Friday, February 21, 2014

Lions and Tigers and Bears

Or just tigers.

This was the number one best thing I did in Thailand. We went to the Tiger Temple where I got to spend time feeding and playing with tiger cubs. Amazing.

We arrived around noon, right when the temple opened. This was perfect because we got to spend time with the tigers before they were walked down to the canyon at 1:30. Everyone ends up in the canyon where you can take numerous photos with the tigers.

I signed up for a program to feed the tiger cubs. Eight of us were taken in to a large enclosure to play with the cubs. There were four 1-month olds and one 3-month old. 

We had to take off our shoes and were told to sit on the floor. The tiger cubs started walking all over us.  They made a very funny, high pitched squeal if you picked them up. They were adorable. 

A bit later, a volunteer came in with warm bottles so we could feed the cubs. This is the 3-month old. He was a messy eater. 

After eating, the younger cubs played a bit and then started to fall asleep. Did I mention yet that they were adorable?

Look at that belly!

After the program ended (45 adorable-filled minutes), we went down to the canyon to take pictures with the big cats. This one is my favorite!

Oh, Leonardo

From Krabi, we caught a ferry to go visit the Phi Phi Islands (a place almost completely decimated by the 2004 tsunami). The islands are located in the Andaman Sea in between Krabi and Phukett. 

Mosquito Island? No, thanks.

The ferry dropped us off on Phi Phi Don, the larger of the two islands. I was particularly looking forward to going to Phi Phi Leh. Because of this guy:

The movie The Beach was filmed there in a place named Maya Bay. So after checking into our hotel on Phi Phi Don, we hired a long boat to take us to Maya Bay. 

On the way there, we stopped to see some monkeys, because well, why not?

Another boat had brought food and bottles of water. The monkeys are so smart, they figured out how to open them. 

About 20 minutes later we arrived at Maya Bay. Just look at the color of the water! It was pretty incredible.

It was super hot and so we went to sit in the water. It was very shallow so you could go quite a ways out and still be only knee deep in the water. 

Maya Bay is very popular with tourists. We were lucky enough to arrive in the mid afternoon, after most of the tourists had caught the last ferry back to Phukett or Krabi. 

On the other end of the island is a small lookout providing you with this view. I have dubbed it Gumdrop Island.

So yeah, Maya Bay rocked. My only criticism? No Leo. Seems like false advertising if you ask me.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Krabi Part 007

On our second day in Krabi, we rented a long boat and went on a tour of some nearby islands that dot the Andaman Sea. 

Our first stop was actually to get off the long boat and into an inflatable kayak. Each kayak had a guide who did all the work, leaving us tourists free to take pictures. We went through an island, as countless years of waves have created a rather larger tunnel.

Our kayak guides also took us around the island. By far one of my most favorite parts of the trip!

After getting back into the long boat, we headed off for James Bond Island, famously used in a (you guessed it) James Bond movie. The Man with the Golden Gun to be more precise.

View from a cave on James Bond Island

Long boats on the beach

We ended our tour at a fishing village. Locals live and work on the pier. Tourists come to shop and eat at the fish restaurants.

Krabi Part One

Krabi is located on the west coast of southern Thailand. Directly from the airport we went to the aptly named Emerald Pool. After a short walk from the entrance, through a dense covering of trees, we arrived at the Emerald Pool. If our swimsuits hadn't been packed away in our suitcases we would have gone swimming. Instead, we continued walking until we reached the Blue Pool.

It may have been a million degrees outside, but even that couldn't spoil the natural beauty of the area. 

The Emerald Pool

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Big Fish

So I'm a bit behind in posting. Deal with it. 

One of the first things we did was to participate in a traditional Buddhist tradition of releasing animals into the wild. The first thing we needed to do was acquire some animals. We stopped at a local market and bought some catfish and turtles. Obviously live ones. After securing them in the truck (catfish are gross), we bought some fish food and drove to a nearby pond. 

Surrounding the pond are five pagodas, each with a dragon on it. These dragons are believed to be protecting the pond.

