guided pathway, until the reserve opened right up, to reveal lots of free roaming grounds, and, a dozen or so intimidating tigers. Because there were two of us, we had to take turns, the guide selected Sarah first, on account of her being a lady. Sarah looked terrified as she was escorted, hand in hand, by the guide, to each tiger for her photos. When she returned, it was then my go, so I took the hand of my guide, and, off we went.
The first tiger was fairly big, and I noticed, I had to do the same boring kneeling position as everyone else, so I decided, that at the next one I would lay beside it, however, the next tiger was led on it’s back, with it’s legs spread, charming! This threw my idea out of the window straight away, so again I knelt, and smiled forlornly. It was with my third tiger that I was given the opportunity to add some comedy to the photo, it was a medium sized tiger, probably around two or three years old, happily led dozing on it’s side, upon a rock, and, when instructed to pose for the photo, instead of doing the old kneeling technique, like so many others before me, I opted to spoon it, me, doing exactly the same pose as the tiger, only directly behind it, like a big happy cuddle, for some reason I didn’t fear these creatures at all, however, one of the guides shouted, “be careful”, at me, which was concerning, then proceeded to tug on it’s legs, to position it for another photo, which caused it to growl, all the while, I was still led behind it.
Upon completion of our photos, we took a look around the rest of the reserve, where we saw other animals, such as, a little baby calf (that Sarah and I fed water to), lots of deer, a peacock, cows, water buffalo (that were enjoying a refreshing bath), and, one solemn bear, in a fairly large cage, but, it certainly didn’t look happy to be there. It read on the sign, the breed of bear that it was, and how they’re nearly extinct, so, I don’t know if it’s a kindness, by it being in there, maybe it is, the whole of the staff that work there, have to follow the Buddhist believe system, so I imagine, all of the animals are well treated. It was after we observed the bear, that Sarah and I, had a final picture taken together, with a monk and his tiger, this tiger was the biggest of them all, and was secured to the tree we were all stood in front of for the photo.
I’m not sure how I felt about the tigers come the end, on the one hand, I was excited to see them, as I’ve never had a chance to be up close with one before, but on the other hand, it felt wrong to be queuing up, just to have a photo taken, it’s not fair on the tigers to be prodded every two minutes by a stranger. It’s a bit like a conveyor system, one in, one out, for the whole afternoon. It’s good that they’re free from poachers there, seeing as they’re dying out in the wild, but at what cost does that freedom come.
After the tiger temple was over, that concluded our day trip, Sarah and I climbed into the mini bus one last time, for a three hour journey back to the hostel. We both slept for the best part of it, and, when we got in, we were greeted by our friends, we told them all about our day, and showed them photos. It didn’t take long, before talk of going out drinking came afoot, Sarah and I, initially agreed, but, when everyone started heading out the door, instead, sneaked off to bed, as we were shattered, there were so many of them going anyway, it’s not like we would have been missed.
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