Over the last week or so we have had an incredible time travelling with Liam’s Dad, Graham. We have shown him the work we have been up to at the safari, tackled the hectic Bangkok, and travelled north to Chiang Mai where we visited the zoo, and Liam’s Dad made a new Thai friend on a crazy night out with our friends.
Graham landed on the night of Thursday 6th. We left the safari the Tuesday before to have a relaxing day around the pool Wednesday before going to meet him. We met him at the airport in Bangkok, which is not in the best location, several kilometres outside of central Bangkok. Considering, in our opinion, how difficult Bangkok is to get around we found it relatively straightforward. After finding some accommodation near Khao San Road we caught a bus to Victory Monument and then a minivan for 40 baht each that took us all the way to the airport. Liam’s Dad met us around 9pm in arrivals, it took him an age to get though immigration due to several planes landing at the same time. It was great to see him though for the first time in six months and after our hellos we caught a shuttle bus to the transport centre. Liam's dad managed to loose his hat within the first fifteen minutes in Thailand due to all the excitement. We then caught a taxi back to our guesthouse. It was late by the time we got back but we caught up over a couple of beers before heading to bed to be up early for our first full day.
The plan for the first couple of days was Kanchanaburi. We caught the minivan from Victory Monument in the morning, it was late arriving into Kanchanaburi however due to the Bangkok traffic which Graham found unbelievable and mentioned several times (he can never moan about traffic in the UK again). We had booked into our favourite guesthouse in Kanchanaburi, Pong Phen and once we finally arrived and checked in we went out to see the main sight of the town. Graham was interested in seeing the Bridge over the River Kwai so that was our first stop, we still had the bike from Safari so we used that rather than walking as time was getting away from us. We managed to go Thai style and fit three on a bike. The Bridge is not as spectacular as it is made out to be but saying that it is still a must see in Kanchanaburi, Liam’s Dad was not disappointed and enjoyed walking along it and taking plenty of photos.
On the way there we went to see the leopard Mocha, that is chained to a table in Kanchanaburi as advertisement for the safari park. Its horrible to see but we wanted to show Graham what we were trying to change. There was a surprise though as aswell as Mocha there was one of the new tiny leopard cubs in a cage as well. We did not expect this and it looked terrified next to busy road. Chelsea got to feed her, and then Graham held her whilst we were talking to Mr Tip (the guy who looks after them) and tried to make sure he was at least looking after them properly. We were then a good twenty minutes and the cub fell asleep on Graham, we had to prize her off him to go and see the bridge.
After the bridge we took Liam’s Dad to see the Thailand Burma Railway museum. It is a great museum, the best of the three n town and has lots of information, and artefacts from the PoW’s and camps. We were there a good hour and once you have finished on the top floor you overlook the cemetery where the PoW’s that served Kanchanaburi are buried. Graham really enjoyed the museum and we enjoyed it as much as our first visit. We went back to the guesthouse around 5pm and had an hour relaxing in the pool before going out for something to eat. Grahams first Thai dish was Pad Ka Pow (pork, chillies and basil) which he thoroughly enjoyed. We had an Indian curry, rice and rotti.... after nearly five months at the safari we are having a small break from Thai food.
Saturday was Safari day and we were up early. We had to rent bikes and had to be at the safari for 8.30am to walk the cubs at 9am. It threatened to rain on the way but luckily held off. We took Liam’s dad to see Blue (the big male tiger who gets chained to the table) and the tiger cub in their night enclosures before he walked Latte the leopard cub. He loved walking her and she was really good and walked practically to heel all the way. Yaya the tiger cub (we have found out a few weeks ago her name is not Tat but Yaya) joined us with Ned and Toy on the way. Once we got the cubs to their day time area we let Graham spend a good hour or so with them, bottle feeding them, and seeing the work we have been doing. After this we took him to see the monkeys we have been working with and then on to the elephant show. The show is still not great but again we wanted to show Graham the stuff we are trying to change. As it is father’s day in the UK this month Liam then bought his Dad a twenty minute elephant trek through the jungle. Graham got to ride our big female bareback something he had never done. We then went for a lunch of noodle soup in the restaurant, not before getting a photo with the macaws, and the onto the actual safari. Although at first Graham was alarmed by being six feet away from free big cats with the windows of the bus open he loved it and obviously the giraffes at the end was the highlight. At one point Chelsea put carrots on his head and shoulders so he was totally surrounded by them. By this point it was really hot and see as though we were not working we went to the local village for a beer and to show Liam’s Dad a non-touristy village. Once the worst of the heat was over we rode our bikes back to Kanchanaburi, lazed around the pool for couple of hours before going out for pizza (Chelsea’s choice) to end an amazing day. We were really proud to show Liams dad around our home for the last 4 months and show him all our babies and the work we have done. He was completely overwhelmed and we loved that he had such a good time.
