Simply more pictures from Muay Thai boxing matches January 2nd 2558 (that’s the year that Thailand is currently in:)) Enjoy!
Bathroom activities are certainly not at all among the list that many want to talk about, but I just have to talk about the “bum gun”… That phrase was actually coined by one of the first volunteers I’d met while here, Megan from Ireland, who also was the one who taught and told me its real function!
When I first arrived in Bangkok and stayed at the hotel near the airport, I noticed that while they had a Western toilet complete with a roll of toilet paper, they also had a hose connected to a water pipe with a nozzle at the end of it that when pressed would squirt out water. I thought it was a rather clever way to clean the toilet and flush out the areas under the rim when scrubbing the bowl out. I had seen this arrangement in every other hostel/hotel bathroom I had been in and continued to think how clever it was…
Then I arrived in Sangkhlaburi… And while J’s Family Homestay, where I stayed for the first couple of weeks, had a bathroom with a Western toilet with the spray nozzle attached, they didn’t have any toilet paper in the bathroom nor a bin stored in there to be able to throw away toilet paper that was brought in… Hmmmm….. That made me wonder a bit and was quite annoying really to have to bring in my own bag for used toilet paper.
A few days after being in Sangkhlaburi while drinking at Baan Job with Megan, Nyzil and Omar (a volunteer from Spain), Megan and I went to the bathroom together (as girls always do) and she made a mention how she really quite enjoys the bum gun as it made her feel so much cleaner! “I’m sorry, what?? The bum gun??”. “Yea that hose attached to the toilet”… Now I was really confused. So… That isn’t to clean the toilet but rather for… cleaning… instead of… toilet paper???
Yup. Indeed the “bum gun” is used in place of toilet paper. Several seconds of squirting water in the areas required is all it takes to get you feeling fresh and clean! Of course you had to wait a few seconds to dry a bit after using it, but it seriously does make you feel so much cleaner! Suddenly it made perfect sense as to why several places had no toilet paper but always had the hose and squirt nozzle! A word of advice that Megan also shared with me however was to always test the pressure of the nozzle before pointing it to yourself as it can sometimes be a bit strong.
So there it is. My knowledge of the bum gun. Use at your will:) Oh and I have thought to take a picture to show you all what exactly it looks like, but really don’t want to be caught walking into a bathroom with a camera… I can only imagine what people would think in seeing me do that, lol! Funnily enough the bathroom at the volunteer house doesn’t have a bum gun… Otherwise I wouldn’t mind sneaking in there for a shot of one. We have an Eastern toilet and utilize Western methods of cleaning since there isn’t a gun there. Honestly I do wish it had the nozzle as it really does make you feel cleaner than toilet paper!
Part of what the Animal Shelter does here, aside from the everyday free care and treatment of animals, is to go to neighboring villages and monasteries to spay and neuter dogs and cats of the area. These spay camps (as we call them) are great opportunities not only to get a day out and away from the everyday tasks of running a shelter, but also to better the community so animal populations don’t run amok and also provides a way for surrounding villages to get to know who we (the animal shelter) are so they can feel more confident about coming to us if ever needed.
Dr. Mays set up several camps for us, two running on consecutive days and then two more for the following week. Though I have had experience in basic horse care/vet skills, dogs and cats are a different beast. I had no experience in giving shots, IVs, prepping animals for surgery, etc. The spay camp I attended quickly changed all that very quickly for me however 🙂
We set off around 10 to a nearby monastery about 30 or so kilometers away (myself, Jo, Nyzil and J. (the vets)) and arrived about a half hour later to an absolutely serene and beautifully peaceful monastery nestled off the road among gentle slopes and lush vegetation. We were greeted by residents of the monastery and were shown to a large covered car port where we began to set up two tables for surgery. Since this was my first go round with spays, I was mainly just taking instruction on how to set up the table and basically aped Jo (who is well seasoned with spay camps) asking about a trillion questions along the way.
I was paired with J., the newest vet on the team, and Jo was with Nyzil. I will admit I was at first a bit reluctant about how J. and I would work as a team because we had several miscommunications that led to many frustrations in times before. I don’t know what it was exactly that happened however in the first few minutes of setting up the camp. To this day I still can’t pin it exactly. But what I do know is that as the table was set and the first two cats were starting to doze into a deep sleep in preparation for the surgery, something just clicked with J. and I. It wasn’t spoken, it just happened and suddenly I began to understand how she thought and worked.
