Climbing Waterfalls! Playing with Real Live Baby Tigers! NYE!
Kanchanaburi Travel Blog› entry 8 of 15 › view all entries
New Year's Eve, 2007. Before heading back to Bangkok for fireworks, I had 2 awesome side trips to complete near Kanchanaburi: A hike up the gorgeous 7-tiered Erawan waterfall, and a trip to pet real live tigers at the Tiger Temple.
Erawan is a series of waterfalls winding its way downhill in the midst of tropical forest. As you climb uphill, you make your way past multiple "tiers" of cascades and waterfalls tumbling into gorgeous blue green pools. You can swim in most of these, and the water is amazingly comfortable on a hot day after the uphil climb.
To get to Erawan, I took a tour microbus to the park and a public bus back. It was about 300 baht, including the 200 baht entrance fee into the park. The one thing that sucked was that the park was completely packed full of people. See, in the US, I would expect national parks to be deserted on NYE, but apparently that's what Thai people do on their national holiys -- visit parks, picnic, and go on holiday out of town. Fun for them, too bad for me -- I hear on a normal day you can get one of the top tier waterfalls to yourself! How awesome would that be?
My biggest word of advice about Erawan would be to get yourself a pair of water shoes. As in, something that can get wet, but that you can also hike in. The trail gets rough nearing the top -- lots of tree roots and boulders in the way.
The public bus left at noon from the parking lot at the park entrance. I had to run for it all the way down the mountain, in my jellies, after stubbing my toe on a boulder. Luckily, I made it in time and took a comfortable ride back to town, where I caught a moto back to the guesthouse. It was barely 5 minutes before my second tour came to get me to go to the tiger temple.
The tiger temple is famous because you can pet real live tigers, and for an extra fee, have a picture with a big one with its head in your lap.
There's a whole controversy over whether the tigers are drugged. When you get your picture taken with the tigers, you'll totally think the tigers are drugged. They are all asleep, and barely acknowledge when they're repositioned by the employees to make a better picture. Then we talked to this Canadian kid that worked there training the baby tigers, who swore up and down that the tigers weren't drugged, and was really annoyed at the persistant controversy because he would have no part in something he thought was so dangerous and amoral. He explained that tigers sleep 17 hours a day in the wild, so when socialized around humans, they simply don't let all the tourists interrupt naptime.
Anyway, I totally paid the extra $30 to get my picture taken with the tiger's head in my lap. It's all very creepy posing by a passed out tiger. But totally awesome nonetheless. I had a giant smile on my face the whole time. Giant Kitty!!!! And yes, I totally know how ironic this is that I am petting tigers not 5 days after the tiger at the San Francisco zoo back home escaped and killed a boy.
That wasn't the best part, though. In the afternoons, you can play with the baby tigers while they're being socialized to humans! The cubs are incredibly adorable, and much livlier than their napping-or-drugged adult counterparts. They spend the whole time pouncing on each other, and playing around, while taking breaks to let people pet them (very carefully and lightly) and take pictures with them.
Since the tigers don't know the tourists, you're only allowed to pet very carefully and gently, but the monks with whom the tigers have grown up totally pick up the babies and manhandle them like giant kitties. It's seriously the cutest thing ever to see a tiny monk pick up a big baby tiger in a giant bear hug and tell it to behave.
The tiger temple also has lots of other animals, including boars, water buffalo, peacocks, horses and dear.