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…
Sangkhlaburi in Town
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!!
View from Mon Village
View from Mon Village_2
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!!!!
View From Mon Village_3
Bamboo Bridge Entrance
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:)
Walking the Bamboo Bridge
Mon Bridge from Bamboo
Walking the Bamboo Bridge_2
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!!!
Bridge for Boats
Mon Bridge Sunset
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!
Field from Above
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!!
In the Ring
A Walk Around 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!
Prayer before Fight
Rub Down Between Round
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.
Happy New Year!
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!!