Tag Archives: Sangkhlaburi

Bang Saphan

On the Gulf coast of Thailand, halfway between Prachuap Khiri Khan and Chumphon (where transfer to Koh Tao in the Gulf of Thailand can be found) is the beautifully picturesque and quiet town of Bang Saphan.  I had heard of this place as a recommendation from Sai and Charlie in Sangkhlaburi and am so grateful for it!

I will admit right off the bat that I barely spent any real amount of time in the town itself, and well basically the reason for that was because once I had arrived at the bungalows I’d chosen, I simply didn’t want to leave!  That and I was about 4 km south of the actual town, and since I didn’t have a motorbike, there was no real big draw for me to go into town.  But I’m getting ahead.

I took the mini-bus from Prachuap, which was only about 80 baht and an hour and a half or so later was dropped off on the side of the road for Bang Saphan.  The drop off location for the mini-bus was about 4 km west of the town, so I had to get a ride in.  There was a motorbike taxi standing by, so I hopped on and asked to go to Lola’s Bungalows.  I had read up on this guesthouse from a posting on Travelfish and since it said it was their top pick and cheaply priced, I thought why not?  But as the bungalows were 4 km south of town, it ended up being quite an expensive trip there via motorbike!  Frankly there could have been a cheaper way to go, but being in the heat of the day and not very many other options just hanging about, I went ahead with the motorbike.

Once I arrived, I was already in love!  The property didn’t even have a sign up but it was evident how popular it was.  About 20 or so individual bungalows were on the property that were situated only several dozens of feet from a stunning beach!  I was shown to a bungalow and for 300 baht a night, set my things down and got ready for the beach!  What I thought was cute about this place (other than the amazing location) was how when I tried to pay for the bungalow, they simply waved me off and said to do so whenever I decided to leave.  I like that kind of trust in people!

In any event, I had only planned on being there max 5 days, but ended up staying 2 full weeks!  Most of the bungalows were occupied by couples or families that had been staying there already for weeks themselves and or were planning to be there for a month at least.  I guess that’s why the property owners didn’t want money up-front as they were probably used to people coming in and then wanting to stay on!

Along the beach were several eateries, including my personal favorite called Roy Tawan all of a 3 minute walk along the beach south from the bungalows, that had THE BEST chicken club sandwich I’d tasted in a very long time!!  I was seriously addicted to it!!  And for every meal they would start you off with fresh bananas and give sliced mango for dessert!  So for about $1.50 I was very fully and quite healthily satiated!  Another favorite spot I had was the Why Not Bar just a bit further south along the beach where about the only nightlife could be found.  The people there were so friendly and welcoming, I just adored it!

I spent my two weeks at Lola’s getting myself back into an exercise regime, lounging on the many hammocks along the beach reading books, walking daily anywhere from 2-6km through the lush and beautiful land filled with a variety of life to various stores for my food needs (they had a fridge in the room) or to the Thursday and Saturday evening market at the nearby Wat, hanging out at the Why Not Bar, eating a ridiculous amount of Club sandwiches from Roy Tawan, taking brief dips in the ocean (only brief and I will explain why later), gazing at the night sky, eating yet another ridiculous amount of ridiculously fresh and juicy mangos on my front porch, exploring new ways to walk to the neighborhood stores (one dirt path included cutting through a cow pasture), chatting with neighbors and making local friends, enjoying the sights and sounds of approaching storms, listening to some guided meditations on YouTube before falling asleep nightly and generally otherwise relaxing and unwinding.

I saw my first flying squirrels there and though they were impossible to take images of, since they only came out at night and moved too quickly to capture, they were still a delight to watch!  Another thing I’d heard about but had never witnessed before Bang Saphan was coconut collectors using monkeys to cut off and throw down the coconuts!  Some workers also had long bamboo sticks with a knife at the end that they would use to cut off coconuts, but far more had several macaques with them that would easily climb to the top and chuck down several coconuts.  I hope and could only assume the animals were treated well!