She taught me how to shave the cats, how to give injections, tricks on how to tell whether the animal was starting to come out of their slumber, how to check the heart rate and much more. We worked fabulously together and by the end of the day, after a lovely lunch provided to us by the monastery residents, we had banged out 8 cat spays. Well, in all honesty one of the cats whom we tagged as being female turned out to be male after failing to find the uterus! Hey now, we all make mistakes! No judging!! 😉
We finished about 3pm, packed up and headed out. Since it was still relatively early and we had not received any news from the shelter about needing to return immediately, we decided to check out the Khao Laem National Park, just a few kilometers down the road. The park boasts a nature trail several kilometers long with 9 different waterfalls and a rather impressively large tree. We all set off for the hike and crossed the river about 250 meters in to see the tree, but when we crossed back over, Jo broke one of her flip-flops making it basically impossible for us to hike any further. We instead opted to swim in the river for a bit then made our way back to the car. The day was still young however so we decided to head off to a village Nyzil knew about that had elephants!
The turning for the village was only about 10km from Sangkhlaburi, but getting to the village required quite a bit of off-roading and a few minutes of scary grounds to drive across. The dirt road kept splitting and though Nyzil was navigating, every now and again he’d say out loud “I’m not sure this is the right way because we are supposed to be heading toward the mountains”, lol!!
Luckily he did get us to the right place and my oh my, what a beautiful little village it was!! Nestled at the base of a mountain, across the river on a rather shady yet sturdy bamboo bridge lay a magnificent quiet little community full of life of all kinds. Nyzil had been there before on a previous spay camp and even recognized several of the dogs he’d operated on by the little notches left in their ears. No one in the village spoke even a word of english and of course none of us knew the word for elephant in Thai, so we were left to a game of charades. Correction: we actually left the game of charades to Nyzil who proceeded to try to act out what an elephant looked like to the locals all while repeating the word “elephant?”. It was seriously quite amusing to watch and I’m sure the villagers were probably playing dumb for a bit just to keep watching him make impressions, lol!!
We finally found one villager who acquiesced to knowing what we were trying to get to and he led us the way. We walked through a rubber plantation… Here I have to stop because I had no idea that rubber is made from tree sap!!! There were hundreds of trees lined and tapped with a little collection basket for the sap and when I was told it was a rubber plantation, I just kept repeating “rubber??? As in rubber tires??” because I’d just no idea that’s where rubber came from. I just assumed it was all a petrochemical production! Just goes to show you learn something new every day:)
Moving on, we walked past the rubber plantation following the sound of a distant bell along a wee path. Our guide then started off the path through the field to which Jo wasn’t able to walk on (no shoes) so she headed on the path just to explore while myself, Nyzil and J. followed our guide.
The sound of the bell grew louder and louder and a few minutes later, up ahead in the bushes enjoying a meal of various natural vegetation stood Moosa!! What an absolutely BEAUTIFUL creature!!! She wasn’t scared of humans as she worked in the village but when not working she had the run of the land, going where she pleased and had only a rope with a bell around he neck so she could be found when needed.
I had never touched an elephant before. Had only fed them cucumbers and other veggies when in Ayutthaya. This was how I’d wanted to experience them though. In the wild, free from cages and tourists, no forced tricks or contraptions on her back to give tourists rides, no sticks with sharp hooks at the end to make her go one way or another, simply living free. I couldn’t stop petting her and telling her how beautiful she was!! We spent probably a good half hour with her as she continued to nibble then said our goodbyes and headed back to the path. Interestingly enough our timing was just right as Jo was also returning from her walk along the path and she too had spotted the other elephant of the village down the way.
The sun was starting to set at this point and we were all getting hungry, so we set off for another spot along the way back to Sangkhlaburi for some dinner. The Nature Club, a hotel and activities center only about 5km from the town was where we chose to stop. It too is set in a beautiful location surrounded by mountains and a rather large lake. We had a few drinks and food, then headed home. The days activities and bonding that occurred throughout the day between the four of us was unexpected but absolutely amazing. That day is now one of my fondest memories of Thailand. It was truely a day I think we all came away feeling absolutely blessed and thankful.
