Tag Archives: thailand

A trip to the Tiger Temple, Thailand

Thailand as a country is considered one of the best natural wildlife reserves in the world. It was on my trip to the western province of Kanchanaburi when I encountered my first ever one to one wildlife experiences. Kanchanburi is located where the river Khwai Noi and Khwai Yai converge into the Mae Klong river of Thailand. It is mainly a Buddhist town housing primary tourist attractions like world war II cemeteries, the JEATH war museum , Vipassana center, elephant camps and my personal favorite- the Tiger temple!

Our day started early and we were picked up from our hotel at 6:30 AM by the Thai tourism group. A group of friendly, sweet guides -they explained the history of the place we would soon be visiting with so much passion we were instantly motivated to cross some milestones in our lives! Kanchanaburi is a small historical town scattered with silk houses, handicrafts shops, war museums and the famous bridge over river Khwai Noi.

En-route Kanchanburi
En-route Kanchanburi

A good 3 hours away from Bangkok, Kanchanaburi appeared to us as a small, quaint town with a lot of history attached to it. Our itenary included a trip to the war cemetery which till date pays homage to 7000 prisoners of war that died while constructing the “death railway” over river Khwai. The JEATH war museum is another tourist attraction which helps understand the role of Thailand in world war II, a lesser known angle.

The war museum listing 7000 prisoners of war that died while constructing the railway during world war II
The war museum listing 7000 prisoners of war that died while constructing the railway during world war II

The JEATH war museum is one of a kind, It is the “once upon a time” home of the prisoners of war and one cannot ignore blatant reminders of the plight of the victims who once suffered under the same roof. We took the speed boat from the JEATH museum to the famous bridge over Khwai river.

On the speed boar to the bridge on top of river Khwai Noi
On the speed boar to the bridge on top of river Khwai Noi

The bridge was was destroyed by the Japanese during world war II killing hundreds of British soldiers who were building a railway across the bridge that would finally connect Thailand to India via Burma!

At the bridge over Khwai Noi river, Thailand
At the bridge over Khwai Noi river, Thailand

Located very close to the border of Burma it is often referred to as the death railway!

The death railway along the bridge on top of Khwai Noi river
The death railway along the bridge on top of Khwai Noi river

Next, we moved on to the elephant base camp and this is where I met my darling friend Malador!

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My naughty girl Malador

The elephant camp is located in the midst of the Thai jungles and is an absolute delight for anyone who loves nature. The elephants are well looked after, and seem to understand Thai very fluently! 😉 Riding elephants sounded like a dream when I came across the intenary months before I was in Thailand.. and I remember standing in awe as we watched the elephants gracefully walking around in camp.

My first encounter with Malador!
My first encounter with Malador!

My first encounter with Malador was when she nudged me on my stomach with her trunk! Naughty Maladar was the one I then chose to ride with.. the elephant ride is a walk along the jungle trails leading all the way down to the river! While this sounds fun, I must say we were scared out of our wits as we wobbled on top of the huge animal trying to trek her way down a steep slope.The most gratifying part of the experience is reaching down to the river bank where the elephant calmly washes itself playing in the water.

The river bank along the elephant ride trail
The river bank along the elephant ride trail

Our Mahaut was a shy little man who I casually asked if I could ride Malador myself. As he did not understand English, I was in for a surprise when he crisply jumped off the elephant and gestured at me to take his place on Malador’s neck! Riding Malador that day was an incredible experience, and I felt a deep connection between us as she took me around camp, letting me pet her along the way.

Riding Malador at elephant base camp, Thailand
Riding Malador at elephant base camp, Thailand

The elephant base camp also offers the opportunity to go bamboo rafting, which gives you another chance to be one with nature and take in the stunning landscapes.

The bamboo bridhe leading to the bamboo rafts
The bamboo bridhe leading to the bamboo rafts

The experience costs way less than it is worth as this is one place in Thailand which has to the potential to leave you with lasting memories.

Gorgeous Serene Thailand
Gorgeous Serene Thailand

Finally, we arrived at the place I was waiting to be at for months! The tiger temple is mainly run on donations and tourism funds, and as we made the long walk to the tiger canyon we saw several varieties of deer, buffalos, swine and monkeys! Imagine our surprise when we learnt that the Tiger temple runs on one philosophy and that is of peace.. this implies that no animal is hurt and all animals are conditioned to live together in peace- even tigers and deer!

At the tiger temple, Thailand
At the tiger temple, Thailand

The Tiger canyon is probably one of the most visited tourist attractions of the world, and yet..not many people happen to know anything about it. Let me therefore, take the liberty to take you through the tiger canyon the way I Saw it.

