By Kayleigh, with additions by Ryan in Italics
26.05.2015 - 28.05.2015 35 °C
Blog 3.5 Bangkok 2
The next morning I was up early, had breakfast and booked another couple of nights at 3Howw on the Hostelworld app. I left Bodega, and walked the quick way (now I knew my way around the area) back to our old hostel. I didn’t have a lot of time so I dropped my bags in the room, and walked to the Makasan BTS stop, and got the Skytrain to the airport to wait for Kay to arrive. I turned up on time, but as Kay was trying to avoid using her last visa entry into the country, she tried to go through visa-on-arrival, but was denied, and was a bit late. After the obviously large amount of hugs and kisses, we went back to the hostel and Kay had a big nap to catch up on sleep after the two days travelling.
That evening we decided we’d visit the infamous Lebua Skytower, from the film the Hangover 2. It was a couple of stops down the BTS, the neighbourhood in which we arrived looked very seedy, we didn’t want to hang around there for very long. We think we managed to gate-crash a party in a jazz bar, there was lots of locals singing karaoke, who all seemed to know each other and gave us some odd looks. We didn’t stay long, heading straight to Lebua. When we tried to enter a guard told us the clothes I was wearing were not acceptable. Apparently, the Avengers t-shirt was fine, but the expensive Hollister shorts weren’t. I had to pay to borrow some trousers and shoes from a lady who provided the service from around the corner. Getting changed in a stranger’s car, down an alley, in Bangkok, is one of the more bizarre moments in my life (I felt as if it resembled the scene in The Inbetweenters where Simon swaps shoes with a tramp, no offence to the lady with the clothes) I managed to barter her down to about half the price for the rental fee, which I was happy about as these trousers I’d borrowed were too short, and too tight. In 35° heat, I was sweating a LOT! We were allowed into the tower this time and took the elevator up as high as it went, although it opened into what looked like an empty corridor. We walked around the corner to find more deserted hallways, painted all white. It looked like something from a horror film, when you turn around and see a clown with a knife. Turns out we’d taken the staff elevator up to a service corridor. We eventually found the hotel section of the floor and made our way up in the actual elevator to the 63rd floor. I was unaware how posh this place would be. It looked like everyone there had a lot more money than we did. Some people we’re eating multiple course meals, others drinking bottles of champagne. Kayleigh and I brought a lot of money with us but could only afford a bar snack and one cocktail each. It rained whilst we were up there, but the staff had umbrellas for everyone. The views were fantastic though, the lights of Bangkok spread out below you and the golden dome of the tower behind. I found the height quite exhilarating, but Kay was a bit scared. After our food and drink we took a few photos and headed back to the station, not before changing back into my shorts. It was about 23.50, and the last train leaves at 00.00. We had a rush getting our tokens, and catching the last train back to Sukhumvit. Both of us were apprehensive as we’d been told by lots of people that the skytrain is perfectly safe, just don’t travel on your own at night. Fortunately, there were still quite a few people on board, and we were travelling from one effluent area to another. Needless to say we made it back without incident.
The next day we got a taxi to Don Mueang airport to meet our friends Lou and James, who were stopping off at Bangkok on their own round the world trip. We had rearranged our trip for the extra few days and the chance to see them so we were pretty excited. The taxi to the airport was particularly terrifying, the driver kept hitting himself in the face and didn’t get out of third gear the whole journey, regardless of speed. We were so relieved to get out we basically threw our money at him! But we were on time (a shock in itself) and very happy to see Lou and James!
Our plan for the day was to go to volunteer Safari Park in Kanchanaburi, about a three hour drive away. Lou is very organised and had called ahead to the airport taxi company for a quote but they quoted us a much higher amount when we got to their desk. As we were standing around wondering whether to just go with the price, a Thai man came up to us and said he could do the trip for us much cheaper. Yay we all thought! But he said his boss would not be happy with him soliciting our business so we had to go outside to his taxi and meet him there... strange but UK taxis can be weird about that sort of thing too, so we went with it. He had a laminated card for a taxi company that looked pretty official and he rushed off ahead, occasionally showing up to point us to where to go. We don’t know this airport well so we didn’t realise anything was amiss until we were wandering through a wedding party in a hotel that was apparently attached to the airport and out of their front door. He then took us to his car which was a normal car, not a taxi. Lou complained and he said okay, and a second later a taxi rounded the corner with his ‘son’ in, who would take us. We started to discuss between ourselves whether this was a good idea and the taximan got a little weird. He was so insistent that we thought nope! We said sorry for wasting his time and set off to get another taxi. The man followed us for about ten minutes! When we tried to speak to other taxis, the man would jump in and talk to them in Thai first, making us really suspicious. Eventually Lou basically told him to go away and we got the first company. He could have been a really nice man, but it was a strange situation.