I mentioned above that I only spent brief time swimming in the ocean, and the reason for that was first because there were several jellyfish in the area.  Every time I walked out into the ocean I could spot several bobbing along looking harmless enough, yet I wasn’t going to test how much their sting might hurt!  Of course I could have simply walked past the area they were bobbing in as the deeper you got the fewer jellyfish there were, however once getting past the gauntlet of jellyfish, another gauntlet of sorts had to be passed.  See, this particular beach had hundreds upon hundreds of sand dollars in the sand.  You could feel them under your feet as you walked, their little bodies crunching under the weight of my feet and I just couldn’t stomach damaging them just so I could get out deep enough to where I could start to actually swim or float.  So, between the jellyfish and not wanting to potentially kill dozens of sand dollars with each trip in and out of the ocean, I simply opted to hang beside the ocean instead:)

Another first that I witnessed one Saturday when I went for an early lunch at Roy Tawan was a bird singing competition… A bird  singing competition… Yes… Let me set the scene: I arrived at Roy Tawan and sat at a little table awaiting my food when I spotted in the grass section nearby a metal structure with about 12 cages hanging.  Each cage had a bird in it and there was even another bird cage (with a bird inside) hanging in the shade about 20 feet from the other 12 on the metal structure.  One man was sitting under the shade with the bird and he had a cylinder vase filled with water that he would drop the shell of what looked like half of a coconut that had a small hole in the bottom.  Once the coconut shell filled with water and sunk to the bottom, he would blow a whistle and retrieve the coconut.  At this point, two men whom had been standing on opposite sides of the 12 hanging bird cages would approach a cage and make a mark on a piece of paper hanging from the bottom of each cage.  Then they would step back and seemingly watch the next cage.  The whistle was blown again, the coconut shell was dropped (their way of timing!) and the whistle blew again to signal time, the men would make their mark on the next bird cage and move on.

Now, mind you during this entire time all the birds were singing away.  The air was filled with birds singing as well as with some people on the side lines making sounds that sounded like encouragement to one bird or another.  I asked the local woman at Roy Tawan what on earth was going on and she simply said it was a bird singing competition!  The birds in the 12 cages were trying to mimic the song of the single bird in the shade.  The two men making marks were judges and they were scoring which birds sang the best in comparison to the one bird!  Just as I was wondering how in the world these judges could hear only the sound of the one bird they were supposed to be watching for judging and drown out the other 11 birds singing their hearts out, she added “I don’t understand this competition, it seems very silly to me”!  LOL!!

I honestly could have stayed another 2 weeks at Lola’s but alas, it was time to move on!  I think I had gotten my fill of relaxation and was ready to try a new spot.  My next destination was for the island of Koh Tao:)

On To Koh Tao Island

Back to Thailand

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Hua Hin Days

The next day, having risen at the rear-crack of morning (also known as 11 am) we bounded out for something to eat before hitting up the beach.  Now, again, we had been so very starved of food selection while living in Sangkhlaburi, so food or eating or snacking or anything to do with any food topic seriously took up most of our consideration!  I also wanted some coffee, so we found a place down the street, on the way to the beach, called The Coffee Club.  They also served food of course!

Now, another thing about me… I never, I mean NEVER take pictures of my food.  I’ve never understood it before… I understand plating can be quite well done and very picturesque, but in general have never understood why people take pictures of their food.  However, on this occasion, after having looked at their menu and seeing that they had a grilled chicken sandwich that included AVOCADO (I seriously almost fainted when I saw that and then nearly cried!!!) I couldn’t help but take a picture of both the menu AND the food once it arrived.  I mean, come on!  It was even served on ciabatta bread!!!   I again almost cried at seeing REAL bread again!!  So yes, I’m now a photographer of food…

OMG!!!!!
OMG!!!!!

In any event, we spent the rest of that day lounging on the beach with some beers and I proceeded to get one of the worst burns I’ve had in a long time!  Not just along my shoulders, but my stomach and high up on my thighs as well.  It’s now been almost a week since that burn, and though I’ve been slathering myself with coconut oil and pure aloe vera, I’m still red and a bit itchy, lol!  The day basically just passed on the beach (rough life I know) then we went off for a few happy hour cocktails on one of the beach bars along the pier.  We sipped on several cocktails, talking away the hours when we were suddenly visited by some interesting guests on the roof of the next bar over.