Gorgeous tigers are well looked after and loved like no other place here at the sanctuary
Gorgeous tigers are well looked after and loved like no other place here at the sanctuary

The tiger canyon is the main hub where the tigers rest through the day, usually in the presence of one monk. Tourists are allowed to visit and take pictures with these tigers in the presence of a local staff. As is expected, the tigers look magnificent, and like nothing else you will ever see. To see a tiger up close and personal, to touch it and pose with it is the bravest thing I have done in Thailand.

The tiger temple, Thailand 2014
The tiger temple, Thailand 2014

This royal beast is elegance personified. Surely, the experience of sitting in front of this gorgeous animal is better than the best HD cinematic experience in the world. Take my word for it.

Tiger temple, Thailand 2014
Tiger temple, Thailand 2014

We walked around and posed with several beautiful tigers- some willing, some not so much. One even swatted me with its tail as it sat growling. This, I was told was because feeding time was approaching and the animals were starting to get hungry. Natural instincts are probably the most powerful forces in the world, and yet to see how calm and patient these tigers seemed gave me a sense of joyous inspiration I hadn’t felt in a long time.

With the tiger cubs
With the tiger cubs

The most fun I had was with the adorable young tiger cubs. My favorites, these cubs were playful, patient, curious and kicked and rolled around like little bundles of joy.

The beauty of friendship
The beauty of friendship

If you’re lucky and there at the right time, you can walk along with the tiger and the monk as they make their way to the curb for feeding. If at the tiger temple, do not miss this. Watching a full grown tiger lovingly feed on milk through a bottle is an incredible sight. It is utterly stunning to see this bond of faith and is one of those things which are reminders of how much beauty there is in the mornings and moments that pass us by into oblivion.

A monk feeds a full grown tiger milk through the bottle
A monk feeds a full grown tiger milk through the bottle

I planned my trip to Thailand keeping the ancient tiger temple in mind. The first cub was found and rescued by the temple in 1999, and since then the temple has persisted as a natural sanctuary for Indochinese, Indian and presumably Malayan tigers.

I support the
I support the “Save Tigers” campaign. Do you? www.savetigersnow.org

I urge everyone to make an effort to save these beautiful animals from extinction.Save the tiger campaigns are worth your time and effort and I say this with all sincerity. You can log onto www.savetigersnow.org and be a part of this movement.

We spent the rest of the day and the rest of the trip indulging in Thai delights, but nothing after this compared to the tiger temple experience. I remember my day in Kanchanaburi as a day filled with love, spirit and adventure.. and isn’t that what travel is all about?

7 most exotic experiences Bangkok has to offer!

One of the cities with Visa on Arrival, my first step out of Suvarna-bhumi airport at 2 AM in the night, and I thought I was back in my beloved Mumbai.  That was my first impression of Thailand. It looked very urban, with flyovers and well lined streets, it took us about 25 minutes to exit the widely spread airport district. The roads looked familiar, even the street signs listed district names which sounded very “Indian”. “How is this place any different?” I thought, and BOOM- our first “Thailand experience” came our way.

On the way to our hotel, past 2 AM at night, all cars including ours were suddenly redirected to the fringe of the highway. While we thought it must be a drill common in Bangkok when government officials are passing by, this turned out to be a much bigger affair.

Several cars were asked to line up along the borders emptying the highway. We were asked by government officials to switch off our headlights while they strangely turned their backs to the highway facing us! While this sounds very strange right now, when I explain why this happened you will probably understand the drift of how things work in Thailand. Within 10 minutes, a rally of about a dozen cars and motorbikes sped by us, with members of the Royal family.. the guards wouldn’t face the highway as a mark of respect, similar reasons why cars were not allowed to shine headlights in the presence of the royal troop.

I am not from Thailand, I had never been to Bangkok before.. but the thrill I felt at the mere passage of the royal troop in the middle of the night gave me goosebumps and for some reason, I felt one with the locals in that moment of time.

Bangkok, the city of the Royal seat
Bangkok, the city of the Royal seat

Bangkok, or simply Krueng Thep is fondly referred to as the seat of the king, the city of palaces, the city of angels or the great city of Immortals. For me, Bangkok is simply the city of exotic experiences, my favorite cuisine and unbelievable dimensions.

7 reasons why Bangkok is one of the most “exotic” destinations in my opinion

1. Exotic Tuktuks!

Some of the most fun experiences you will have in Bangkok is probably traveling by the very adorable, and massivke infamous tuktuks! These are like Indian rikshaws, only with horizontal leg spaces and with much more color and character.

TukTuk-ing around town, Bangkok
TukTuk-ing around town, Bangkok

The tuktuk drivers are carefree, very tourist friendly and charge as per their will. They can charge anything between 100-400 baht for a short one way journey and I recommend you travel about with a local incase you’re in the mood for some tuktuk time!

