A Travellerspoint blog

Photoblog, last two weeks at Safari Park

all seasons in one day 35 °C

Since our last blog entry there have been several dramas at the Safari Park. This has concluded with people leaving that we were sad to see go. On top of this there have been a few short term volunteers that have left after becoming good friends. The hardest part of been here long term is having to say goodbye to so many good people.

As we have not entered a blog for a while, and so much has happened outside the usual running of things we have decided to just upload lots of photos of the things we have been up to. Our work has been again mainly with the cubs, outside of work we have been having far too many parties and have consumed far too many bottles of whisky.

After Liam last time, the latest staff party karaoke was all about Chelsea, here she is singing Take That with another volunteer Gwen.

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On cubs Chelsea has been doing great with the Training.

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And there has been improvements has we have now hooked up a 50 metre line between two trees that the cubs are attached to with there lead that gives them so much more room to run around.

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Enrichment for the cubs has been a big priority and they both love to destroy watermelons

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Our lion cub is growing at an alarming rate, she is a month old and bigger than leopards twice her age.

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On a day when a hangover was too much to work with some of us went to another local zoo. It was awful and the animals were in terrible conditions, just showed to us the importance of the work we do. The plus side was there was a awesome baby gibbon that was allowed out of its cage. Chelsea did not go as she was on cubs, she was very jealous afterwards......

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This weekend the boss Joe took us to a local school's 65th anniversary party. It was lots of fun, we had a great seven course meal (that included fish guts soup) the obligatory bottle of whiskey and there were carnival games.

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Finally here is a belated photo of us during the amazing Songkran festival back in April, we have only just got the photos as we did not take our camera due to the water

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We now take ten days off from the safari as Liam's dad is coming to see us. We are very excited, and looking forward to enjoying a few days sightseeing and relaxing together. We are sneaking in a lazy pool day tomorrow so we can be totally refreshed for when he arrives.

Posted by Chelsandliam 00:18 Archived in Thailand Tagged thailand volunteering kanchanaburi Comments (1)

Last Days in Vientiane and back to Safari

sunny 41 °C

Our last two days in Vientiane were more or less the same as the first two. We had to pick up our Thai visa, which thankfully was an easier process than applying for it, but this was not until after 13.30. We decided to walk to the embassy, see some sights on the way and stop off at any nice café we spotted. Once we had had breakfast we set off and it soon became apparent we had made a mistake. It was incredibly hot, far too hot to walk in and as we jumped from shade to shade we also realised there were no cafe's in this section of the city either. We did manage to see a sight, a large monument based on the Arc D'Triumphe in Paris. It was a huge concrete square, hollow inside with an arched entrance on each side. From a distance it looks impressive but once you are underneath it is a bit disappointing. It has been took over by locals who run a few small shops inside. At least it provided plenty of shade and we had a drink before setting back off to the embassy.

That evening we decided to have a bit of a luxury night and after our canapés and buy one get one free beer at I-Beam bar we set off to the river. We walked along the Mekong river at sunset, it was a stunning sight, and there are a few higher class bars. The whole place seems to either newly, or soon to be, renovated. We stopped off at a nice bar and had a cocktail while the sun went down. After we walked back up river, through a night market and tried to find somewhere to eat. We settled on a little French restaurant called Le Provence. We ordered two pizzas and they were delicious. Super thin and crispy base with anchovies, salami and mozzarella. The best pizza we have had in Asia.

On our last day before catching the night train, we took advantage of our last lay in and spent the rest of the time in a café drinking chocolate milkshake and chatting before going to the train station. We just missed the first connecting train to Nong Kai in Thailand to where the over night train starts. We had to wait until 5pm for the next one so passed the time drinking beers at tiny shop at the end of the platform. The night train itself was not as good as before, mainly due to the air con being too high and Chelsea did not sleep as she was too cold. We arrived in Bangkok at around 7am and after a quick breakfast, jumped in a minivan that took us to Kanchanaburi.

We arrived back at the safari on Saturday afternoon, unfortunately we did not come back to very good news as one of the puppies, George, had died that morning. Needless to say the whole team was devastated and no one was really working, We decided to get together that night on the river and have a few drinks to cheer everyone up. George has been buried by the river too, with a little cross which has his dog collar rapped around.