Yes, three macaques decided to see what all the happy hour fuss was about!  I wasn’t sure what to expect from them because they can be quite violent at times, but these three just seemed to keep to themselves, accepting bits of food they wanted from sharing people.  Once dinner time came around, we opted for the Spanish Tapas restaurant  It did not disappoint!!  We ordered a liter of homemade sangria and had about 6 different dishes between us!  It was quite a treat that neither of us had had in a long time.  We were supposed to have left the next day but Jo heard that there was a Muay Thai fight the next night, so we decided to extend our stay for a night in order to catch it.

When we rose that next day, it seemed to just be a comedy of errors.  Of course, despite my burns we still had to go to the beach to hang out and swim for a bit.  We didn’t last that long though as the heat of the day felt twice as hot on my skin and as there wasn’t any shade to sit under, I could only bear it so long.  From the brief beach time, we went off to scout where the fighting was to take place but when we got there, we found out they only had fights 2 nights a week (Thursdays and Saturdays- and we were on a Friday).  Dejected by that, our next thought was to go get some food (again with the food, I know!! ;)).  Jo had seen something on TripAdvisor about a mexican food place that got great reviews along Dechanuchit Alley, near Prapokkiao (street?).  So off we went in search of that…

Another brick wall was hit as even though we were using the GPS app on TripAdvisor to find the place, it seemingly didn’t exist.  However, the street where it was supposed to exist on was an absolute bustle of energy!  There were restaurants lined one after another along this strip of road and though they were each already quite spacious, the street was being turned into an extension of the restaurants so people could sit in the street and other general shop owners were setting up for a street market!

At this point I was seriously kicking myself for not bringing my camera because it seriously was a sight to see!  Hundreds of people walked about busily setting up their shops.  I mean not a single person was simply hanging about (except us).  Everyone had a job to do and there were even people who set up a little lemonade stand and walked up and down the road selling cups of lemonade to the workers.  Jo and I got a coffee from a shop nearby Ko’s restaurant and simply watched the life around us.

Interestingly for us, a bar was even being set up on the street just next to where we sat!  So of course, even though at this point neither of us had had any breakfast or lunch, we just HAD to get some cocktails once the bar opened up!  As we sat on the street downing some beverages, a banner caught my eye several food stalls down.  I went to get a closer look and (suspenseful music here) lo and behold it was an advertisement for a Muay Thai fighting match TONIGHT!!  Yay!!!  So essentially, had it not been for us wandering to find the non-existent Mexican food place, and for us to decide to hang out with coffee to watch the street wake up for nighttime activities, and for us to decide on having a few cocktails at the street bar, then I never would have seen the advert for the Muay Thai!!  We took this as a very good sign that we were supposed to see a fight on this night!

After our several cocktails (and a free whisky shot) we stumbled our way to the site of the fight (the name escapes me now, go figure!) bought our tickets (800 baht each!!) and finally had some food at the Italian place next door.  Though all the events of the day seemed to just line up in random ways so that we could see a Muay Thai fight, after having seen the 7 fights, I still call the day a comedy of errors.  I say that because only about 3 of the 7 fights were actually worth watching.  It was a disappointment and honestly we saw better fights over New Year’s in Sangkhlaburi than what we watched there.  Oh well!  And we weren’t the only ones who felt cheated as there was another couple in 7-11 (where we went after for more booze) who were talking about how lack-luster the fights were and how disappointed they were.  I mean, come on, for 800 baht we were expecting some really good fights!  Not seemingly mismatched, gloves on, not highly ranked matches!  Oh well.  Just goes to show not everything turns out as you’d like. 🙂

On to A Real Gem

Back to Thailand

Arriving in Hua Hin

The bus ride to Hua Hin was mainly uneventful.  I say that because I had gotten a wee bit tipsy before meeting Jo at the bus station and therefore don’t recall most of the trip.  However, at one point between little naps, the inevitable sensation that always creeps up when one drinks started to kick in… Yes, I REALLY needed a bathroom!!  I had heard that the trip was only a couple of hours, so I figured I would be ok…  But just like all mini-bus journeys in Thailand: whatever time you are given for the trip, double it!  However, given that, what’s also nice about the mini-buses is that they inevitably always take a bathroom break about halfway or just an hour shy of reaching the destination.  Thank goodness for this!!

