A Travellerspoint blog

March 2013

Campfires, monkeys and DIY. All in a days work at the safari

sunny 43 °C

Wednesday has been a very productive day. Chelsea took Danni to feed the giraffes in the morning which was as lovely as always. We cleaned and fed the monkeys and then got to work on our tasks. Adam and Danni built a table for Tat the tiger cub to climb on in her enclosure as she currently has nothing in there as a precaution since Ned died. Chelsea decided to make Gramps, her favourite macaque monkey a friend. His enclosure is at the very end and he has no other monkeys around him and not very many people visit him so she decided he might be lonely. She managed to scrounge two hessian sacks and set to work making him a straw and sawdust filled teddy she has names Mrs Gramp. It is not finished yet but she is excited to give gramps his new friend and see how he reacts. Whilst Chelsea was doing this Liam went to measure King Kong's cage so we can start on his storm shelter. The rest of the day we spent building this inside his enclosure. It looks good so far but the drill bit broke on us so we need to finish the last little bit. After this we decided to have a little party for the full moon. We showered and put our glad rags on and lit the fire. We got some beers and whiskey and had so lovely snacks made for us by Danni and Talei. We had cheese and crackers, crisps, dips, and vegetables. They also made dampers. These are an Australian thing they do back home where they make a dough, wrap it around a stick and cook it in the fire. It was lots of fun making them and cooking them and they were yummy, like fresh bread and we drizzled butter and honey on them. We had an amazing evening with music and candles and lots of laughs and lots and lots of drinks .... A few too many.


Thursday morning is a blur. We all woke up hungover and with only 4 hours sleep. We dragged ourselves down to the monkeys to clean and feed and then went for breakfast. Liam was unable to stomach anything and left after ten minutes to return to bed. Chelsea ate and came back to the common room to relax. For once Liam had the worse hangover. Liam on and off until around 12pm, but the rooms are so hot that it is impossible to sleep properly. We only have fans in our rooms and they just end uo blowing hot air onto you. Liam came around a bit after we ate some lunch, so we decided to head to the hardware store to replace the bloody drill bit that broke yesterday. The hardware shop is always a funny trip as the staff talk next to no English so we get to practice our limited Thai. Yesterday we bought some screw and they did not understand our hand gestures so had to draw what we wanted. We came back and managed to finish the base of the nest box in King Kongs cage. We plan to work on the sides and roof over the next two days. We are not expert builders and it was ntot very difficult but we think we have done a good job. After the evening monkey feed and dinner, we came back and more or less went straight to our room. Chelsea went to our room to take shower and found a huge spider on our wall. That totally freaked her out, Liam had to show it out the front door while Chelsea stood in the corner of the room nearly in tears. Liam then had to be there at all tmes when Chelsea was in the room incase it came back Tat and Ned have been to Bangkok for a few days and they have brought back an baby owl that they found in bad conditions on a market. The plan is to raise and then release it. We are not sure about this. The owl is cute though and we both held it and and fed it. We had a small team meeting but desperately needed to catch up on some sleep. We were both in bed for 9pm, and due to the spider incident, Chelsea made us sleep with the light on.

Today we woke up after 10 hours sleep feeling alot better. The monkey clean was more laid back than normal and we got done in no time. Our main objective for today was to carry on where we left off with King Kongs storm shelter. We made the long side wall that will keep him hopefully out of the worst of the wind. It took us all day, partly due to finding the wood and partly due to our skills with a drill. It was not without incident though as Liam touched a screw that Chelsea had tried to drill in and rounded the head. Of course the screw was a million degrees and now Liam has a burn mark in the perfect shape of screw on his thumb and finger. We managed to complete the wall today and we are happy with it, we have built in outside the enclosure as to not disturb Kong anymore than necessary, we just hope it fits through the door to the enclosure and also where it is supposed to be fitted. Liam has measured it a dozen times to make sure but knowing us two it is bound to not be right. We have another new pet today as well as Ned found a giant millipede in their room, it is really cool, round 6inch long and in is a crazy feeling when it crawls over your hand with its dozens and dozens of legs.