Sunday everyone was still a bit down but we had to get back to work. Us two got to go on cubs again. Chelsea was a little annoyed as Tat the tiger was not as responsive as when she left. Probably because the other people looking after her have not been doing it the same way. Liam was with Latte and was determined to get through the whole day without a scratch or bite, that lasted around 30 seconds when she jumped out of he night enclosure and scratched him on the hand. Latte is relentless at trying to bite. and jump at you, she will listen when you tell her off but she seems to forget after 2 minutes and will come straight back at you. Luckily it is just playing so the bites don't do any damage.

Yesterday Chelsea went back on cubs and has got Tat back to how she was before she left, Liam worked on Coffee the leopards cage. It is a double cage that we are planning to use half of for Tat when she is two big for her current one. The first job was to put up a visual barrier so Coffee and Tat would not be able to see each other as this would make Tat uncontrollable. So some of the team spent the day cable tying bamboo that had been split lengthwise to the mesh of the cage. It was very time consuming work but we managed to get in done.

In the evening we had been invited to 'staff meeting' by Joe the boss. The meeting was actually a party and Joe bought in drinks and food for both his Thai staff and us. It was a great night and we all drank way too much whisky and beer. We also got to try Thai white whisky, which is a horrible. Joe was making us shot it every so often and each time is was hard to keep down. Thai people love Karaoke so there was a karaoke machine set up and the Thai's were on it from the word go. It took several drinks before any of the volunteers had the courage to go up and by the end of the night we were all up there killing song after song. After we run out of ideas for songs to sing we sang them twice. It must have been awful for the Thai staff listening to us but it was a little bit of revenge.

Today has been a right off. We have all had serious hang overs. We have looked after the cubs, well Liam has looked after the cubs, Chelsea has laid asleep on the floor all day outside the cub enclosure. Thankfully we have had no customers and the cubs have been amazing, they just both laid in their doorways next to us all day as we recovered so it was not too much of a hassle. It is fair to say tonight is going to be an early one to catch up from last night.

Posted by Chelsandliam 05:06 Archived in Thailand Tagged thailand volunteering kanchanaburi Comments (3)

Wandering, eating and drinking in Vientiane

sunny 39 °C

Today we got up nice and early and went for our complimentary breakfast. It was a choice of eggs and a baguette so Chelsea was extremely happy as she loves bread. After we set off on a mission to find the Thai embassy in order to apply for our visa. We decided to get a tuk-tuk and bumped into an American lad who was doing the same so shared the ride with him. It is only a short ride and cost 40000Kip. When we arrived we were immediately approached by several touts trying to get you to do the visa application through them, so we politely walked past and into the visa office. We collected the forms and released we had forgot our photocopies. We hadn't even brought a pen to fill in the form. Chelsea managed to cadge a pen of a nice man and we managed to get all our photocopies done upstairs in the embassy. The form is simple and you need, two passport photos, a photocopy of you Passport, any old Thai visas and your Laos visa. You also need your actual passport and a completed visa application. After you have completed the form you collect a number and wait in the seating area until your number is called. You then hand in the form and then wait in a separate seating area for your number to be called again so you can pay. It costs 1000B and they accept no other currency. It was a slow and perplexing process. There is no reason why the lady who you initially see can't take the money off you when you hand her our forms. You apply for your visa between 8.30am and 11.30am and collect it the next day between 13.30 and 15.30.

After we had sat with many other people in silence waiting to apply for our visa  we decided to walk it back to the city centre. We dodged all the tuk-tuks who were desperate to know 'where you go' and managed to navigate back. We passed several lovely pagodas and temples, as well as victory monument and the presidential palace. Some of Vientiane is beautiful and spotless. The streets are really clean and landscaped and especially around the palace it is gorgeous. Big mature trees line the pavement so you can escape the sunshine and small shops selling, wicker, cloth and bits and pieces nestle in between high, French style buildings. 