I seriously was starting to worry whether my poor bladder would hold up!  I kept asking the driver “hong nam??” (room water literally) in hopes he would hear the absolute desperation in my voice and make a potential emergency stop just for me.  “Ha nittie” (5 minutes) is all he kept saying as I kept praying that THIS time it really would be ‘ha nittie’…  Sure enough we did (eventually) make a stop at a gas station for food, drinks and bathrooms (hooray!!!).  Fully content (and about a quarter less body weight in water) we continued on the last little bit to the coast.

It’s amazing how much you miss something and don’t ever recall that you do until you are faced with it again… I speak of the ocean.  We pulled up at a random junction near the clock tower (which is really a HUGE poster of the King with a teeny clock at the top) where the driver said to us “falangs” (foreigners) and pointed for us to get out.  True to my style (and thankfully Jo’s too) we didn’t have any place planned to stay just yet.  Jo used her phone to track down a potential place to stay and we headed off in the direction It showed, which was also in the direction of the water.

About 10 minutes later we hit Naret Damri Alley, a bustling tourist street full of every possible worldwide cuisine restaurants that you could possibly imagine.  I mean they had German, French, Spanish Tapas, Italian, Norwegian, Swiss (seriously!!), Greek, American, Indian, Finnish, and more!!  Having come from and lived in the small town of Sangkhlaburi where the most exciting thing was pad thai or fried rice, we just about fainted when we saw all these delicious food options!!  Keeping ourselves in check (wiping the drool from our chins as we walked by each place) we first found a place to stay.  Memory Guesthouse just down the street from Dechanuchit Alley on Naret Damri Alley was where we decided to settle for 400 baht a night.  We paid for 2 nights, settled in and then headed out for some FOOD!!  We opted for an Indian restaurant just across the street and dined as if we had never had food before!

At this point the sun had already set so going to the beach wasn’t an option as far as tanning was concerned.  So instead we got a couple of beers and headed out just to scout where the beach actually was from us.  First we went the wrong way down N.D. Alley to basically a dead-end, along the way checking out and continuously being shocked even more so by the array of differing cuisines available.  We turned around and went the other way down N.D. Alley, past our guesthouse toward the Hilton.  We reached what looked like another dead-end (a parking lot near what looked like a Chinese Temple of sorts) but continued on as I was determined that there HAD to be a beach nearby!

 

Luckily, just around the corner from the Chinese Temple, the land opened up and a vast beach lay ahead of us.  The water was severely choppy and there was absolutely no way to swim in it, so we just dipped our toes in for a bit (gloriously warm water!!) then sat on the beach drinking and talking.  We watched the moon rise, a fabulous red-orange glow coming over the horizon through bits of hazy clouds and eventually headed back for some rest.

On to Hua Hin Days

Back to Thailand

Unexpected Company

I left Sangkhla with a vet volunteer who popped in the sanctuary during the last few weeks I was there.  Bettina, from Denmark is seriously a star vet and reminded me quite a bit of Nyzil, the vet who worked at the sanctuary when I first arrived.  She was amazing with the animals, the other volunteers and had a ridiculous amount of knowledge in her craft.  Her calming aura during times of stress was unbelievable and inspirational!

I recall one particular time when we insisted she take the day off (she had been working without rest for quite some time and needed it).  Only a few hours after she left to enjoy her day, a cat was brought in that had been bitten by a dog.  At first glance I couldn’t see any immediate damage.  But when I lifted the cat out of its carrier and a line of blood spurt out from its side, I knew this was more serious than it looked like.  Now I’m not queasy about blood or guts or animal bodily functions, and I tend to stay calm where others panic… But when I saw that, I got a little panicked.  It was evident that poor Bettina’s day off would be cut short.

I hopped on the motorbike and started into town in search of her, luckily finding her only about 10 minutes later.  As I pulled up, I could feel my sense of urgency creeping up.  I almost ran her over with the bike trying to get to her and immediately started rattling away that there was a cat bitten by a dog, blood spurting, will need stitches, fluid building up in the belly, yada, yada.  Her reaction?  “Ok, not a problem.  Let me just pay for this real quick and we will get going.”  Her confidence immediately soothed me.  Snapped me back into a state of calm that I had let go of before.  We headed back, she took care of business and the cat is doing very well.