From my other posts about Sangkhlaburi, it’s probably easy to tell that it is a teeny little place and while it has a lot of the necessities, it lacks quite a bit as well. We have no proper grocery store here. The market is where you go for meat, veggies and fruit (which personally I prefer anyway) but for other necessities that are generally found in a grocery store, well, we have a place called CJ’s that has the basics and believe it or not, if it’s not in CJ’s, the other “grocery store” in town is 7 Eleven… Yes, 7 Eleven!
Kanchanaburi in contrast has proper grocery stores and even stores comparable to Sam’s Club or Costco. They also have proper pet and vet stores where supplies are easily found for the shelter. As some items were starting to run out at the shelter, it was time for a run to Kanchanaburi to stock up. I went along with 2 other girls from the shelter for a weekend getaway. We drove there in a truck lent to us by another gem of Sangkhlaburi, Dr. Mays, a dentist in town and avid animal lover and made the 212km trek to Kanchanaburi mid-day a week ago on Saturday.
J, one of the three on the trip, drove. She is from the UK so was used to driving on the left and had amazingly picked up the Thai driving style as I had several mini heart attacks along the way dodging in and out of traffic along the road. Due to traffic we arrived later than anticipated and missed the vet supply office hours. So we simply headed to our hotel, took showers in warm water (there is no warm water in Sangkhlaburi for showers unless you shower in the middle of the day when the water has been heated up by the sun), put makeup on for the first time in a month and a half and headed into town.
I will say since being in Sangkhlaburi, I don’t think I’ve seen myself in a mirror except maybe two or three times. So needless to say, once in a bathroom with a mirror in it, it was almost surprising and shocking to see myself, lol!!
We headed out and first had a drink and shared a pizza at Bell’s, then went to the Lady Boy bar for some more drinks. Surprisingly the other volunteer (K) who tagged along for the weekend getaway after only 4 beers was already quite drunk! Normally she can hold her own, but for some reason not on this night. In any event, since there was more drinking to be done for myself and J, we continued on to the Monkey Bar for another drink. Then…. Well… though I had stayed away from the “get drunk for 10 baht” bars during my last time in Kanchanaburi, we ended up stumbling into there as well…
In all fairness really it wasn’t myself or J stumbling, it was only K. Jo and I had a delightful time taking shots and sipping on buckets of booze while K kept excusing herself to the bathroom to vomit… Joy!! Since J and K had been to Kanchanaburi several times before for these types of excursions, they inevitably made friends with some of the locals, including a tattoo artist with a shop in front of the Sugar Member bar, just across from the 10 baht bar. The night continued with lots of drinks, conversation, and many bathroom breaks for K. She ended up going back to the hotel early and passed out outside the room on the lounge chair (since she didn’t have the key) while J and I continued to party until 4am.
Amazingly I woke the next day feeling great! K and J, not so much… We had to move rooms around noon (they put us in the wrong room the first night) so everyone was up in semi-good spirits around 11. We jointly decided the best remedy for our hangovers was to have a yummy pizza yet again, though this time we were each getting our own to soak up the liquor, lol!! We checked out Bell’s again (they seriously have a really good pizza!!) all craving the deliciousness we had the night before but to our dismay learned it didn’t open until 5pm!!
The idea was in our heads already however, and there was nothing to change it. We were bound and determined to starve ourselves all day until Bell’s opened again!! It seriously turned into a bit of a torture game and that day was the longest day I can ever recall!! One would ask “what time is it” and learn it was 12:15… Then what seemed like forever later another would ask again the time only to learn it was 12:22 😦 The day went on like this with time slowing down just to mock us and as we didn’t have anything else to eat, the hangover symptoms started to even creep up on me!