Tuktuks!
Tuktuks!

Luckily for us, we were visiting my dear dear friend from university who lives in Bangkok, and seeing her bargain with the tuktuk drivers probably gave me the highest sense of satisfaction I’ve felt in ages!

2. Tail boats- The backwater experience!

A large and conspicuous part of Bangkok is the Chao Phraya river, which runs along most of the tourist attraction sites of the city.

dingy ports along the river, Bangkok
dingy ports along the river, Bangkok

Water transport is a very relevant part of the daily business and there are several boat cruises which can provide several splendid views of the city from the river.

Bangkok river cruise
Bangkok river cruise

However, once you have cruised along the beautiful river lines on a tourist boat, I strongly suggest you take the tail boat cruise, for the real Bangkok experience!

The tail boats
The tail boats of Bangkok, Thailand

Tail boats are used for transport and tourism along the back waters of the city of Bangkok. This tour provides some amazing visuals and insights into the city’s local life.

The Tail boat experience along the dingy backwaters of Bangkok
The Tail boat experience along the dingy backwaters of Bangkok

 

One can see the low lying boat houses, wood homes suspended less than a feet above water, porches crowded with the most interesting chimes you will ever see.

Local houses one can see only along the backwaters
Local houses one can see only along the backwaters

I may be looking too deep, but I remember seeing low lying houses with uncanny paintings inside, intense graffitis, floating Art houses with real life statues, floating markets and Iguanas basking in the sun casually while children play in the water a few feet away from them! You have to see it to believe it!

Usual sights along the river banks
Usual sights along the river banks

The tail boats are low lying and very close to the water, and the thrill of this experience is unparalleled.

The floating markets
The floating markets

3. The City of Temples

Bangkok is rightly called the seat of palaces and temples. The temples of Bangkok are intricately designed, conventionally run and spiritually inclined. Old Bangkok has most of the temples, and a stark difference is portrayed between the two sects of the city.

Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn)

The three main temples are Wat Arun, Wat Phra Kaew and What Pho! A must visit on the itenary of everyone visiting the city of Bangkok.

The Shrine located in Wat Arun-The temple of Dwan
The Shrine located in Wat Arun-The temple of Dawn

Wat Arun is the temple located directly on the river bank and you can reach this temple using the short ferry service which runs continuously.

Wat Pho, Bangkok
Wat Pho, Bangkok

This Buddhist temple is built in levels and not for the weak heart-ed. Climbing up the first level is easy, the second level is difficult but the climb up to the third level is so steel that one cannot climb up without using the rope railings as the climb is almost vertical. If you do make it up to the third shrine, the climb down is heart stopping and probably one of the most challenging experiences of my life.

The leveled temple of Dawn
The leveled temple of Dawn

The temple is intricately carved, with great attention to detail. The dress code is strict and they assert that all body parts be covered before entering the temple.

Wat Pho, Bangkok
Wat Pho, Bangkok

Each temple has its share of markets and tourist engagement counters but one visit to the stunning temple towering 79 feet above the river is enough to highlight your Bangkok experience.

Temple of Dawn
Temple of Dawn

Wat Phra Kaew and the Grand Palace

One of the most stunning temples in the world, the Wat Phra Kaew is located within the grand palace grounds and is a visual treat.

Wat Phra Kaew
Wat Phra Kaew
Wat Phra
Wat Phra

The temple is breathtaking at first sight and seat of the Emerald Buddha as well.

At the Wat Phra Kaew
At the Wat Phra Kaew

It is colorful, photogenic and majestic and even has meditation houses where one can commonly sit and meditate with the monks.

Stunning temples of Bangkok
Stunning temples of Bangkok

Walking around the three main structures can take a while and the sheer aura of this temple provides spectacular photo opportunities.

Tourist delights and Photography
Tourist delights and Photography

The Grand palace is the royal seat of Bangkok and common sights are those of the traditional guards, chinese temples and stupas, iconic statues and museums.

An iconic statue of Ravana at the gate of Grand palace
An iconic statue of Ravana at the gate of Grand palace

Wat Pho

The Wat Pho is another stunning temple of Bangkok which is the seat of the “Sleeping Buddha” or the Golden reclining Buddha!

The sleeping Buddha, Bangkok
The sleeping Buddha, Bangkok

The temple house housing this statue is elongated and huge but it is the magnificence of the sleeping statue which has one awe struck from the second you lay eyes on it.

The beautiful peaceful statue of the Buddha
The beautiful peaceful statue of the Buddha

Serene, calm the sleeping  Buddha statue seems to be in a blissfully meditative trance. A must visit if you’re in Thailand!