In any event, Bettina had planned to go to a horse facility in Nepal and had plans to do so around the time I was planning to leave.  Since our plans coincided nicely, we thought it would be great to leave together and spend a couple of days in Kanchanaburi before parting ways.  Those few days spent with her were among some of the most relaxing I’d had in a long while.  We walked to the Death Railway at night, which is beautifully lit up by changing colored lights (though unfortunately my camera takes crap photos at night!!), visited probably every coffee shop in town and dined on delicious food.  Oddly, time seemed to just absolutely dissipate anytime we started talking.  We would arrive at a coffee shop at 10am and the next thing we knew it was 3pm!  We stayed up until 2am one night just talking, sharing experiences, things we want for ourselves, discussing politics and ideas, etc.  I think in the 48 hours that we spent in Kanchanaburi, probably about 36 of them were spent talking, lol!! (555!!)

Funnily enough, the last night we were there, two volunteers from the sanctuary surprised us while we were hanging out for some dinner.  They had two dogs that required more medical attention than they were able to give at the sanctuary (X-ray and major surgery for a dog hit by a car) so they brought them down to the vet in Kanchanaburi.  Needless to say that night turned into a late one, at least for me!  Bettina sadly was still feeling under the weather so didn’t join in drinks till 5, but as I thought it would be the last time seeing the other two volunteers (Jo & Oli) I couldn’t resist a few drinks.

The next day Bettina and I said our goodbyes and as she headed out I opted to stay in Kanchanaburi a couple more days so I could actually plan where and how I Was getting to my next destination.  It was about a couple of days later that I got an email from Jo (who at this point was back in Sangkhla) saying she too was leaving the sanctuary and wondered if we could travel together for a couple weeks.  Though I have traveled a lot, I’ve never really traveled with people.  I’ve met people along the way and we’ve kept each others company for several days or just shy of a week, but I’ve never really traveled with people.  I’ve always enjoyed traveling alone because of the fact that I never have to answer to anyone else: what do you want to do?  I don’t know, what do you want to do??… I hate those conversations!!  But seeing as she and I got along well at the sanctuary, I thought why not?  It would be nice to have some company for a couple of weeks.  So a few days later we met at the bus station in Kanchanaburi and headed South to Hua Hin on the Thai bay coast.

Oh and I should probably state, the images in this section are kinda random- just several I found that I’ve taken from the Sangkhla area and didn’t fit in other posts:)

On to Arriving in Hua Hin

Back to Thailand

Leaving Sangkhla

The time had finally come to say goodbye to Sangkhlaburi and the animal shelter.  I say ‘had’ because I’ve now been away from there for the past 10 days (how time flies!!).  The hardest part was leaving all the animals behind.  Worrying whether the disabled dogs were getting their night-time blankets, whether dogs were getting their proper daily meds, whether laundry had been done and dogs had been walked occupied my mind for several days after having left.  But as we all know, the world doesn’t stop turning because one has moved on to something else.  Volunteers will always be there to care for the dogs.

I left for a couple of reasons, the first being that I had been in Thailand at that point for almost four months and yet still had only seen a tiny fraction of the Country.  Second, as it was early on during my time at the sanctuary, personality clashes arose again.  High School cliques started forming again creating a huge divide between people who cared for the sanctuary dogs and those who cared for the clinic dogs.  Personally I think that the two would go hand in hand, but alas it wasn’t the reality.

Thankfully though my last two weeks there, just as the first week or so of first arriving, were my absolute favorite.  Not because it was the beginning and end of my stay, but again because of the organic nature and vibe of the workers during those times.  That ridiculous line between shelter and clinic was erased.  No cliques, no favoritism, no inclusion of only certain people and not others.  No more bull essentially.  Just everyone working together, learning and aiding where needed.  It’s amazing how some people can naturally lead others in working together as a team while others create divides so they can pump up their egos where necessary.