What does one do to stave off a hangover?? You got it! Drink more! I caved around 3:30 and went to the bar at the hotel with K and proceeded to drink three White Russians. Yum!! It was definitely just what I needed to tide me over until Bell’s opened! 5pm FINALLY rolled around and we went for our indulgent meal of pizza with mushrooms and ham. After dinner, K said she wanted to get a tattoo. I, the night before, after meeting Joe the tattoo artist said I wanted to have him draw out a tattoo for me that I’d been thinking about for 7 years now. So I tagged along… J (the smart one) went back to the hotel for an easy night…
Well, of course since the tattoo shop was in front of a bar, we just had to get a bucket of booze to share! I chatted with Joe about what I wanted, describing the design that I saw in my head and he set off to work as K and I got progressively more inebriated I kept checking back in with Joe every half hour or so to see how the design was coming along, giving input where needed. About 2 hours later the design was done! I really was thinking to just pay for the design and get the tattoo later, but then I started thinking “why not get it done now??”… Or maybe it was just the booze talking, lol!! In any event, I bit the bullet and got it done!
It’s still a work in progress as I want some shading done on the moon and a Japanese word written in the space between the moon and cherry willow tree, but nothing another trip to Kanchanaburi can’t fix 😉 I will say I was quite impressed with Joe as when I said I wanted a Japanese word written in he said “I don’t speak Japanese” (he’s Thai) to which I replied “Google translate!” to which he replied “are you sure??”. He got me to thinking and I’ve decided that until I find someone who speaks fluent Japanese, and someone who is trustworthy, I won’t do the lettering. I’m not going to lie, the tattoo was quite unpleasant to get! I thought the booze would numb me up a bit, but no luck there:(
In any event, after I got my tattoo done, K got one as well even though Joe strongly advised against it since he deemed her too drunk to get one. Eventually he relented and gave her the tattoo and after a bit of drama over her paying him for his services (she only had a quarter of the money it cost and instead of going to get more money from the ATM in front of 7 Eleven, she wandered INTO 7 Eleven and proceeded to read the wording on every package of items sold in an attempt to avoid (?) having to pay… Once that was sorted out and she finally paid Joe, we wandered back toward the hotel and passed out around 4am… again… lol!!
The next day we rose (K with a hangover) and finally got the vet supplies bought. We stopped at a REAL grocery store to stock up on goodies not found in Sangkhlaburi (coconut oil, apple cider vinegar and tabasco sauce for me) then headed home.
In all honesty, I was a bit worried that when I woke that morning I would be a bit regretful about getting the tattoo. But when I thought about it, I had no regrets. No butterflies or tight feeling in the stomach when one thinks of something they wish they hadn’t done. It’s still a work in progress of course and it still has to fully heal (the wrinkles will dissipate) but I’m happy I’ve got it:)
I know this is a long time in coming since I haven’t been to Bangkok in over a month, but since I had a lot of not so pleasant things to say about my experience there, I wanted to mention some positives about the city. In particular the public transport systems.
The three systems of public transport right in the heart of the city can pretty much get you anywhere you want to go cheaply, safely, cleanly and in style. The Airport Rail goes from the Airport (imagine that!) directly downtown. The over-ground rail and underground systems take you practically anywhere else you’d want to go within the city.
It took me quite a while to figure out how exactly to go where I needed utilizing these three systems and also a while to figure out the purchase of tickets for the underground rail (I literally stood there staring at maps and watching locals purchase before making my own) but once you get the hang of it, I wouldn’t use any other mode of transport.
And unlike Germany where it’s basically an honor system as to whether you buy a ticket for the train or not, since tickets on public transport trains are rarely checked, nothing gets past the systems in Bangkok. One time I purchased a ticket for the underground (my first try) and got onto the train, but upon exiting my ticket wouldn’t open the gate for me to leave. I went to the help desk, they took my card and scanned it and found out I hadn’t purchased the correct ticket. So I simply paid the difference, they updated my card and out I went.
These three modern and clean systems were a real breath of fresh air compared to where I had been and I finally saw Bangkok as it had been described by those who love it: modern and sophisticated. Again, now that I know about them, I won’t be using a taxi or tuk-tuk again!
There is something so magical about the sound of dogs howling in unison. I don’t know the exact reason for why a howl begins or the exact purpose of a howl but I do know it must have a hand somewhere in bonding dogs. Whatever the reason, the power of it is undeniable.
