Tiger Temple Tour
The Tiger Temple tour was a last minute addition due to the demonstrations cancelling much of my original plans. This all day excursion includes hotel pick-up/drop-off, lunch and the attractions listed below. Beware – there are only a handful of tour operators but many times that number reselling the same tours. This means your hotel concierge, flyers on the street and the Internet all have wildly different prices for the exact same tour. In my case, the Hilton Millennium wanted to charge me 5,000 Baht and the best deal I could find on the Internet was 3,500 Baht. It seems like the price is heavily dependent on how much the reseller thinks you can pay for the tour. My advice is if you want to go on one of these organized tours, take a trip down to one of the hostels and purchase tickets there. You’ll save yourself a good deal of money and avoid feeling like you’ve been taken advantage of (a few folks in my group stated they paid 3,500 and 4,000 respectively to do the same tour I was doing). Thanks to Lillie from AroundtheWorldL, I managed to purchase my tour from the LUB-d Hostel for only 2,000 Baht. On to the tour stops:
- WWII Museum & Cemetery of the Dead – Near each other (but not part of the same structure) are two attractions that honor Thailand’s role and sacrifice during WWII. Unsurprisingly, the cemetery honors those that have fallen in battle via a well manicured courtyard that includes a monument to the country’s solders. The Museum provides greater (and sometimes graphic) details into the activities of the war – including the forced slavery by the Japanese. Worthy of the 20 Baht donation.
- Baby Leopard – Just outside of the museum is a guy who has a mother and baby Leopard chained to a platform. This setup is not part of any official attraction – it’s just some guy charging money to take pictures with his cats. No matter – it was only 30 Baht ($1 US) to take some sweet video of me feeding the baby leopard with a bottle as his mother sat a foot away from me. Awesome!!
- Bridge & Train Ride – After leaving the museum, I took a few pictures on a bridge that spanned some unknown river and hopped a train for a ride into the country. The train itself is the open air variety with hard wooden seats, but it moved fast enough to produce a nice cool breeze to help with the blazing heat & humidity. Once we departed from the train, it was off to eat a nice country Thai lunch on one of the country’s many rivers.
- Elephant Trek – Technically not a trek; more like herding the elephants around in a circle for the tourists. Nevertheless, it was interesting to get up close to the Asian version of the Elephant to see how it differs from its African cousins. The ride was about 20 minutes – plenty long enough as you are baking under the brutal sun. After a bit of video of me with the elephants it was off to the next stop.
- Waterfall – I forget the name of the waterfall, but it is obviously a place where the locals come to barbeque and cool off from the hot sun. There’s something about me filming on waterfalls that turns me bat shit stupid enough to fall in the water. Unlike my fiasco in Jamaica, I didn’t ruin my video camera – but my HTC Hero bit the dust. That was pretty embarrassing and pretty dirty (little Thai kids simultaneously laughing and scared of the crazy 6 foot Black man).
- Tiger Temple – After about 4 hours on this tour, we finally get to the namesake attraction. As you step into the gates of the attraction, you walk about 10 minutes to get to the Tiger Valley. Though these tigers are not in the wild – this is far from a zoo; so the staff takes great care to ensure you do not startle or harm the tigers – which would not be good for all parties involved. After removing all shinny objects (sunglasses, keys, etc.) the staff takes your camera and literally holds your hand as you walk from tiger to tiger. There are about 10 tigers in various states of alertness, e.g., sleeping on their backs, lying prone and up and walking around. You kneel behind each tiger so the staff can take your picture while 3-4 other staff members keeps a close eye on you and the beast (wouldn’t wanna lose a hand now would ya?). Even though any of the tigers could have bitten my entire arm off, at no time did I feel unsafe. The experience was way cool and I highly recommend.