When we made it back we were extremely hot so we decided to duck into a cafe. We both had iced coffees and Chelsea had a cookie. The cafe was called Joma and was really modern and stylish with big artworks hung on the walls.  It sold sandwiches, bagels, salads and baked goods. It is such a novelty for us to be able to have sandwiches, we love all the cafes. We spent an hour cooling off in the cafe and then decided to have a walk down towards the Mekong river. There is a new park so we decided to walk, sit in the shade and read our books. When we got there the park was immaculate but totally deserted and we can see why. The sun was blisteringly hot and there was no shade whatsoever. We walked it to the river, which was partly dry and wandered around the gardens for as long as we could before we managed to find a half shaded bench. 

By this point it was late afternoon so we headed back calling at a bar for a few cheeky Laos beers. It was so warm we had to have ice in our beer to keep it at a cool temperature. We went back to our room and laid and watched a film in our hotel for a few hours before heading back out for some food. 

We decided to head for the bar we visited yesterday and have a happy hour beer and entrées. They were just as good as yesterday but today there was an egg one, a fish one, a mushroom and a blue cheese.  Luckily for us there was a rotund man at the bar who kept demanding more so we ended up having loads of little mouth watering bites before it was time to leave. Earlier today we spotted a fountain square with lots of bars and restaurants round it that was all closed. We assumed it would be open at night so we headed there. It was really lovely at night, it was all lit up with lights, the fountain was on and they had a band playing in the middle. All the restaurants and bars were open and we browsed the menus until one caught our eye. It was a tiny French restaurant tucked away inthe corner. We had a three course set menu for 67000kip with a carafe of red wine. We had salad, steak and potatoes and ice cream and fruit and it was totally delicious. 

We really are enjoying Laos capital city. Before we came we had heard a lot of bad things about it but we are glad we didn't listen. There is something for everyone, there is lots of street food vendors right next door to seriously upmarket bars and eateries. There are cafes on every corner and the strange mix of Asian and European food makes for a really interesting break from the rest of Southeast Asia we have seen. We seem to be walking from cafe to cafe, sampling different cuisines and atmospheres and we really like it. 

Posted by Chelsandliam 10:36 Archived in Laos Tagged laos vientiane Comments (3)

Kanchanaburi to Bangkok to Vientiane

sunny 38 °C

 Our first day off in several weeks started with a well needed lay in. We were up and packed by 9.30 though, said goodbye to our oversized kittens and on our way into town. We sorted out our motorbike which we hadn't paid for in around six weeks, paid up and went for some breakfast. We paid for a mini van to take us into Bangkok from a local tour company as the public bus takes you right to the southern bus terminal which is too far out for our quick departure through Bangkok. We sat and waited for it to arrive until 1.30pm on the river Kwai with a drink. It was lovely to be doing nothing. The bus to Bangkok only took two hours and we both fell asleep. When we arrived in Bangkok near Khao San road we immediately shared a taxi with two girls from our bus to the train station. Our bus driver had advised us not to pay more than 200B and the mans first quote was a million baht and then 800B. Anyone that knows Chelsea can assume she was not amused and after a small and intense barter/argument / game with the man trying to wind us up and rip us off she got the taxi man down to the right price. We don't actually think he wanted to take us at all and wasn't pleased he had to actually do some work we think. 

We booked our ticket no problem and with no reservation. There are several people with official name tags in the station that are there to give information and help, just be careful as there are also lots of people pretending to help. We got a second class, air conditioned ticket for the 8pm nighttrain, costing 700B all the way to Nong Kai. We had four hours to kill so we wandered accros the road to a street stall and had some food. Chelsea had duck and rice and Liam has spicy Papaya salad. It was delicious. Bangkok is hectic and often unpleasant but the food is awesome. After our bellies were full we went into a bar and had several drinks until it was around half seven and then we crossed the road backI to the station to get our train.

The train was a lot better than expected. The bottom bunks are marginally more expensive that the tops but they are both really comfy. The bottom bunk starts off as two chairs and then as it gets later the train porter comes around, makes the beds and then one person moves to the top bunk. There are fresh sheets, blankets and a mattress, as well as a curtain. There are sinks and toilets and a dinner and breakfast service. It is really nice and we enjoyed sitting on the bottom bunk talking and reading until we were too tired and went to sleep. It gets a little bumpy but we both had a really good sleep and the man had to wake us up to serve us breakfast. 