Usually it begins with sounds of a scuffle. One dog having overstepped their boundaries or another simply having a bad day. The fight breaks out and the thought goes through my mind every time whether to rush to the enclosure where the scuffle broke out and try to intervene. Somehow like magic however the sounds of thrashing and growling slowly turn into a howl. Not from either of the fight participants, but from a nearby dog. The sound of one howl turns into three, then seven, then eleven until within just a few seconds every dog (including those who were previously fighting) stops what they are doing to join in.
It reminds me of 101 Dalmatians where the dogs are sending messages across the town because it begins in our shelter and all the dogs join in for the song, it then starts to spread across the shelter like a gentle wind eventually infecting the neighboring street dogs to join in as well. Where the howl began turns silent as peace settles back into each dog and the echo of howls continues on away from the origin until finally silence descends all around. The after howl silence is so serene.
Fights I’ve witnessed in person are often broken up by us throwing water on the animals just to get them snapped out of what they were doing for a split second. It only works for that split second however and you have to get in between them before they jump right back into their fight. They hold grudges for a while even when separated. Though my instinct always works toward reaching for the nearest water bowl, I often wonder if instead I should simply start howling myself to see if it catches on to break up the fight peacefully. Fights never restart after a good howl.
The community dog howl is a sound I’ve come to absolutely adore. I must admit I’ve joined in myself on full moon nights just for the heck of it, probably freaking out passersby, but I’m not much of one to care what others think of me anyway:) I will admit it is annoying when they break out in song at 3am, first thing in the morning, just before bed when you are trying your hardest to sleep, or any other random time when you are simply praying for silence, yet it’s still one of my favorite sounds. Or maybe it’s just the peaceful silence that comes after the howl…
For this post, I just wanted to put up some pictures of a few of the wonderful dogs at the sanctuary. Enjoy the pictures:)
Noodles sleeping in his favorite position:
Piglet eyeballing me nervously (she won’t let anyone touch her but loves being a porch dog).
Puppy playtime with Shadow, Sky, Bo, Bella and Serena
Bo pinning down Sky… Notice Bo is pinning another down with only 3 legs:)
Shadow having a lick
Bella with her cone
Bo seeking attention
Sky getting the big bad shade
Blind, old Wiley with his tiger print wrapped tail
Everyone wanting attention
Bang having a stretch
Wilma (lost the use of her back legs in a car crash)
Bang and Blaze chilling
Crash (who also lost use of his back legs during… well, a crash)
Gizmo (can actually use his back legs, but chooses not to. He bit me once just above the knee and took out a large chunk. He really didn’t mean to though, he was aiming for the dog I was carrying but since he can’t jump just ended up getting me instead, lol!)
Once again I opted for the ‘bit more expensive but will get you there faster’ mini-bus from Kanchanaburi to Sangkhlaburi. It took about 4 harrowing hours to get there, and boy, I’d never been so happy to finally get anywhere before!! Reason being was because of our absolutely lunatic mini-bus driver!! It was one of those times I just had to breathe and trust that he knew what he was doing. Why you may ask? Well, basically because every car or truck or motorbike we came behind was swiftly passed at a very rapid speed. And for a good percentage of these passes, we were doing so while going around blind corners!! Interestingly I later heard from a fellow traveler that there is an accident involving a mini-bus every day because of how crazy they drive! And even more scary, one of the volunteers said her driver FELL ASLEEP at the wheel in the mini-bus she took!! Lovely…
I must admit though that through much of the driving (that is while we weren’t driving like a bat out of hell around blind corners in the WRONG LANE) I was thankfully distracted by the absolutely stunning national parks around us. I tried so many different times to take some decent pictures, but failed each time. Again because of the warp speed we were driving, it was just impossible to take a picture that wasn’t blurry!
The road to Sangkhlaburi is one to take your time on. And if you are able to rent a car and don’t mind driving on the “wrong” side of the road (in Thailand they drive on the left like in the UK) then do it! Between the Erawan National Park, Sai Yok National Park and the Khao Laem National Park, just about the entire trip was breathtaking! The last half hour or so was a bit rough because the road turned unkempt with lots of sharp uphill turns, but other than that (and the crazy driving) it was beautiful.