I still think of the faces of each animal daily.  I will never forget them and though I wish I could take each one with me, I know the chilling reality is that there are animals all over the world that need equal love, care and shelter.  For now I’m simply traveling and just as I organically happened to find the sanctuary in Sangkhlaburi, I’m keeping my ears and eyes peeled for the next opportunity.  But until then, I’ve headed South to check out the mystery and beauty of the Thai Islands.

On to Unexpected Company

Back to Thailand

Thankful

Normal life has set in.  I haven’t been doing anything special, haven’t been engaging in any new adventure or activity, haven’t gone off to some new exotic place…  No, regular life is in full swing.  I’m still volunteering at an animal sanctuary in Sangkhlaburi, Thailand so the regular duties of feeding, caring for, and helping to heal injured shelter dogs takes up much of my time.  And by the time all is said and done with the dogs daily, while there is time to do something new, I’m just too tired to think about that “something new ” and instead always opt for a quiet night of sipping beer on the porch while watching Sangkhlaburi street life.

I haven’t written anything on my blog in a while because in my mind I haven’t done anything “interesting”.  I wonder what exactly to write about and whether people would even be interested in reading “normal life” posts.  One thing does always come to mind however, so instead of my usual adventure/travel stories or stories about my random drunken escapades, I will write about this: being thankful.

See, even though my life has settled into being “normal”, I realize on so many levels that it isn’t.  While there is a lot I still wish to accomplish and have in my life, I think daily on how thankful I am for the things I do have and have achieved and experienced.  It’s almost turned into a form of prayer for me.  Each day I try to take time out and think about all the things I’m thankful for.  The list always starts general, then randomly pops from narrows to specifics.  So here are the things I’m thankful for today.  Hope you enjoy and perhaps find inspiration to seek out and acknowledge all the things in your life that are worth giving thanks for.

Aside from the top 3, they are in no particular order.  Today I’m thankful for:

  • Family
  • Friends
  • Good health
  • Being physically and mentally able to workout
  • Being in good company
  • Living in Thailand
  • Working with animals
  • Waterbelly (a sanctuary dog) NOT being run over by a car this morning
  • Emails from friends
  • Having traveled to several countries
  • The people I’ve met along the way in short bursts, yet who I’m still impacted by today
  • Having found apple cider vinegar here
  • The little girl next door who instead of holding a blank expression while looking over at us on the porch actually smiled and waved!
  • Learning a new Thai word from the market lady (“kai gai” is egg)
  • NOT seeing the neighbor behind us flash her body parts while walking along the road as she adjusts her clothing
  • Nambia’s for breakfast
  • Watching random firework displays light up the sky on the Mon side
  • Seeing the temple lit up at night
  • Having the relief of rainfall after a ridiculously hot and humid day, even though we aren’t supposed to get any rain (according to the forecast)
  • Watching the monks give morning blessings to people throughout the neighborhood
  • The support and patience of my family as I live a quarter to half way around the world from them
  • Knowing I’m loved by my family and friends
  • The hope to meet a man to love indefinitely along my travels
  • The dogs that survive the unthinkable
  • The dogs that move on to a better place, freeing themselves of the pain they were suffering here (of course it’s hard to lose them, and we always wonder whether there was anything else that we could have done for them, but I know ultimately they are in a better place)
  • NOT being woken throughout the night by either barking dogs or our neighbors insomniac tendencies
  • Hearing the dogs in a synchronized howl
  • My mosquito net!
  • Thursday and Saturday markets
  • Having a day off from the sanctuary
  • Learning something new everyday
  • Witnessing small kindnesses (a young brother was helping his younger sister take out several rubber bands from her hair and smoothed it out when done)
  • Watching the 9 chicks that live in our neighborhood grow up (and seeing all 9 daily)
  • The water delivery guy
  • Local community support for the sanctuary (Som Chai, Dr. May, Sai and Charlie)
  • Meeting new volunteers from around the world
  • Hearing of friends engagements
  • Hearing that friends struggling with health issues are doing better
  • My memories of times past
  • Being content with what I have and where I am
  • Feeling blessed in so many ways
  • The hope that I continue to be thankful and grateful for every little and big thing in my life
  • And lastly that I am able to continue to travel, explore, and give back to the life around me

On to Ode to Water

Back to Thailand

“Ticklet”

This is the story of Piglet, who I lovingly also call “Ticklet”.  Since I’ve been here she has been one of the four (now five) porch dogs who live on the porch of the volunteer house, just across the street from the Thai Animal Sanctuary in Sangkhlaburi.  Piglet used to live in the sanctuary, as the rest of the porch dogs did, but once better chose to live outside of the gates of the sanctuary, on the street and porch, free to roam around as they choose.