Adam and Danni have taken the weekend off so from tomorrow we are looking after the big cats. We get to clean out and feed the leopards and then get to walk Tat the tiger cub again and sit with her and Latte all day. We are very much looking forward to getting back on cub duty, even if they are alot bigger and scarier than before.

Posted by Chelsandliam 06:23 Archived in Thailand Tagged thailand volunteer kanchanaburi Comments (3)

Our first few days back at the Safari

sunny 42 °C

We have been at the safari for four days now and have slotted right back in to the routine. Chelsea got to feed the giraffes Saturday morning at 7.30am and spend some time with lung Noi, the keeper. He still can speak no English and Chelsea can still speak no Thai so they mainly talk and laugh at each other not understanding and Lung Noi bosses her around pointing at things that need doing. Afterwards each day we feed and clean the monkeys together in pairs. This has been streamlined since we left and the safety on the cages has improved dramatically so it doesn’t take as long. Today however Chelsea got her hair caught on the door on her way out and as Liam went to un-hook it, King Kong, the alpha male Macaque grabbed Liams hair and held on. He wasn’t being aggressive as he was submissively chattering his teeth, he was just being inquisitive so no damage was done he just wouldn’t let go and wanted to hold on.

After breakfast our days so far have been varied. Since there is only one cub at the front since the tragedy of Ned’s death and Mocha being chained to the table Danni our big cat expert volunteer sits with her all day leaving everyone else free for the other animals. Saturday after breakfast we cleaned the back holding cages of the monkeys and then we designed and made trouble, the langur monkey a puzzle feeder as she is one of our most intelligent monkeys while everyone else built a dog pen. It was a bamboo tube with holes cut into it and she had to pull out wooden pegs for the food to drop down into a coconut. We also designed some nest boxes for all the monkey as soon it will be wet season and they will need some shelter off the ground. The afternoons are so hot now, over forty degrees so working on physical tasks is hard work. In the evening we discussed the main project. The owners want to build a big cat world where some of the tigers and leopards can be housed in new enclosures and customers can pay to watch there enrichment, feed them and take photographs with them. This would mean that Tat the tiger cub, latte the leopard cub and Blue the huge Bengal tiger chained to the table would have lovely big enclosures to play in. We discussed this and a design has been drawn up ready to brief to the owners. It is quite an urgent project as Tat is huge now, bored and it is getting dangerous to take customers into such a small enclosure with her, soon she will be able to jump out.

Sunday was quite a slow day, we did the usual monkey clean and feed and then we designed trouble, the langur monkey and new enclosure design. We want to give her more things to climb and walk on and more puzzles she can play with as she is really smart. We tested the puzzle feeder we made her and she was excellent at it. She removed the wooden pieces and collected the food when it fell. She gave it a little test and had a jump on it, just to check no more food would come out the bottom but it stayed intact. We were really happy she liked it.


On Sunday we were set a training task with our monkeys. Liam picked Junior, his favourite, a big male Macaque who is quite aggressive at times and does not enjoy interaction with humans. Chelsea picked Gramps, her favourite. He is really old and has a bad back leg but he is normally really calm and gentle. He really likes Chelsea and if Liam comes near when she is around he charges the cage at him. We are both really pleased with our picks and are excited to start training them to do things.

Monday was a bit busier for us. In the afternoon after the usual routine we decided to build a fire pit for the volunteers. We now have a nice outside area as the common room is too hot. We have a log and a table but the mosquitoes eat us all alive so everyone suggested a fire pit to smoke them out and that we can use as a makeshift BBQ. The ground was so hot and dry it was like concrete so we had to hose it for a long time until it went muddy and then dig. It was really hard work but it looks really nice. Chelsea felt the need to get inside it when it was really muddy and squelch the mud into the shape she wanted with her feet.