I arrived mid-afternoon and started wandering the little town. It was boiling hot and I had no idea where I was really going. All I knew was that the gentlemen I’d spoken to in Kanchanaburi who turned my mind around about going to Sangkhlaburi told me of a lovely hostel called J’s Family Homestay that he’d really enjoyed. So in my mind, I was set on finding that place to stay as well. There were a couple hostels in town but no one wanted to help me find J’s place, they were only set on getting me to stay there. So I wandered town aimlessly for a bit and spotted a little place to eat on the corner. As it was mid-afternoon, I was starving and sweating profusely and my bag was really starting to bother me, so I figured I’d stop for lunch and maybe Google where the J’s place was.
Across the street there was a spa that advertised WiFi, so I thought maybe they had it everywhere. I asked the woman at the eatery whether they had WiFi (basically I just said WiFi?? as she didn’t speak any English) and she immediately busted out laughing. She said something to the ladies behind her with the word ‘WiFi’ in there and they too suddenly busted out laughing. I’m talking full on hearty belly laughs as if I’d told a hilarious joke! So well, yea, I figured the several minutes of laughter meant that no, they didn’t have any WiFi there, lol!!
After filling up on some fried rice, I headed on down the road leading away from the main town. I walked for what felt like forever in the heat, just feeling the sweat drip down my back and moisture soak into my backpack. My instincts were not on my side on that day because every side road I took “feeling” like it may be down that way was in fact not correct. I backtracked so many times that I almost just gave up and went back to town for a hostel there. Thankfully I came across a place where the woman knew where the J’s place was! YAY!!! Sad news was I was going the wrong way and had to turn back up the street, make a right and walk about a kilometer down the main road… BOO!!!
The heat of the day was really wearing on me and the several glasses of water I had with lunch were just being sweat out faster than I’d absorbed them. I was once again just about to give up when I spotted a little sign across from the Temple grounds that said “J’s Family Homestay”… HOORAY!!!!
A left turn and a block later I found the place and just as I walked up the drive, a woman stood at the top. Her face went from a smile to neutral. She shook her head left to right solemnly and lifted her right hand out to her side pointing to a wee tent on the grass. “That’s all I have” she said. Sold!! At that point I couldn’t have cared less what kind of accommodation I actually had, I only cared that I no longer had to carry my bag around!! I paid for a few nights and settled into my tent, happy as a clam:)
As the sun set, I went for a stroll to see the famous Mon Bridge. Sangkhlaburi is a richly diverse area consisting of several ethnic groups to include Mon, Burmese, and of course Thai people. Several decades ago the valley of Sangkhlaburi was home to the Mon community. However the village was destroyed after a flood following the construction of the Khao Laem Dam. Now a lake separates the area with the Mon village on one side and Thai/Burmese people on the other. The two sides are connected by the famous Mon Bridge which is a very tall wooden bridge that from afar looks to be constructed in a VERY sketchy way, but walking across it feels completely secure! Believe it or not, children actually jump off this bridge!! Brave souls!! There is even a second bridge made of bamboo that parallels the Mon Bridge. Walking across it however feels completely sketchy as the bamboo is basically floating on the surface of the water and sways left and right like a slithering snake as you walk across. Definitely NOT recommended to walk after a few drinks, lol!!!
The lake is dotted with several homes constructed out of bamboo that also simply float on the lake. It was so lovely to see such impressive simplicity. I must admit I’m curious as to whether the homes have bathrooms… Do they use the lake as their toilet or go elsewhere? I’ve been harassed by my fellow volunteers as to why I don’t go swimming in the lake like the locals and they do… Let’s just say that just in case those floating house residents DO use the lake as their bathroom, well that’s why I’m choosing not to swim in the lake, lol!
That evening I went to town for the Saturday market. Streets normally open to car traffic were completely blocked off and lined with hundreds of street food and shop vendors selling again every imaginable food or physical item one might need. I dined on street food and wandered the shops listening to local boys jamming on guitars and drum sets then wandered back to my hostel for rest.
