Friday, February 26, 2010

Bangkok - Elephant Camp

The last stop of our very long day was to the elephant camp.  Originally we had planned to stop at a different elephant camp on the way back for an elephant ride and an elephant bath that was closer to the floating market.  But we were at the Tiger Temple for hours waiting to feed and play with the baby tigers and wouldn't get back there before closing.

So Charlie suggested this elephant camp nearby.  Honestly I'd skip it.  The elephant ride wasn't very exciting, it was very bumpy, and they were kind of rude.  When we were climbing off the back of the elephant they asked where their tip was.  We know, we know, just let us get off the giant animal first.

Verdict:  not worth the time or money.  Plus the elephant ride was just damn uncomfortable.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Bangkok - Tiger Temple

The Tiger Temple was our favorite part of the whole trip.  This was our main purpose for hiring Charlie for the day.

The Tiger Temple is operated by a group of Buddhist monks.  It was started when a local farmer brought a wounded tiger to the temple years ago.  Now they have many tigers, both those born at the Tiger Temple and those who were injured and rescued.

There are also many other animals on the site including deer, water buffalo, cows, peacocks, and bears.  Most wander around in the open except for the bear Bam-Bam and her boyfriend.  The monks have them sequestered from the tourists trying to get a baby bear.

We started out by getting to walk with the tigers down to the canyon.

In the canyon you get to take pictures with several of the tigers.

We walked back up to where we started the walk down to the canyon and spent some time petting and posing with several of the tigers.

By far the best part of the visit and of the whole trip was getting to play and feed the 4 month old tigers.

Because our guide wasn't confirmed in advance, Charlie didn't know we were interested in this and got us the last spots of the day for this activity.  Unfortunately this meant we spent a lot of time in the middle of the hot day waiting.  We visited the other animals and fed the deer, Sweet Eyes.  Sweet Eyes loved Charlie and stuck her mouth into his backpack because she knew he had a snack of corn for her.

We got to go into their cage for 45 minutes.  This is an extra fee and was 1000 baht per person.  This was the best $65 we have ever spent for the 2 of us.

Tiger in stealth stalking mode.

These awesome looking boots were to protect our feet and legs from the tigers.  When we first got in their cage one of the tigers rolled over out of nowhere while I was petting her and swiped at my leg and scratched my knee a little bit.  I was glad I had the moon boots.

We got to feed the baby tigers with a baby bottle.

I just want to take this baby tiger home with me.

See, I'd be a great tiger mommy.

Look how big their paws are.  There was a 1 month old tiger at the temple.  It was about the size of a house cat.  I really wanted to take it home with me.  That tells you how much they grow in only a few months though.

This tiger knows her food is up there.

Chowing down on some chicken.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Bangkok - Floating Market

Our next stop with Charlie was Damnoen Saduak, the floating market, not far from the train market.  The floating market was a very touristy place but it was still a nice and relaxing stop for the day.  

We climbed into a private boat and went for a tour of the market.  The vendors were selling produce, snacks, and souvenirs.  

We stopped at a factory that makes sugar from coconuts and sampled it.

Our guide also took us along some of the back canals where locals have built houses along the canals.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Bangkok - Train Market

The train market was one of Nick's favorite parts of the trip.  We actually saw few other tourists there.  It was great to see a more local activity.

For two of our four days in Bangkok, we had hired a guide through Tour with Tong.  I had heard fantastic reviews of Tong and her team, including one from a good friend who'd used her the previous year.  Unfortunately I found Tong's services very lacking.  She is terrible at responding the emails.  After we had booked, we tried to confirm our itineraries and meeting times with her on a nearly daily basis in the weeks before leaving.  She did not answer or sent us back an email saying she would work on it or get back to us later.  We arrived in Bangkok without hearing from her.  We had our hotel concierge call the morning after we arrived for the next day.  If the concierge hadn't called, she was planning on ignoring our reservations.  The guide we were assigned was called by her to lead our tour the night before.  

Our guide, Charlie, was excellent for the two days that we had him.  I just cannot recommend booking through Tong though.  The lack of organization and customer service were terrible and there are many other great guides available in Bangkok.

The first stop of our day with Charlie was the train market about 45 minutes outside of Bangkok in a small town.  We got there early and toured the market a little bit.  It was quite odorous.  Fish + hot day = smelly.  They offered all kinds of produce, seafood, and meat.  I'd never seen some of the produce.  They had creepy things like eels.

The market is set up right along a train track and we wandered up and down for a while checking out the food for sale.

The train comes through about four times a day.  Seconds before the trains come through the vendors pull in their canopies and their wares.  

They actually leave some of their goods sitting on the ground and the train runs right over the top of them!  This didn't make me feel confident in the cleanliness of some of the food after a dirty train goes right over.