The Floating Market and Tiger Temple Amid a Shady Tourist Operation

October 16th, 2014. A day that will live in infamy as one of the most absurd days of my life.

Remember when I said that during our tuk tuk ride, Matt and I paid for a future day trip?
If you don’t, it’s no big deal. We just booked a day trip to see the Floating Market and the Tiger Temple. That’s all.

So, the morning of the 16th had arrived and at 6:00 a.m (I’m guesstimating here because I don’t recall the exact time, but I do remember it was real early), we were on a gray, shaky minivan, bouncing around Bangkok and picking up other fellow tourists. We ended up picking up four more people, two from New Zealand and two from Canada.

If I had to pinpoint the moment we started to question this trip was when we picked up the Canadians. They were late to getting on to the minivan, so they were rushing out of their hostel and to our minivan. Just before stepping into the van, one of them tossed their piece of toast in the gutter next to it. Immediately, our tour guide started yelling at him about how “that’s disgusting” and “this is my home country, how would you like it if I did that in yours?” etc, etc. This lady was just screaming about a piece of toast in the gutter. In Bangkok. Maybe other places that’s disgusting because they’re clean, but in Bangkok, if you throw something on the ground, it’s no big deal because everyone throws shit on the ground there so it’s basically a garbage dump anyway. That was fun.

Anyway, we started our trek to the Kanchanaburi floating market first, which was about two hours from Bangkok. On the way, we talked with the other people in our van. We officially introduced ourselves and met J.P., Leanna, Maureen, and Jazz. They were all incredibly nice and great to talk to, luckily enough! We were all around the same age as well, so that helped, of course. That, and we all spoke English, which was the best part!

After an uncertain amount of time of blabbering, we arrived at the floating market… sort of. We got out into the stifling heat and stepped onto a boat, which took us to the floating market. During the ride, we saw numerous shacks along the water. I even saw a small boy squatting and pooping in the river from right outside his shack/house (in case you wanted that visual!).

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A couple of our new friends and the water before the floating market

When we got to the floating market, our tour guide surprised us by telling us that, if we wanted to get onto another boat in the actual floating market, we had to pay extra money. Now, keep in mind, we paid about $50 for this trip each, so all six of us were pretty annoyed that we would have to pay extra to go on a boat in the floating market, which they made us think was included in our package. So, we decided to just walk around the market above the water rather than spend the extra money to get on a boat.

While walking around, a few of us bought some clothing items, food, and even held a live python (not me, though, because no way). J.P. and Leanna were kind enough to buy everyone a Heineken and we all drank beer during our walk around the market (yeah, in Thailand, you can drink alcohol publicly, and it’s fantastic).

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J.P. holding a toothless python; me and the floating market; the floating market; an adorable baby lemur

After a little over an hour, we hopped back onto our minivan. During our drive to our next destination, which turned out to be “free” lunch, we were all chatting, ya know, like normal people. Suddenly, the driver jolted the wheel, pulled the minivan over and stopped it. He then proceeded to yell at us in Thai. Our tour guide lady then translated for us, saying that he’s angry and needs us to “be quiet.” After us just nodding and saying “okay,” we were petrified to talk at all. J.P. said at one point, “I feel like I’m in trouble on a school field trip,” which was an extremely accurate description of our situation.

After riding around in mostly silence for awhile, we ended up at some restaurant on the side of the road, which already had food laid out for us on a table. By the way, in Thailand, people tend to not eat individual plates of food for each person or have appetizers etc., but get a bunch of food items and share it all at once with the whole table. So, that’s what we had waiting for us. What did we have to eat? No idea, to be honest, but it was good!

We got back on the minivan and drove to what we were hoping was the Tiger Temple. Turned out, we were going to some war museum, which we had no interest in whatsoever. Our unstable tour guides dropped us off on a street and said to just be back at that exact place at a certain time.

We ended up just walking around and skipping the museum. We crossed the bridge over the River Kwai, which was nice. It was just a small bridge that, once every hour (I think), a small, brightly painted train crossed over. Then, we turned around and went back. I went to a store and bought a large garment that looked like a dress for the tiger temple, since we needed conservative clothing.

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Matt and J.P. on the bridge;  the train; J.P. & Leanna on the bridge; the train

While on the minivan to the Tiger Temple (finally), I went to put on my dress/shirt and there were cobwebs all over it. I brushed them off, thinking nothing really of it, then tried to put it on. I stopped when I felt movement on my hand. I looked down and– oh, look! A lovely and frightening spider! I screamed and threw it on the ground (fortunately, the driver didn’t kick me out of the van for that!). Now, I’m forever skeptical of Thai street clothes.

Side note: I’m not scared of spiders. I’m scared of Thailand’s spiders because they tend to be really poisonous and I’m not messing with that.

So, we got to the Tiger Temple and walked onto the grounds. Basically what we saw was just dust and dirt everywhere. No grass or vegetation except for the occasional tree. While walking around, we noticed it was like a semi-open zoo. There were cows walking around everywhere, which was kinda cool, except for the fact that you could see their bones protruding out of their bodies from starvation. Good sight. We also saw some Asian black bears and exotic birds in cages. Then, of course, the tigers.

We walked along the road, kicking up dust as we did so, and arrived at a small area with a lot of people and tigers. Each one of us was taken by the hand by some worker and brought to every tiger. Our hand-holders took pictures on our phones while we posed with the tigers.

The tigers were sorrowful sights. These majestic animals were chained to the ground in the blazing heat while clearly under sedation. Every tiger I approached and placed my hand on was breathing rapidly. So rapidly, that it was concerning. While posing with a baby tiger who was awake, I witnessed a monk feeding it large white pills. The monk was so unphased by his feeding a baby tiger tranquilizers, it was disturbing.

All of this for a few bucks from tourists.

Overall, I hated the entire experience. I left the tiger area with a hundred pictures and a saddened expression on my face. One I had expected, and one I had not.

Would I recommend the Tiger Temple to a friend? No. Absolutely fucking not.

It wasn’t just me that thought this. All six of us felt the same way about it: it was abhorrent. After that, we finally got into our minivan and went back to our hotel, which took over two hours. Quite the emotional day, I’d say.

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Birds at the Tiger Temple; Asian black bears; starving cow; drugged baby tiger; monk feeding a baby tiger sedatives while I awkwardly squat in the background; some heavily sedated tigers and I (my smile in these photos is a facade)

Thanks for reading, guys! I hope you enjoyed it. 🙂

Next up: Teaching Orientation in Bangkok!

Boat ride to the floating market in Kanchanaburi
Note: I said “sorry” at the end of the boat ride because I accidentally kicked J.P. in the butt.

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