Apparently it was necessary to do this to get it looking nice and smooth, not because she wanted to play in the mud. We were both covered in mud from head to toe when we had finished but it was really fun.


After a quick clothes change we then decided to change the fixtures in Gramps and Lauras cage. Gramps had a long line of tire swings like a ladder that he cant really use anymore because of his bad leg and laura had a swaying platform so we decided we should swap them as they would be more fitting for the other monkey. They both loved there new fixtures and went straight up to investigate them. It is really nice to see the animals enjoying something you have done for them. Either a new log, fixture, puzzle or game, as long as it stimulates them in some way then it is really positive. During the evening monkey feed we all started our training. Chelsea has started calling Gramps her protégé so we can all assume she is taking it serious, we know how competitive she is. We have a clicker and first you have to get them used to the sound and associate it with a treat so every time you give them a piece of food you click. Liam wants to teach Junior to get in his holding cage, stay away from the sliding door and maybe catch. Gramps is not very mobile so Chelsea wants to teach him to speak. He makes little grumble sounds when he is happy so Chelsea wants him to do this on the command ‘hello’. After tea we lit the fire and had a few beers sat outside under our big tree. It was lovely and we just talked and relaxed.

Today has being a bit tough. We cleaned and fed the monkeys and then the two of us and Danni, had a meeting with Joe to brief the plans for the big cat world and the enclosure for Tat the tiger cub and Latte the leopard cub. We thought it would be well received as it is the owners idea to build this but we were wrong. After we had gone through our plans his only concern was money. He said that nothing could be built without us raising the money in advance by selling programmes to customers. We were all disappointed as we feel we cannot be expected to pay or raise the money for this enclosure especially since the volunteers pay to be here and help and by his alone have raised a huge amount. We are not sure what is going to happen next as the owner has taken it to show his father who is the main boss but if Tat and Latte don’t get a new enclosure they will be locked in a tiny cage until they are big enough to be let on the safari or chained to a table somewhere. After the meeting Chelsea planted some sunflower seeds in the garden we are trying to build and Liam sourced some wood to build the nest boxes for wet season. The rest of the day was spent cleaning and playing with the adorable puppies. They are unbelievably cute and lovely little companions after a hard day at the safari.

Posted by Chelsandliam 21:02 Archived in Thailand Tagged thailand volunteering kanchanaburi Comments (3)

Back at the Safari

sunny 40 °C

Today was our first day back and it has been a long and very up and down day. We started earlyish and took our time checking out and eating breakfast. We then hired the bike we will need and went to Tesco for supplies we will need, mainly coffee and toilet paper. We then decided to try and see the leopard, Mocha we helped hand raise, they have brought him down to the bridge over the river Kwai and chained him to a table for tourists since we have left. It's a set back from when we left but we wanted to see the little fellow. Unfortunately we looked everywhere and could not find him, we asked some locals in Thai 'Leopard?'everyone looked at us like we were crazy so we decided to leave it.

Our drive to the safari was ok apart from the heat, it was like driving on the surface of the sun. We made it to the park around 1pm and went straight to the tigers and cubs at the entrance where we spent the majority of our time when we were previously here. The first thing went noticed was there were no leopards, and just one tiger, Tat. The next thing was the size of Tat, she has grown so much, she is now 4 and a half months old and about the size of a full grown Rottweiler. She is quite scary. We then met with Danni and asked how everything was and we were brought back down to earth. Ned, the male tiger cub we looked after had died. We knew he was in hospital via keeping in touch while we were away, we did not know why but did not for a minute think it was serious, but a couple of days before we turned up he had died. We were gutted, we both loved that tiger and had raised him for the best part of a month and spent everyday with him. All the cubs have now had there front claws removed, that is why the leopard cub was not out. We managed to go see them both in there small night enclosure where they are been kept while they heal. They are both huge as well, and real quick. We luckily got to feed them both again. We are both a little disheartened by the setbacks with the big cats, the claws and the tragedy of Neds death.