What makes Piglet more interesting however is how fearful she is of humans.  She loves being around us, but won’t let anyone touch her.  There have been a few occasions however where she has allowed myself and other volunteers to scratch and pet her, but the events are VERY few and far between as she skitters away after a pat or two.  When we are away for a bit we are always greeted by her with a friendly face and tail wagging, and she always approaches us as if she wants a pat, but then retreats when we get too close.  She even accompanies us to the market or other destinations we walk to but again always just far enough away from us so we can’t touch her.

Piglet came to the sanctuary as a puppy, the sole survivor of her entire family.  The woman who opened the sanctuary here got word of a family of dogs (a mother and several puppies) who were going to be poisoned by their human owners because they didn’t want to care for them… She rushed to the site where they were to find the mother dog killed by a machete, and all the puppies except piglet dead by poison.  Piglet herself was attacked by a machete in an attempt to kill her but thankfully was rescued.  Knowing her past, it’s no wonder she doesn’t trust people.

When I first came here she was absolutely covered along her back, between her toes and on her chest with ticks (hence why I nicknamed her Ticklet).  The nasty and huge blood suckers were so prevalent that you could see them sticking off of her from a distance and every time she sat on the porch and scratched, at least one or two would fall off her.  Since no one could touch her, the continuous debate on what to do about her tick situation went on.  We tried several times to catch her with a net with no success.  I once was able to slightly distract her with treats in one hand, and as she ate I brought my other hand around with Spot-On and was able to get a drop on her before she figured out the scheme and went running away, spilling the rest of the Spot-On in the street.

It was obvious that we had to sedate her fully in order to really get in and pick all the ticks off.  We even joked about how, when she was finally under, we would each take turns cuddling her and taking pictures with her since we knew we would never get the chance again, lol!  Trouble was, I think she heard us…  You see, Ticklet is also tremendously smart.  So while we sat on the porch in the evenings discussing various things to do, I’m sure she heard when we came up with the plan to put Diazepam (sleeping pills) in some food to make her drowsy, then stab her with a syringe of Xylazine to put her completely out so we could pick off the ticks.

The day finally came when our plan was to come into action!  Several five milligram Diazepam pills were purchased to do the trick and she readily took the bait.  The pills (about 4 in the first try) were hidden in a bowl of wet dog food that was consumed at a very fast pace.  We sat and waited for her to sleep, but while she did doze a bit, she never fully lost her vigilance.  Another bowl was offered with three more pills, but still nothing happened.  Yet another bowl was offered as we thought to ourselves how ridiculous and amazing it was that she still wasn’t sleepy enough to approach!  After a total of about ten pills, she still didn’t show any signs of drowsiness!!  She did however decide to take a walk…

Figuring she was finally feeling drowsy, but being smart enough not to fall asleep in front of us, she was probably trying to move elsewhere so she could actually fall asleep without threat of us stabbing her with a full dose of sleeping aid.  So of course we had to follow.  She walked down the block and into a large area of pure jungle where she sniffed and walked leisurely to find the right spot.  She never did actually lay down however, just sniffed here and there as if she was interested in doing so.  Frankly I think she was really just having a laugh at us!

It started to look promising however as she looked a bit drowsy at one point, but the second we went to make a move toward her through the jungle she was off again running in and out of various jungle in the yards of the neighbors down the street.  We continued to follow at a distance, determined not to lose her!  The whole event ended with her walking (quite alert) right back onto the property of the volunteer house.  She never did fall asleep even once during the whole ordeal!  Funnily enough however, (and maybe it was just that the temperature at night began to drop) after that day Ticklet turned back into Piglet as the ticks began to fall off her body on their own…  Personally I think that the ten milligrams of Diazepam, which seemingly had no effect on Piglet, actually worked to put all the ticks on her body to sleep thereby making them drop off on their own, lol!!