Breakfast was chicken rice soup, coffee and orange juice and after we sat on the bottom bunk snoozing and reading until it was time to get off. We arrived in Nong Kai at around 9am to 9.30am and didn't even feel groggy from the travel. We would definatey recommend night trains in Thailand. They are spotless and comfortable and we got a lot better sleep than we do on a bus. 

When we arrived in Nong Kai we then had to get a shuttle train across the border into Laos, to Thanaleng. It only costs 20B and is really easy. You go through Thai immigration at Nong Kai and they stamp you out of Thailand on the platform. You them board the train which only takes around fifteen minutes. When you arrive you are in Laos. We applied for our visa on arrival at the station which costs 35 dollars and filled in the form and then caught a pickup truck into Vientiane, which is only around half and hour to forty minutes away.

The whole process was incredibly stress free and simple and we actually really enjoyed the traveling which never happens. We would even go as far to say we are looking forward to the train back. Haha

When we arrived in Vientiane we weren't sure what to expect. We had done no research on where to stay or what the city was like so set off in search of a guesthouse. We looked in around five before we settled on one. We are staying in Mixok Guest House for 130000Kip a night. It has air con, an on suite, wifi and free breakfast. It is clean but basic so we are happy. We settled into our new home for a few days and then decided to explore the city. 

Some of the streets are quite wide with lanes of busy traffic while others are small side streets with independent guesthouses, cafes and shops. We wandered the streets and went into a little French cafe for some lunch. It was beautiful inside and outside and  we were instantly transported to Europe. We both ordered warm sandwiches, Liam roast beef, potato and mustard and Chelsea, tomato, pesto and mozzarella. It was delicious and for desert we had a macaroon. We are surprised by the amount of French inspired cafes there are in the city. We are aware of the French occupation of Laos but we didn't expect such a big presence still. Some of the places are small and charming but others are extremely glitzy and modern. It is like no other city we have been to so far.

After a slow paced afternoon wandering we showered and decided to go out for some tea and drinks. We were on route to a restaurant called La Vendrome which had good reviews when we spotted a posh bar called I-Bar  with a happy hour sign. We went inside and with any beer you got one free and received free entrees. We ordered our drinks and they brought round tiny offerings of different flavours, pate, blue cheese, sun dried tomato and olive. It was a lovely atmosphere and we made ourselves hungry with tiny offerings of delicious bite size snacks so we made our way to the restaurant. The place was a small building, covered in ivy and was really cute. We ordered our meals and a carafe of wine and really enjoyed it. Liam had pasta and Chelsea has pizza and both were extremely good. 

Just as we were about to leave it started to pour down with rain so we decided to wait until it passed. It was a massive thunder storm, the biggest we have ever seen. The lightning lit up the whole sky and the thunder vibrated inside your chest. Chelsea was a bit scared to walk through it so we waited for it to pass a little before we headed back.

Our first impressions of Vientiane are really good. It is a lot more upmarket than we expected and there is no shortage of nice bars and places to eat. Hopefully we can fit quite a few in before our time is done :)  

Posted by Chelsandliam 09:59 Archived in Laos Tagged thailand laos kanchanaburi vientiene Comments (3)

All in a weeks work at the Safari

sunny 45 °C

This last week has been a very good week, we (the volunteers) have had one of our biggest achievements since the programme was set up and we have also attended the evening party of a Thai wedding…

Chelsea has spent the whole week working with the cubs. Tat the tiger has improved tenfold due to the work Chelsea has done and the fact she has been consistently with her every day. We are pushing to improve the enclosures, both night time, and day time as they are currently way too small. We have also for the first time in a long time being able to out a big log in with Tat to give her something to play with. We are winning little battles like this every day. It does become slightly frustrating that simple things take a while to be achieved but it is always worth it. The training is incredible, Chelsea can now give two commands; ‘calm,’ Tat will lay down and wait for a treat, and ‘come here’ Tat will approach her at a safe pace for a treat. This has just been achieved in the last few days and we now need to decide where to take the training. She is extremely tame with Chelsea, Chelsea can lay with her head on her belly, she can get prints of her paw and quite often when Chelsea sits in the cage she will get up and lay next to her. Spending time with her everyday has made a big difference to her behaviour. She really enjoys company and wants to please which is nice. Chelsea today even took new volunteers inside and she was fine with been stroked by them which is a massive deal as she is very afraid of new people.