The rest of the day was spent catching up, we saw everyone, a lot of the staff remembered us and said hello, everyone seems happy we are back. We went back down to the monkey enclosures, they all look great and loads of progress has been made. The puppies that were born just before we left are adorable. Around a month old they are very small and cute Chelsea is crazy with them and would spend all day with thm given the option. The one named after her is the biggest. She bullies all the other puppies and runs around excitedly. We went on the safari bus and had a great time feeding the giraffes. They all put their heads inside the bus and the little baby giraffe even came up and we got to feed her.

We fed the monkeys and watched King Kong the monkey find a frog in his cage and clutch it like it was his most prized possession.

One of the staff members has also invited all the volunteers to a party at the local village school. We were also invited and did not know what to expect. It was way more elaborate than we thought, and it seemed to be some kind of graduation party. There were lots of round tables to sit and we bought some whiskey and ate an amazing neverending Thai meal. One dish at a time, dish after dish was brought out for is all the share. There we so much and a huge variety. It was delicious. There was a stage at the front and dancers and the kids were awarded with something we are not sure what. There was one Thai boy amongst the dancers and Adam, one of the volunteers decided he was the best and bought him flowers on a kind of garland that we think symbolised votes. Adam bought this kid loads and has a result he won. He was elated and very shy.

Two bottles of whiskey later and we were still going strong so we bought a third and took it back with us. We were up until one talking with Danni and Adam. We finally called it a night and slightly worse for ware managed to collapse into bed.

Posted by Chelsandliam 06:48 Archived in Thailand Tagged thailand kanchanaburi Comments (3)

Our little holiday in Kanchanaburi on our extended holiday.

sunny 40 °C
View Southeast asia on Chelsandliam's travel map.

We have spent two days in Kanchanaburi. They were exactly what we needed after our amazing but exhausting time in Myanmar. Our first day started with a lay in, which has become some what of a luxury, we haven't slept in until before we started at the Safari two months ago. Being back in tourist friendly Thailand means we also have access to amenities such as laundry. It was offered in Myanmar but was really expensive. Yesterday morning we moved rooms into a 500 baht one which is poolside with aircon and is lovely. We had some breakfast at our guest house and then commenced with our fully packed schedule of sunbathing and swimming with a few hours of reading crammed in. We had a few beers and mango frozen shakes and laid there until the sun was ready to disappear. We then walked into town after a shower and met up with friends from the safari volunteer programme. We ate some dinner together and we decided to eat pizza again since Chelsea has been craving it for months now. It was really nice to catch up with people and to find out about the progress and the setbacks they have had at the safari.

Today was another day of total relaxation. We got up when we finally woke up and went for breakfast at our guest house again. We laid around the pool all day, read our books and swam when we became too hot, about every fifteen minutes as it is over forty degrees. After our busy day we got showered and went out for dinner. We decided to have Italian food again as we will be eating hit and miss Thai food at the Safari from tomorrow and Chelsea had pizza for the third day in a row. Del Maria's in Kanchanaburi has a wood fired oven and the pizza is delicious! The owner recognised us from the other day and gave us a free dessert. Kanchanaburi is considerably busier than the last time we were here and we decided to have a few drinks on our veranda. We called to the shop and got some ice and had some whiskey and cokes sat outside.

Tomorrow we head back to the safari for a while. We are really looking forward to seeing all the animals we were looking after and catching up with everyone. We don't know how long we will stay yet, we have enjoyed travelling again and there is still some much we want to see, but we see the safari as a little home from home where we can spend a while and hang out with friends.

Posted by Chelsandliam 06:47 Archived in Thailand Tagged thailand kanchanaburi Comments (1)

Planes, Taxis, a Minibus and a Motorcycle.