Fast forward three hours, and we got to the safari park. The first thing we noticed was the adult tiger chained to a plinth for tourists to take pictures with. None of us liked this, it was about 35 degrees and we just felt sorry for him. The park was run by western tourists volunteering, so we had a few English girls who showed us around. They explained that the company had an agreement that Blue (the chained tiger) was the last such tiger to be trained to do this, but that he had been doing it for so long that it was all he knew and that he was unable to socialise with the other tigers who were aggressive towards him. He also would only eat if his trainer fed him personally. This woman was there and seemed to really love the tiger, but more as a pet, which a tiger is not. Luckily this was one of the only bad things about the park, the rest was AMAZING! One of the best days of the trip so far.
The four of us were the only tourists at the park, it seems like they make the bulk of their money from the people who pay to volunteer there. Firstly, we went into an enclosure with six baby Leopards. They were only a few weeks old. We each had a bottle with formula to feed them and they lay on their backs on our laps and drank their milk with all four paws holding the bottle! It was the sweetest thing. After they had finished they were a lot more lively and mischievous! They were climbing over us all and wanted to investigate and play with everything, including my hair. They had toys in there but seemed a lot more interested in us and the go pro. We were in there for about half an hour, which was enough for me because they had sharp little claws. Ryan said he could have stayed in their forever. James looked like he was in actual heaven.
We went in with some bigger and older leopards next. These were about four months and were about half their adult size. I had spotted them earlier being really feisty so I was scared to go in, but I made myself anyway. Luckily Lou and James had been in before to feed them so they were a bit calmer! There were three of them, and Ryan and I fed one each with a bottle. The bottles didn’t last half as long with these as with the babies! After they had fed we played with them with some big sticks with coconut shells on the end of a rope, like a giant version of toys you would play with a house cat. These were definitely not house cats, they had big claws and were pretty naughty! They weren’t as interested in us as the babies so it wasn’t too dangerous. At one point one jumped onto my shoulders, that certainly gave me a fright! There were two keepers in there with us, they were vigilant and seemed able to notice the leopards doing mischief before it happened. I couldn’t help but notice the amounts of bruises and scratches they had, I wouldn’t have liked to be in with the cats on my own!
After the leopards was the 3 month old lion cubs. Despite the fact these were in a more open enclosure than the leopards, I felt a lot more uneasy. The lions seemed to act a lot more quickly, with a lot less warning that the leopards. The two cubs in with us were very quick to drink their bottles, after which we played with some big palm fronds. They would dart about trying to catch them, a lot like normal cats then suddenly stop at look at you, at this point we’d promptly distract them with the fronds. I feel sorry for their prey in the wild because even these cubs made me feel as if I was nothing but dinner... and I almost was. At the end of our time with the lions, Kay was having a few final pics taken, everyones attention was on her. At this point one of the cubs decided my left testicle would be a tasty snack and lunged at my crotch. Fortunately, it’s teeth didn’t pierce anything of value, but my scrotum had a dangerous nibbling. We had a few photos taken with some macaws, before going on a feeding run with one of the permanent keepers. On the back of his jeep, we went through some of the less dangerous enclosures, feeding zebras, emus, deer, and some very friendly giraffes with seeds and raw carrot. During our feeding of the deer, we found a newborn that must have only been a few hours old as she was still wet. It was extremely cute, and we made sure it was clean, and out of the way of the larger deer, trampling near their food trough. After the feeding was the safari tour in the bus. Loaded up with more carrots, we went back in the giraffe and zebra enclosure. At one point there were more giraffe heads in the bus that people. We moved on into the enclosures of a few more dangerous animals; these were where the lions, tigers and leopards came, when they were too big for the smaller cages and petting we had just done. In the tiger enclosure, I’m pretty sure we were stalked by a very mean looking adult. We went through an enclosure with some sleeping sun bears as well.
We then went in with the adult leopards. Which was a bit daunting. There were three of them and they were my favourite out of the three age ranges! They were a lot calmer than the younger ones and a bit more predictable. We played with them and the keepers told us we could stay in their enclosure for as long as we wanted. We played and petted and Ryan got stalked - never turn your back on a big cat! Even the cubs pounced if they see your back. Eventually me and Lou couldn’t hack the heat any longer and we went home.
Back in Bangkok we went for food at Lou and James’ hotel and went for a walk to Soi Cowboy. Emboldened by Lou and James being there, we headed into a ladyboy bar. It was a tiny bar, with seats around the edge all facing a central stage that had about a dozen very pretty lady boys with a few less convincing ones scattered about. It was basically a brothel, a man came in after us, got out a big wad of cash and the ‘girls’ all crowded him begging him to pick them. We had a beer whilst James looked incredibly uncomfortable and left pretty quickly (Ryan got his bum pinched on the way out!).
The next day Ryan and I headed to the bus stop to get our tickets to Cambodia, as we had heard horror stories about booking them through agents on the street. It took us forever to get to the station and at one point we got lost in the middle of a construction site with dogs barking at us and workers staring! On the way back we found a great park and watched about a hundred people doing group yoga, including an old man in tiny tight denim shorts. We saw a massive monster (monitor lizard) in the lake. We got back pretty late, due to getting lost so badly, and headed back to Lou and James’ hotel to play in the pool. We said an emotional goodbye to Lou and James as the next day they were going to Bali (where they got engaged!!) and me and Ryan were heading to Cambodia.