Our original idea for Sunday was to go see Bangkok before taking the overnight train to Chiang Mai. However Graham was loving the peaceful river Kwai so we decided to linger here, relax around the pool and make our way to Bangkok later. We arrived around 4pm and went to the train station. Despite a woman trying to rip us off we bought the tickets easily and then passed the time sat outside, eating a street stall and drinking beer in a small café. The train was Graham’s first overnight train experience and he seemed to really enjoy it. We left Bangkok around 7pm and arrived in Chiang Mai the next morning 8.30am the following day.
After a slight difficulty finding somewhere to stay (there were a lot of bad places and the good places didn’t have two rooms) we found a nice place SK Guesthouse that cost 300 Baht a night and had a pool, perfect. We then went to explore the city. Chiang Mai is quite large but the main area is within a square moat. It is very nice and has lots of small side streets with bars and restaurants. We spent the first day visiting some of the major temples in the area. Liam’s Dad was amazed by how ornate they were, our pictures and descriptions can not really give them justice. There was a good mix of small still in use temples, a large one which was quite touristy and a old ruin in the middle of the city. In between this there was a small market which we walked down and bought some BBQ meat on sticks as a little snack. After walking around for a few hours we made our way back to the guesthouse and made use of the pool and relaxed with a couple of beers. In the evening we went to a night bazaar with was incredible. It stretched the whole length of a large street on both sides, went into two small mall areas and into a separate large square. We browsed the shops, Graham bought presents for some people back home, we ate at some street stalls, and finished off with a pint in an Irish bar. It was a incredible first day in Chiang Mai and we were all looking forward to the rest of our time there.
Our second day in Chiang Mai was one of the best of the whole trip. We had decided the night previous to go to Chiang Mai zoo and for one reason….pandas. We got up early to a little bit of rain and made our way to the zoo. It is cheap to get in the main zoo, 100 baht, and then the same again to get in the panda section and there is also an aquarium which again you pay extra. We decided to do the lot and were not disappointed. We did the aquarium first. The highlight of the aquarium was the underwater tunnel which boasts to be the largest in the world (don’t know how true this is) but it was great. When we got there, there was a fish feeding show where a diver goes into the tanks and feeds absolutely massive fish that frantically swim around him trying to get fed. It was great to watch and we could not believe the size of some of the fish. The rays were also cool as they slid up the glass and you could see underneath them, they again were the size of the diver. Around the other side of the tunnel there was the same show but with small sharks, that was equally entertaining.
From the aquarium we went straight to see the pandas, as there was a school group turned up and we wanted to get there before them. It was unbelievable. The first panda was behind glass and sat in a upright position eating small bits of wood, we had never seen anything like it. We then went into the second section and it was even more incredible. There were two more pandas, separated, but there was no glass. We were with 6 feet of them, totally alone, they were sat upright in actual chairs! Again all they did was eat, one of them got up and walked around 8 feet before flopping down and laying on its stomach. We spent ages in there just taking photos and quietly watching them before the school group turned up. The pandas just sat there eating, watching us it was an amazing experience.
The rest of the zoo was also great and it is nice to see that there is a zoo in Thailand that is a good standard; a couple of enclosures are a bit small but there a different league to all our other experiences of Thai zoos. Other firsts for us were Koalas, a black panther and white tigers. Chelsea’s favourite came at the end though when we went to see the Hippos. They were absolutely massive and you could buy food for 10 baht and feed them. As soon as we turned up they came up to us and opened their huge mouths. We had to buy food. It was awesome, the hippos were not 3 feet away as we threw bits of potatoes into their mouths.
