After leaving Chitwan National Park we decided to spend our last couple of days in Nepal seeing some of the attractions in Kathmandu. We rented a taxi for part of the day and ventured out to the Monkey Temple which was a bit of a riot- monkeys everywhere! I also had the chance to feel like I was a celebrity for the first time on our trip. A young couple asked Adam to photograph me with them, and a group of young boys followed me around the temple giggling the whole time. Kinda weird! I guess they haven’t seen many blondes.
We also saw the famous Durbar Square, where we viewed many Kama Sutra carvings in the temples (very kinky) as well as a lot of activity (merchants, taots, beggars….). They were having a festival and there was acting, comedy, and political speeches happening (or at least that is what we were told). We saw the window where the reincarnated child goddess shows herself every evening (we just weren’t willing to wait a few hours to see a poor little girl in lipstick come out).
Arriving in Bangkok, Thailand this time around (our third time) felt a bit like coming home. It felt so western compared to where we had been, and it was actually refreshing to be on a freeway with LANES!! Koh San Road felt like such an easy place to be, as the Thai people are so much less aggressive with the toats. We were also incredibly happy to get wi-fi again, and of course to have cheap Thai food and beer.
We also really like the geckos!
Raz and Catherine, a couple from DC that we met in Capadocia, Turkey, arrived one day after we did so we spent much of the next four days (including Christmas) with them. They had spent the previous six weeks in India, and were happy to be back in a relatively clean, modern, easy-going country again.
This is a famous “bucket” drink- coke, redbull, and rum.
On Christmas night, the four of us decided that we all really wanted to go see the Tiger Temple in the Kanchanaburi province near the Burmese border. We had all heard about how you can actually pet and interact with tigers and thought it would be a neat thing to do, so after dinner we started to hunt down a travel agent. At first, we thought we were out of luck as all of them (and there are a lot) were closed. When we had just about given up, we found one with its lights on and rushed inside. The cute girl inside gave us a quote and then told us that she was actually closed, but had forgotten something so that is why she was there. We went ahead and took her offer (since we couldn’t really negotiate much at that point). We caught the bus at 9:30 the next morning. This was really more of a big van than a bus and it was filled with a bunch of people that refused to speak (how irritating). Once we got to Kanchanaburi we started dropping people off at hotels and resorts (seemed that we were also a transport bus). Once we were through with this we were only left with the four of us and another guy from Philadelphia. Now we were on to the Tiger Temple! It seemed that we were running on schedule and everything was going fine, the driver was a little crazy, but it was all tolerable. It really starting falling apart when we were cruising down the highway and the driver noticed a police checkpoint, so he preceded to slam on the brakes and turn the bus around. The police at the checkpoint noticed this and a pickup full of cops stopped our bus. Once we were stopped the police talked for a minute and then waved us by without ever talking to the driver (he must have got another call). Our driver took this moment of freedom to quickly turn off onto a rural road and take us on an hour detour towards the Tiger Temple. We began asking him why he was doing this, but he couldn’t or wouldn’t speak English to us. We arrived at the Tiger Temple at 2:00- an hour later than promised. He instructed us to meet back at the van at 3:30 (also a half an hour before scheduled). At this point we just kind of went with his directions, as we were very excited to see the tigers.
When we got inside the “temple”, there were a few monks there, but mostly it looked like the worlds coolest petting zoo, complete with a mostly western staff. We saw tons of animals right away. There were boars, deer, buffalo, and lots of birds.
In the brochure we read that during this time of day, the tigers were in Tiger Canyon, so we made a mad dash over there. Once we arrived we noticed that there was a large group of tourists under a tent along with about as many workers in bright green shirts. We were a little confused about the bright green shirts since Adam had just been told not to wear his orange shirt because bright colors are dangerous, thankfully Catherine had a black fleece with her, so even though he boiled in the 90 degree heat, he could see the tigers safely.