The next day I wandered the neighborhood, back to the bridge for another viewing then over to a little animal sanctuary I had spotted earlier in the day. I spoke to a guy hanging out there who turned out to be the vet and inquired about volunteering there. Unlike volunteering in the States and even in Costa Rica, they didn’t require copious amounts of information, insurance, etc, etc to vounteer. Simply show up and work. My kinda place! The next day I arrived there at 9am ready to work. I planned to only stay a few days and help out where needed. That was almost a month ago…
I’m still here loving each day with the animals and learning something new. I stayed in J’s Homestay for about 2 weeks, then moved into the volunteer house with the rest of the gang. Honestly, how can I possibly leave a face like this???
I figured it was only fair that since I gave my own version of how things went on New Year’s for us humans, that I should also give an account of how New Year’s went for the dogs.
I can say right now that it wasn’t at all pleasant for them… And honestly in hindsight, we probably should have given them all a Valium New Year’s Eve. We all know how sensitive dogs ears are and even though the festivities were going on in town, about a kilometer from where we are, it didn’t make any sort of difference to them as they still heard all the activity as if it was going on in their enclosures. And they made sure to let us know the following day how upset they had been… But I’m getting ahead.
The day started as normal, wake, drink water, eat some kibble, nap time, bark at some people walking by, nap time, get up and stretch, nap time, potty break, nap time, join in on a walk with the sanctuary dogs, nap time, play time, water, nap, dinner.
For the dogs in the sanctuary, that was the end of their day. For the four porch dogs, they joined us for our walk over to Sai and Charlie’s place. They had to stay outside however since they have their own dogs. When we finished dinner, none of the dogs were waiting for us which was very unusual. As we walked past our house on the way to town only two dogs, Noodles and Balua were on the porch. Balua already looked freaked out by the distant booms going on around town so we put him in my room, which I share with a long-term volunteer. We left the door open a bit to give Noodles the option to go in if he chose to later and headed to town. Piglet and Nipper were nowhere to be found.
They are street dogs after all, so while there was concern for them, especially with it being New Year’s, we figured they would make their way back. Once myself and the other volunteer came back to the house after the town festivities, we found Balua still in my room curled in a corner. He had somehow managed to wedge himself under my backpack and even stranger had clothes piled on him too… No idea how he did that! Noodles had also let himself in and was standing in the center of the room waiting to be let out. Piglet and Nipper were still MIA. About an hour later Piglet showed back up. Then the rest of the volunteers showed up to continue to party at the house.
The next day Nipper was still missing. The dogs in the sanctuary had clearly not had a good and restful night sleep as fight after fight broke out with just about every dog involved in one and another. Preparing and serving breakfast was the hardest task of the day since most of the time was spent breaking up one fight or another. To try to settle the dogs, kibble was given in grand mass. We probably overfed every dog, but it at least calmed them down and distracted them enough to stop their fights for a half hour or so.
As the day progressed, the tensions were still high. You could literally just feel it in the air and practically cut it with a knife. I can’t say I blame the dogs for their behaviors. But I will say it was one of the toughest days working in the sanctuary! It’s literally taken about 3 days to get the dogs back into a regular routine and feeling calm again. Poor puppies!!!
Nipper didn’t even come back on New Year’s Day. He returned the 2nd with a bit of a limp in his right front leg… Lord knows what he got into or where he was for almost 36 hours. I’m just glad he made it back with only a minor limp!!
New Year’s Eve day started as it normally does as a volunteer at the Thai Animal Sanctuary: feed dogs, clean enclosures, medicate/change bandages, walks, play time, shuffle dogs around, lunch, finish whatever daily project that was scheduled, night feeding, workout, shower, dinner time!
Instead of having to prepare our own meal for dinner however, we were invited to Sai and Charlie’s place to dine for New Year’s. Sai and Charlie, a Thai-British couple, are one of the many gems in Sangkhlaburi. Just about every morning they drop off a dish of rice and chicken, with bits of egg in a chicken broth so we can mix a bit into the morning bowls for each dog. For Christmas they made a huge vat of a similar soup with the added bonus of veggies for all 60 dogs in the shelter. They made so much that each dog had their own large bowl of Christmas breakfast, instead of just a bit mixed in with their normal kibble.