We were very tired though after walking around the zoo, it is very hilly and spread out so we went back to the guesthouse to relax. The plan for the night was to meet Dannii and Adam who had come to Chiang Mai after leaving the safari. We met them in the evening at a nice riverside bar, we had a good meal, and plenty of drinks listening to some live music. Then Danniis friend a tuk- tuk driver turned up and took all SIX of us in his tuk-tuk to a jazz bar. It was cramped and hilarious and the tuk-tuk driver continually said 'oh my Buddha!' the whole way. This was packed so we only had one drink before going to another bar where we stayed until it closed at 2am, listening to live bands. We were all having a great time, drunk way too much and Graham befriended the tuk tuk driver. It was a great night and an incredible day.
The day after, we planned to meet up with Dannii and Adam again to go to a waterfall for a more relaxing day. Chelsea had a hangover from hell, so hardly spoke for most of the day and slept a lot, including the back of the taxi while we all had breakfast. The waterfall itself known as sticky waterfall as you can climb up it was quite far out from the city but was worth it. We took a bit of a picnic and some beers and relaxed at the bottom before tackling the climb up, Chelsea had come around a bit by this point and even did the climb. The waterfall really is sticky, although there are some slippery spots, it is around 40 degrees so it is not difficult and you can practically walk up. We all managed to get to the top without any slips. Graham loved it and was up and down two or three times.
By this point the night before was catching up with us. We went back for a nap before going out for dinner. As it was our last night in Chiang Mai, the three of us went out alone. We were back early however and retired so we could be up early to make the most of our last day before the train ride back to Bangkok.
Our final day in Chiang Mai, we decided to rent some bikes and visit ia temple in the surrounding hills called Doi Sutep. We left early and rode the bikes up the meandering road that climbs the hill. It was a great drive and gave incredible view over the city. At the top, the temple was on another small hill that we had to climb around 300 steps to get to. It was worth it though and was very busy with both worshippers and tourists alike. It was basically a large golden stupa surrounded by smaller temples and shrines, it was very ornate and we spent quite a while slowly looking around before driving back down the hill. We passed the rest of the time before our train arrived talking our lunch and a few beers, tomorrow would be our last full day and it had gone so fast. We got the train at 5pm and arrived in Bangkok around 9am Friday morning.
Liam’s Dad was not really looking forward to seeing Bangkok, it was too busy, noisy and dirty for him, and us being there now 7 times are starting to agree. We took him to one of our favourite sights however, Wat Po, which houses the massive reclining Buddha. We spent over an hour walking around the huge complex, which has many temples most of which were tourist free as many leave after the reclining Buddha. From here we took the ferry up the river as it is way more scenic and nowhere near has hectic as the roads. We took Graham for walks around the mad Khao San Road area before going back to get ready for the night. Graham flew back early Saturday morning so planned to take the last bus that night to the airport. We decided to spend our last few hour together at Chinatown as it is one of the best parts in Bangkok in our opinion.
We arrived a little before dark so went to a tiny street stall and bought a couple of beers (the staff went to the 7 eleven and bought the beer before selling them back to us). They stall sold BBQ chicken which the elderly owners tempted us with so we ordered some. They were delicious, served with a spicy satay dip we had twenty but could have eaten twice as many. After we ordered some toasted bread to soak up the rest of the sauce... it was that yummy! Afterwards we went to a street stall for our main meal that we remembered from the last time we were here. It is a stall where the chef cooks all the dishes in a couple of woks, he is always busy and he is super entertaining just to watch him cook, he never has anything written down and there is always a constant flame from the wok. He is so quick, no meal take more than a couple of minutes. Been the last supper we went all out, ordered deep fried pork, shrimps with noodles and a whole fish for us the share Thai style. It was one of the best meals we have ever had, Liam’s Dad agreed and we lapped it up in minutes. Graham and us alike loved Chinatown. The whole street is alight with neon signs and all the streets are packed with street vendors selling everything you could possibly want to eat. People wander through pushing carts filled with all sorts and the traffic is wall to wall non-stop. It is busy but exhilarating. You sit on small stools at the side of the road eating some of the cheapest but most delicious food going.
Before Graham left for the airport we had time for a few beers to say goodbye. It was sad to see him go, we had an amazing week and it was awesome to share this experience with him. We hope he has enjoyed it has much as we have. He is already talking about coming to see us so we very much hope to see him again, maybe in India….