A Long Journey from Yangon to Kanchanaburi

sunny 40 °C
View Southeast asia on Chelsandliam's travel map.

Today has been a long hard slog, just travelling from Yangon to Kanchanaburi. We got up nice and early and had the obligatory egg and toast breakfast. We were packed (Chelsea as had to transfer some of here things into Liam’s bag as here is now over the 15kg baggage allowance we get on the flight) and out of our hotel for 9am on the dot and we immediately jumped in a taxi to the airport.

The journey to the airport took near enough an hour, partly due to traffic and partly due to the airport being nowhere near the centre of Yangon and cost 6000Ks. Even so we were still too early to check in for our flight and had to sit around half an hour waiting. We figured it was better to be early and wait in the airport than to be sat waiting in our room. We checked in no problems and went through to the departure lounge. It was a lot better than we anticipated, there were several duty free shops and a restaurant where we went and had a burger and chocolate milkshake each. We had not long since had breakfast and spent more than we should but could not help ourselves. The wait in the lounge was quick and before long we were sat on the plane.

The flight was not as smooth as it could have been, there was some horrific (possibly slight exaggeration but at the time it felt bad) turbulence on take-off and Liam nearly freaked out. He still has not got to like flying. The flight was ahead of schedule however and with a bit of turbulence whilst descending we landed In Bangkok after almost exactly an hour. We have been really pleasantly surprised with Air Asia, we did not know what to expect with them being a budget airline but both our flights have been easy and more or less pain free. We have definitely flown with worse airlines.

Our next challenge was how to get to Kanchanaburi. There are two airports in Bangkok, the major international one, and Don Mueng, that mainly deals with domestic flights but also Air Asia and other Asian flights. Neither are any where near the bus terminal that we used last time to get to Kanchanaburi. We asked for a taxi at the airport and we quoted a ridiculous price of 900B to take us to the bus terminal. We walked away. We decided the easiest way for us was to get the airport shuttle bus to Victory Monument in the city centre and get a minivan from there are a large amount operate from there with destinations all over Thailand. It took around an hour through the legendary Bangkok traffic to get to the monument and then it was a mission to find the minivan we needed. Luckily it did not take too long and within 20 minutes we were sat in the van. We paid 130B each for the minibus which is slighty more than the local bus from Bangkok but when we priced in getting to the bus terminal worked out better. We thought we would be in Kanchanaburi for tea time but then for some reason the driver decided to start lapping the block and coming back to the pick up area. We passed where we started twice, and after an hour (due to the traffic) we were actually further away than we started. He must have been waiting for more people but why he had to drive around the block we don’t know. It was around 5.30pm when we set off proper.

The journey was nail biting. We had an absolute looney of a driver who thrashed the van all the way, overtaking, undertaking, squeezing into tiny gaps – we both looked at each other a few times thinking if we were going to make it in one piece. Somehow we did though and got to Kanchanaburi around 7.45. Our next form of transport for the day (trying to get a clean sweep) was a motorbike, as we took a motorcycle taxi to our guesthouse. We did not book a guesthouse and our first choice was Pong Phen. We have got a double room for way more than we normally spend in Thailand (650B) but we have a hot shower, A/C, a balcony (where we have sat to write this), TV, fridge and a swimming pool (where we are planning to spend the who day tomorrow).

We were tired and hungry by the time we settled in and as Chelsea has done nothing but talk about pizza for the last three weeks, we went for pizza. We shared a vegetable pizza and a pepperoni pizza cooked in a proper wood fired oven. It was delicious. On the way back we bought a bottle of cheap Thai whiskey and coke to stock our fridge and keep us fuelled while we sit on our balcony.

Today has been a really long day and it is strange been back after Thailand, even after just 3 weeks. The place is so different from Myanmar. At least we can have a few home comforts and a relaxing couple of days.

Posted by Chelsandliam 08:43 Archived in Thailand Tagged thailand kanchanaburi Comments (4)

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