As of a week or so ago we also now have a lion cub at safari. The other day we were walking through the area that it is cared for in and Chelsea was allowed to feed it. Already it is bigger than leopard cubs that were born three weeks ago. It is incredibly cute and very fluffy. We have been told it is a female and we cannot wait to work with her.

Liam has had a more varied week. He has been odd job man and errand boy for the more skilled builders we currently have, this mainly involves carrying all the heavy stuff and trying not to get in anyone’s way, and he has had a few afternoons and a full day on cubs with Chelsea. He has spent more time with Latte than normal due to the excellent work Chelsea is doing. Liam has been playing with Latte and winding her up until she gets really hyper and Chelsea tells him off, he can’t help it though as she is so much fun. He has a few bites and scratches though so he is starting to learn his lesson.

The two of us have also had our first meeting with the boss of the safari park on behalf of the volunteers. As we are now staying for free we are given increased responsibilities and the meeting was great. The meeting went well and Joe, the boss, listened to our requests and we managed to get a few things cleared up.

The volunteers’ biggest achievement to date in our opinion is the story of Hang Heng. Hang Heng is a tiger that was chained to a table from around the age of 2 months. When the volunteer programme started in December last year he was 18 months old and still on the table. By this time he was sick and constantly pacing. He never got any attention because Blue was also on a table parallel to him and has he is so much bigger, therefore more popular, the Thai staff and customers always wanted Blue. We managed to get Hang Heng off the table, although a slight improvement this meant he was in a small night enclosure all day and occasionally replaced Blue when Blue was sick. This was not good enough so we asked for him to be moved to safari. This took a long time but around a month ago he was moved to safari. We thought at this point he was getting exercise and playing with other tigers on safari but we found out two weeks ago that he has never been out and has been kept in another small night enclosure. We have pushed like crazy to get him out, and the staff had several excuses but this week we finally got him out. He originally went out Monday and we saw him briefly through the fence, on Tuesday the boss took us all on safari to see him proper. It was so amazing to see him out in a large open enclosure, he was walking around covered in mud where he had been in the water sitting with the other tigers. When we appeared he approached the bus chuffing and looked really happy. It so good to know we have improved just one animals life so drastically, even if it has taken a lot longer than it should. It has given the whole team a real boost. Next stage is Blue.

For the last two weeks we have also been doing the English lessons on or own rather than with Danni and Adam as they have been away. We have loved it, and the kids must have too because the usual numbers of 1-4 kids since we came back from Myanmar, have increased to 14 which we had on Wednesday, We taught them the five senses and had different things for them to touch, taste and smell. At the end we blindfolded them and made them feel the objects and then say the appropriate sense. This was until Liam had a go and the kids went crazy, poking him and hitting him with the objects while he was blindfolded. Chelsea even joined in.

Friday night we attended the evening party of a Thai wedding, We know the guy has he rents us our bikes. It was a really strange party. It was quite traditional but very informal, there was a stage and there were several singers and a pair of comedians (we think they were comedians but we could not understand them). There was a free meal which consisted of 8 courses, and free drinks including whisky. It was great fun and the food was amazing although randomly the entertainment changed slightly towards the end of the night where a Thai girl just came on stage wearing less and less clothes for each song until the end she was just in her underwear, it must have been part of the act because the Thai guests did not seem to think anything was out of the ordinary. As with any Thai party it was open mic so there were several drunken attempts made to sing by locals. After the party we went back to Kanchanaburi and stayed out for a couple more drinks before collapsing into our £4 a night room to get some sleep before being up at six to drive 27km back to safari park.

This week has been a lot of fun and Hang Heng for us is by far the highlight of our whole time here. Our Thai visa runs out on May 17th so next week were are having off and going to Laos. We are only going to spend a few days there relaxing and getting a new visa then coming back to safari.

Posted by Chelsandliam 06:18 Archived in Thailand Tagged thailand volunteering kanchanaburi Comments (0)

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