Going in to see the tigers was really cool- everyone had an escort and a photographer with them. The escort lead you around the tigers by your hand, while the photographer used your camera to take photos of the experience. To the tigers, 2:00 in the afternoon was like the middle of the night, so they were really lethargic. They have also been handled so much that they are not sensitive to human touch and can pretty much sleep right through it. One of the massive tigers that I was lead to, was restlessly sleeping on his back. When we got up to him my escort instructed me to lay my hand on his stomach. This was really amazing, because I could feel this enormous animal breathing!! We also found these animals strangely familiar, they lay around just like little house kitties do.
After we left the big cats, we went over to where the babies were. Even though these tigers were only five months old, they were already big and strong. One of them decided that he liked Adam’s pants and took hold until the monk who was sitting close told him to let go. It is fascinating to watch the monks interact with these creatures. Sometimes they will take the cat and hold it like a baby in their arms and other times they will spit in their faces, but there is definitely a great connection happening.
5-month old tiger getting playful
At 3:30 we reluctantly walked back to our van and driver. We would have liked to have had more time with the tigers, but didn’t want to miss our ride back to Bangkok. About twenty minutes down the road we noticed another police checkpoint, and again our driver slams on the brakes and backs down a residential driveway, but this time he can’t turn around because it is a divided highway with a median. He begins to look like he is going to go for it on the wrong side of the highway, with plenty of oncoming cars, so the four of us begin screaming at him to STOP and asking him to please go through the checkpoint. He begins looking very freaked out and refuses to go through. We ask him why he is so afraid and he continues to beg to continue down the road, ON THE WRONG SIDE. By this time we are screaming at him and he tells us to get out, which we refuse to do. He then calls his boss (or someone, we really were not sure) and he hands the phone to us. His boss is even more freaked out, we then began wondering why this guy is so deathly afraid of police (does he belong in Thailand?)
He then went for it on the freaking WRONG SIDE OF THE ROAD, we began yelling for the police to no avail, and we turned sharply down ANOTHER rural road. None of us could believe what was happening! The guy from Pennsylvania on the other hand, sat quietly the whole time this was happening and when Adam asked what he thought of what just happened he just said, “Yeah, sometimes you’ve just gotta roll with the punches”. Adam replied, “Yeah, I would just rather not get punched”. What a pushover, he also paid for and was promised a tour of the Monkey Temple, the JEATH War Museum, and the River Kwai (the last two which were not a part of our day) and he said nothing to the driver or the company.
On the other hand, when we returned we went straight to the company, and waited in line behind other people complaining about other services they had not received. We ended up fighting with them over a refund for about an hour. After a 10 hour day, we only got 1.5 hours with the tigers instead of the promised 3, and the driver put our lives in danger- we wanted at least half our money back. Some of their best lines being, “if we refunded everybody who was upset we would be out of business” (if that is the case, then they SHOULD), or “we already paid the driver so we can’t pay you” (there problem- not ours). In the end we got a small percentage back, but going out the door we turned many soon-to-be clients away. In case any travelers are reading this, NEVER USE “SEATRAN DISCOVERY CO.” near the Viang Tai hotel. We did, however, spend the rest of the evening with the other “complainers”, who we coincidentally kept running into, drinking beer and forgetting the bad experience.
So….. the day after tomorrow we will take a flight to Luang Prabang, Laos. We are looking forward to the chill scene there and are hoping for many lazy days before we board another flight to Siem Raep to view the amazing sites at Ankgor Wat, Cambodia on 17 Jan. This is our first planned multi-week “rest stop”, so there may not be much to post about for a while, assuming we even have an internet connection. We plan on finally editing our videos though, so as soon as we do get a decent connection there should be some great new content on the site!
We hope everyone is having a great holiday season! We miss you all!
~Shawn & Adam
P.S.- as an aside, here is a product they sell here in Bangkok. I know there are several people in the marketing profession who view this site. How many problems can you find in the packaging of this product? 🙂
P.S.S. We’ve added several photos to the last Nepal post