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From Temples to Tigers

Cambodia is behind me, here comes Thailand!  Cambodia is a beautiful country – I still have a lot to see in the country, I did not have enough time to really see it all.  I spent my time only in and around Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, the capitol, was left, plus all around the rest of the country – I have a reason to return!

Off to Bangkok, Thailand for a couple days! A vibrant and lively city known as being glorious as if created by angels, the administration center, beautiful temples and glittering palaces, the capitol of Thailand.  It is definitley the city of smiles as well!  Anywhere you turn, the Thai people are smiling back at you – now whether this is to be nice and pleasant, or they smile because they are thinking about how to take the next tourist for all they have, I am not 100% certain yet.  I have a feeling its that they are being nice and pleasant, but you have to stay on your toes and stay ahead of your game or the Thai people will take your for all your worth, very quickly.  I experienced this right off the bat at the airport when trying to hail a taxi – keep reading to hear the story.

At the airport at Siem Reap I ran into Jon, from Denmark! He has been traveling away from home since February and wont be getting home until August – quite a trip! A true backpacker, living where the road takes him.  Jon, safe travels, enjoy your time and when you get back to Denmark make sure you have some of your favorite rye bread!

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Jon and his rag-tag hat that he pieces together as he goes!

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Boarding the plane to Thailand

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Uh…is that smoke? No, no, its just the condensation/vapor from the AC system.

Thailand and America have great relations, US passport holders do not need a visa to enter the country, once you got off the plane you can head directly to passport control and on to customs.  A quick review, a couple stamps and a picture – and your on your way! Customs is even easier – just walk right through – no guards, no xrays, no metal detectors – nothing! In a way it was kind of unnerving, anyone could theoretically walk into Thailand with something that they are not supposed to have.

So, back to the taxi experience.  Right after exiting the airport you can request a taxi/limo service, exchange currency or sign up for a tour.  I exchanged some currency and went to the taxi stand and asked how much to the hotel I was going to.  They told me 800 Baht (the rate is 33 Baht/1 USD).  I knew this was high, but that was their rate for the taxi stand service – I told them no thank you.  I went outside to the curb and ran into a guy who was hailing taxi’s for passengers – I asked him how much and he said the same price – 800 Baht, I told him its to much, he dropped it to 700, still to much.  I said 600 (thinking this was was a good price) and he grumbled and mumbled and then said ok. So I followed him outside to “his taxi”. (This whole time I started to wonder if this guy was a taxi driver or if he was a regular person trying to be a taxi without the fees – I quickly find out who he is). So we get to the outer side of the airport road and there is a row of taxi’s waiting for people.  He jumps into the first car and talks to the driver and gets out and goes the the second car – he says the first driver is no good (I later find out the first driver didnt want to take a bribe). The second guy is “a good driver”, and I get in the taxi I see the driver passing money to the guy who brought be to this point – I say I will not pay 600 and will only pay 400, he gets upset, and I say I will get out and find another taxi if not for 400.  Eventually I get out of this taxi and go to the one behind me and tell him to go – the guy who brought me to this point didnt look to happy.  The guy in my current taxi was laughing.  I tell him to start the meter and go. He tells me “I take you for 600 Baht”  I tell him to start the meter or I find another taxi.  He quickly starts the meter and we go.  In summary, every taxi or sales guy I encountered was the same way.  You stay firm at your price, have your set price, and know that most people you encounter are going to try and jack up the price on you.  Taxis – always use the meter.  Tell them you will get out if they wont.  The meter is always cheaper than the pre-negotiated price.  Whew, welcome to Thailand!  Great read for using taxi’s in Thailand.

I had planned a trip to see some history in Thailand – the death railway, the bridge over the River Kwai and a cemetery where 1000’s of solders were killed or were POW’s during WWII.  Many of the buried were used to build the Burma Railway.IMG_2873 From Temples to Tigers

First stop, Kanchanaburi War Cemetery.

On to the River Kwai Bridge.  It was constructed in 1942 and was built by POW’s during that time.  the whole railway was built at this time and it goes all the way into Burma/Myanmar.  It is still in use today, the original tracks are narrower than the modern tracks, but they are kept in place for historical remembrance.  The original tracks are not used anymore.

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The crossing bridge – It is still in use, but people still walk over it when trains are not passing.

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The bridge was bombed many times and was damaged many times.  This is why there are different styles/sections to the bridge.

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Here you can see the two tracks, the original and the new.

Done here! Next stop is something a little different – an elephant ride!  I rode an Asian elephant around a bit, and rode it through a river as well!  Lucky it wasn’t to deep, so I didn’t get wet 🙂

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Dont fall off! Going down the hill was a little scary, nothing to hold on to!

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Dont fall in!

Enough of the elephants.  Thailand is known for Tigers as well.  And I cant come here and not see a Tiger – so I went to a Tiger zoo!  It was about 2 hours from Bangkok, but the countryside is beautiful and so green!

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Not only did I see Tigers – I pet them!

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No, they didn’t get scared of me…

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A small one! Such lazy cats – all taking naps.  Do I have all my fingers/limbs still?  Check, yup all 10.

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The gate for the Tiger Park.

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My driver, Sumjai and my guide, Luk Phat (Click for FB page and for tours).  Thanks for the great time!

Heading back to Bangkok and its much more organized than Siem Reap, but still an Asian country with crazy things going down the road.  Much fewer laws than the US for safety and regulations.IMG_3064 From Temples to Tigers

This is a small load for Thailand!

Bangkok has a huge night time presence.  Markets and people everywhere once the sun goes down.  I went to Chinatown in the evening, and it was packed!  Food, merchandise, more food and so many people!  Walking there was an experience.  I walked across the Chao Phraya River bridge and saw so many homeless people just sleeping on the stairs, I saw stray dogs everywhere and I even saw a full grown pig!  Where did that come from!IMG_3080 From Temples to Tigers

One of the many people sleeping on the streets.  At least this guy wasn’t talking to himself, or to the rock in front of him!

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A funny shirt I saw in the market

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Bangkok skyline from my hotel.  I was right on the river.  Beautiful at night time!

There was so much more to do, but there is only so much time in a day.  I walked so far, saw so much and still have so much more to do in Thailand.  I will have to save it for next time however.  Its time to go to Vietnam and see what the Viet’s do over there!  Thailand, I will be back – Chaing Mai, Phucket and who knows where else! Country hopping back and forth!  Double check – good, I have all my limbs and fingers 🙂

Cheers!

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