It’s been several weeks since the event at this point, and Piglet is still tick-free (at least as far as we can see from the distance she allows).  Such a clever dog she is… I’m sure she heard us talking of taking pictures and cuddling with her while she was out that she simply funneled all the sleeping pills to the ticks instead just so she wouldn’t have to endure such torture of cuddling from us, lol!!

On to Thankful

Back to Thailand

How Silver Saved Shadow

This post has been a long time coming since the events I’m about to write about happened about five weeks ago, in the early days of volunteering at the Thai Animal Sanctuary in Sangkhlaburi.  When I first arrived, among all the other puppies at the Sanctuary, there were three especially tiny ones: Luna, Sky and Shadow who came in with their very sick and skeletal mom, Xena.  Xena, trying to simply survive herself never really took to the puppies and rarely fed nor bonded with them herself.  Lacking the very necessary antibodies that help puppies and human babies to build strong immune systems through mothers milk, the three puppies were very susceptible to illness.

Sadly, Luna succumbed to her weakened immune system one morning.  Sky and Shadow began to grow and seemed relatively healthy.  One day however, we woke to Sky looking suddenly terrible.  Her face blew up to twice her normal size and her breathing was very labored.  Thinking it at first an allergy, she was given antihistamines to try to revert the allergy.  But they didn’t work.  Several days went by with no improvement as the vets debated what to do to try to help.  She passed away one evening and a necropsy was performed by the vets and some vet techs the next day.  What they discovered was that her lungs were shot.  She had developed infectious pneumonia that led to her demise.

Even though once she became symptomatic, she was separated from Shadow, a few days after her death Shadow’s bark, normally strong and at times annoying, became gruff and sounded like a bark from a dog that had developed emphysema.  One vet thought it was just because he had been barking non-stop the night before and had given himself a sore throat.  But upon further investigation Shadow’s head, just as Sky, began to swell.  Since he showed the same symptoms as Sky, and since we learned that Sky suffered from infectious pneumonia, appropriate courses of action were taken to properly treat Shadow.

Within a couple of days however, yet again nothing seemed to help.  Shadow became worse and worse struggling with each breath for tiny bits of oxygen.  Normally plump to the point of looking like a dog with a gopher belly, his belly shrunk inward with every breath, collapsing on his body, revealing each rib and bony hips.  His eyes told the story of his struggle most of all.  Round and dark they gazed up at us with his head extended straight forward in an effort to breath better, pleading to us for help.

On the third or fourth day after no signs of improvement and his health continuing to spiral toward death, as Jo and I sat on the porch discussing what else could possibly help, I thought of the bottle of Colloidal Silver my mom had given me for my travels to stave off any potential illness.  Colloidal Silver kills over 650 viruses and bacteria.  At the point we were at, nothing else was helping and it certainly wouldn’t hurt him to try the Silver.  I first researched whether it was safe to give to pets and found out it was.  While my bottle of Silver was a bit more concentrated than the recommended dosage for dogs, again at that point it was worth a shot.

As Jo held him, I squirt several drops in his mouth, then prepared a little pillow with lavender oil sprinkled on it (another thing I read about that helps with breathing as I researched the Silver) to put in his little carrier crate where he slept.

The next day, Shadow was alert and breathing better.  Though not 100%, every day after the morning I gave him Silver he continued to improve.  Within the week, he began to bark again; rough and course at first, then strong and healthy with bite 🙂

Today, Shadow is alive and well turning into a beautiful young dog full of energy and spark!  Some here don’t believe the Silver had anything to do with his turn around in health, but I do.  Traditional Western medicines did nothing over several days of treatment to get him feeling better, rather he got worse.  But after one dose of Silver, he began to improve.  Again some could argue it was complete coincidence.  I’m a believer however and in my opinion, Shadow is the proof!

On to “Ticklet”

Back to Thailand

The “Bum Gun”

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!

On to More Muay Thai

Back to Thailand

Spay Camp and Elephants

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.

On to The “Bum Gun”

Back to Thailand