We were all looking forward to the dinner and even planned to eat less during the day to save room for what we knew would be a feast. But as we all know, getting there is half the battle! In our defense, there were 7 of us and only one bathroom in the volunteer house, so needless to say trying to organize that part alone became a bit of a task. We arrived about a half hour late with all 4 porch dogs (Noodles, Nipper, Balua and Piglet) who weren’t actually invited but just thought they were. 😉 The dinner spread was a delicious and impressive display of Thai cuisine. From the soup, fresh baked WHEAT bread (if you’ve been to Thailand you know how hard it is to find anything other than plain white bread, especially in small towns!!) fried egg with veggies, and a spicy pork on rice dish to dessert. We dined like Kings and Queens over great conversation and lots and lots of laughter. We even learned how to say Happy New Year in Thai (Suk San Wan Be Man Ka) after about a hundred failed attempts, but finally got it down:)
We stayed a couple hours then headed into town to the school soccer stadium for the muay thai kickboxing competition. All I had anticipated was just that: a ring set up for Muay Thai. What we walked into was so much more! It was seriously like a full on carnival or circus (minus the animals)! Neon lights lit up the stadium in every direction along with tent after tent selling food, clothing, fried insects, flip-flops, underwear… You name it, they just about had it!
As we had arrived a bit late for the start of the muay thai kickboxing we were only able to see a couple of fight rounds. The competition was going on for 5 nights (New Year’s Eve being the second night) and each night featured a different age group. New Year’s Eve night was for the youngsters (they looked only about 6 years old!!) to the teens. I can’t tell you how impressive the fights were! First were the teen boys who wailed and kicked and punched eachother until a brow was split open and after only 2 rounds the fight was called. Next up were the little kids whose heads didn’t even make it up to the top portion of the ring!!
Before each fight the competitors walk around the ring with a little hop in their step, kinda like a little dance, to each corner and bow. Next they go to their corner and have their headdress removed and are rubbed down with deep heat oil, which is sort of a liniment oil to slick their skin making it harder for their opponent to get a good grip. Then the fight is on! Those little kids wailed and kicked and fought their little hearts out! When the bell rang to signify the end of the round, their coaches would come in and sweep them up into a bear hug and gently shake them up and down. It seriously looked like they were getting a nice cuddle after each round, but really what the “hug” was all about was to help stretch their spines. Then they got a very thourough rub down with cold water, had their arms and legs stretched out a bit, then off again to fight. The boys lasted through 5 full rounds until a winner was called. So impressive!
The kids fight was the last for the night, so we wandered the rest of the field checking out the various tents and their goods for sale, then headed to the other stage set up on the field. We hung out watching traditional lanterns light up and float into the sky, decorating the night with extra stars, and the various traditional Thai dancers up on stage. The hours passed with drinks in hand, the company of good friends and the entertainment all around. Then about 10 minutes to midnight the Mayor of the town got on stage to give a speech. Of course it was lost on all of us, but it sounded like it could have been interesting.
About 7 minutes to midnight a bottle rocket from the stage shot straight over our heads directly to another stage area where it struck and lit up a huge firework display! I’m not going to lie, I was kinda freaked out by the bottle rocket launching above us because at first I thought it was rogue. But once I realized it was actually a planned launch, all was well. The first firework display went on and on showering the earth with white sparks. In the center glittered what I assume to be “Happy New Year” in Thai.
Once the first display started to peter out, the next display was shot off. Hundreds of brilliant fireworks shot into the sky with every color possible! I was mesmorized by the show of lights and the glitter of the lanterns still dotting the night sky behind them. We were so close to where the action was that the ash from the fireworks rained down on us, sometimes even getting in our eyes and gawking mouths, lol!! I was just in absolute awe. It was one of the most impressive New Years displays I’ve seen in a while. Especially considering how small this town really is, it was just awesome!
Knowing we had 60 dogs to feed the next day, I opted to head home to sleep (after a brief impromptu game of football using a balled up jacket as a football much to the amusement of the Thais) while the rest of the gang (minus one volunteer) proceeded to get hammered once we got back to the volunteer house. Needless to say myself and the volunteer who didn’t drink were up bright and early while the other 5 volunteers weren’t even able to get out of bed until about 3pm New Year’s Day, and even then were useless because of their hangovers, lol!! For once I was actually glad I wasn’t the one who was drinking, lol!!
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