Back to the tradition. So the animals we bought were from a market. Like a market where people go to buy food. So if we hadn't bought these animals, someone else would have. And then eaten them. So we saved their little animal lives. Anyway, Buddhists believe that by saving these animals' lives they will have a good life.

Different animals symbolize different things. 

Catfish: Releasing a catfish means that you will be able to overcome problems that may arise in your life. More literally, it's as if your problems will get pushed away by the whiskers of the catfish.
Turtle: This one's simpler. Turtles symbolize a long life.
Eels: Your path through life will be smooth. Free from obstacles. 
Fresh Water Snails: These are for those people with a bitter, sad life. By releasing the snails you are releasing the bitterness from your own life.

The number of animals you are to release and the day you are to release them, depends on the day of the week you were born. As Jitt was born on a Saturday, she released ten catfish. I was born on a Tuesday, so I would only need to release eight. Those born on a Friday are suppose to release twenty-one. That's a lot of slimy animals. 

After she released the catfish, we took the turtles out, one by one, to place them in the pond. 

Right before the turtle visiously tried to attack me. (It wiggled. Same difference.)

After all the animals were safetly in the water, we started to feed the fish. They believe that by giving food to the fish, they themselves will never go hungry. 

The pond was FULL of fish. And apparently they were all hungry. 

I named the big guy in the middle Ewan. As in McGregor. As in you either get it or you don't. 

The area surrounding the pond was quite pretty. As I went to go take a picture of these orchids, I got to say the phrase, "I'm going to The Orchid".

I'm not one to ever miss out on a LOST reference.

Elephant Butt

It isn't every day when you see this outside your car window.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Getting Here

1 book (Bill Bryson of course)
6 movies
6 flights/5 countries/3 continents: Osorno-Valdivia-Santiago-Auckland-Sydney-Kuala Lumpur-Bangkok

Total time including stop overs: Approximately 45 hours

I rang in the New Year siting on the tarmac at the Santiago International Airport. The crew donned costumes and decorated the plane with streamers and balloons. After reaching cruising altitude, the crew played festive music over the intercom while serving complimentary champagne and firing off confetti poppers. I just made that word up. It was a long tube filled with confetti that "popped". Even the captain came out to shake hands. (He was also in a costume.) So yeah, they got into it.

Boarding the plane

Blurry champagne

So thirteen hours is a long time to sit on a plane. Or anywhere for that matter. But LAN has the best in flight entertainment on their long flights. For both legs (Santiago to NZ and NZ to Sydney) I had my own little touch screen filled with 100+ movies. And a bit of a variety, too. I watched four. Moneyball, Chicago, Pocahontas and Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. They had a few new movies as well, but I like to rewatch the same ones over and over again.

So after 30 or so hours from first setting off,  I had arrived in Sydney. After a bit of a delay I boarded an Air Asia flight to Malaysia. It was my first time flying with them so I was a bit shocked and disheartened (it was an 8 hour flight, after all) to discover that not only was there no in-flight entertainment (I'm seriously content with just the one giant shared screen and ANY movie), but they also didn't have any complimentary meal or drink service. No peanuts, no water, no tiny map showing where you are in relation to where you're going. No nothing. But then, just to make things worse, they also don't allow outside food or drinks. What the what? Who does that. Well, an airline that sells overpriced drinks and smelly food, that's who. To be totally fair, I'm sure this all helps to keep their costs down, as they are the leading low-cost airline in the area. (So said the courtesy magazine in the seat pocket in front of me.)

Thankfully Bill was there to keep me company
So after landing in Kuala Lumpur, being herded like cattle through security and getting my water taken away from me for the umpteenth time, I was finally only one short, two-hour flight away from Bangkok. As this flight was also with Air Asia, by the time I arrived in Thailand I was on the verge of suffering from dehydration. Okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration. But I was really FUCKING tired. After going through customs I found my Dad and Jitt and we drove to Pattaya where they live. About two hours toward the Gulf of Thailand.

So there you go. It wasn't even remotely pleasant to get here. But Thailand more than made up for it as you can see in the following picture.

Coke Zero

I'm sure I sound all bitter, but that's just the jet lag talking. I'm super excited to be here, I swear. (Insert smiling emoticon here.)