Stupas around the Wat Pho
Stupas around the Wat Pho

Each of the temple has several of its own cultural rituals, like the shaking of numbered sticks till one falls, following which one must pick the prophesy with the corresponding number to know their fate! Thailand is a land of faith and that is what makes it very very endearing.

4. Thai Food

Thai is my favorite cuisine and I am often found scavenging around town for the best Thai places to eat at! So imagine our delight when we landed in the country from where this food comes! As we were staying in the Sukhumvit area, we got to check out some great eateries and delis along Soi 11, the most dynamic street lined with clubs, pubs, lounges and cafes catering to tourists. Some must tries are:-

Khao Man Kai
Khao Man Kai
Phat khi mao- Stir fried nnoodles with chicken and vegetables
Phat khi mao- Stir fried nnoodles with Crab and vegetables
Phat kaphrao- Chicken, pork, prawns or beef stir fried with Thai holy basils
Phat kaphrao- Chicken, pork, prawns or beef stir fried with Thai holy basils
Kaeng khiao wan - called "green curry" in English, it is a coconut curry made with fresh green chillies and flavoured with Thai basil, and chicken or fish meatballs
Kaeng khiao wan – called “green curry” in English, it is a coconut curry made with fresh green chillies and flavoured with Thai basil, and chicken or fish meatballs

The food around Bangkok, whether at a restaurant, cafe or along the road shops is rich and delicious. If nothing else, visit Thailand for the food. It is worth it. 🙂

5. Thai traditional coffee

The concept of traditional coffee really intrigues me. I have had the Vietnamese coffee made from beans grown in elephant dung in London, and that had bestowed upon me a sense of accomplishment. However, I was in for a delightful surprise when I came across the local stall of traditional Thai coffee and tea, which is serves with Milk and Ice and tastes divine.

Thai traditional milk coffee
Thai traditional milk coffee

The best coffee tasted so far, the flavors almost burst in your mouth as you gulp down this strong intense coffee! Definitely makes it to my “exotic Thailand” list.

6. The night market- An unconventional shopping experience

Shopping in Thailand is a pleasure during the day! At night however,there is a more carefree, forbidden feel to the market which happens to be open through out in some places.

Bangkok markets- A shopper's delight
Bangkok markets- A shopper’s delight

While malls like MBK and Palladium are amazing shopping retreats, it is the roadside window shopping which must be indulged in! The streets are lined with several low priced clothes, shoes, accesories, home equipment, sunglasses, tourist gifts and what not!

The floating market- another variation
The floating market- another variation

The interesting bit however, is the Night market which literally sells anything and everything. Adult tourism in Bangkok is very tourist friendly but avoided to a large extent by the locals and the government. Along the night market on open roads one can buy adult equipment, accessories, drugs and films. These shops are more aligned with the interests of foreigners and tourists and the sex tourism industry is probably one of the most lucrative industries of the state. Massage parlors are present after almost every two shops but what is the most incredible thing in my opinion is how easy going and “relaxed” the locals are about this. “It is what it is” is the mantra they have lived by and it seems to be working wonders for them. Also, I definitely recommend Bangkok for Bachelor parties.

7. Our sweet Ladyboy friend- Boi

This brings me to the another reason why I feel Bangkok is exotic and immensely gratifying as a travel experience.

As we were staying at the Ibis hotel in Sukhumvit, we unknowingly walked into the Nana plaza, which is the largest adult playground in Thailand, located three blocks away from us. Walking around in and out of bars and clubs we ran into one of the sweetest travel friends I have made over time- Boi. Boi works and performs in one of the largest ladyboy clubs of Bangkok, and while we sat there talking to her, the conversation flowed from one dimension of her life to the next as she discussed her problems, relationships, work and daily struggles! Boi wanted me to remember her and meet her the next time I visit Bangkok… This is for Boi 🙂

With Boi, Bangkok
Learning the story and personal struggles of Boi, Nana plaza, Bangkok

Bangkok has an amazingly relaxed aura. Its a land of stark disparities and an equal amount of unity. Grey, monotonous buildings infiltrated with eccentric colorful monuments, adult tourism to cultural delights, river banks ranging from dingy dirty ports to fabulous ones with floating markets, shocking backwaters to gorgeous riverscapes, skytrains to tuktuks..

Bangkok with friends is probably the best way to see the city
Bangkok with friends is probably the best way to see the city

My visit to Bangkok has been incredible and I hope you make it there at some point, hopefully with friends, with an open mind, with a lot of shed inhibitions and well…lots of heart!

Sah wat dee Bangkok!
Sah wat dee Bangkok!