Well its been a long two days.
It all started with a 5:30 am wake up call, breakfast and taxi ride out of Nonthaburi to downtown Bangkok. On a good day this would take about 45 minutes. But evidently a 6 am departure time is still not early enough to avoid the backlog of traffic that occurs going through the large toll ways on the elevated expressway to Bangkok, which have a funneling affect on traffic going into the city. An hour and a half later we end up at the office and met up with Pun, another intern from the office who is going to be joining the crew today. We hop into the rented van and we head off to pick up Khun Dorn, one of the camera guys for the project along with his wife. We head off to go to Korat at around 9:00 am.
…As we go along for the three hour drive, it becomes really apparent how different Bangkok is from the majority of Thailand. Along the way we pass rice paddies, rest stops and small towns. Its all quite different pace and feel to what happens in in-your-face-Bangkok…
We eventually get to one of the main towns within Korat called Nakhon Ratchisma . Therewe were to meet up with Dr. S, who was doing house calls for the stables in the area, which mostly contain race horses. Even though I was aware of a large amount of race horses in Thailand up to that point, I had no idea about how they were being kept and how many of them were in this town. To find Dr. S, who was treating a case, we stopped by a seemingly normal urban community, filled with townhomes and storefronts. As we walked along the tiny sois, we found squeezed between these buildings, concrete stables. W eventually found Dr. S. in a maze of sois, at one of these stables, treating a case of laminitis. After talking with her and moving on to do a check up on stitches and do a portable X-ray at another stable, I found out that even while most of these horses live their lives in Nakhon, they actually do the majority of their racing in Bangkok, a good three hours away. The reason for their odd location is due to the large army bases near town, and most of the people who own these horses are involved in the Thai military, having titles like Colonel and Sergeant, etc.
Most of these horses, for exercise, are walked everyday along these tiny sois and actually worked out for racing a couple times a week, but might be lucky to actually be on grass in their daily routine. While their body score was good, it wasn’t great. One thing that I noticed, was that compared to most of the stables I have been to, was that there was the stench of ammonia in both of the stables I visited. After talking to Dr. S, I found out that it was due to the high protein and carbohydrate diet these horses are fed, so much so, that their feces have a very ammonic smell.
When Dr. S. was done with her ‘stable calls’, we then had lunch at Big C (Its actually a chain of supermarkets/malls in Thailand… not the fight song.) at a KFC, which I have decided that is actually better then any KFC I have been to in the states…. They must have MSG in the mashed potatoes. But they don’t have coleslaw.
After this, we moved on to the second part of the trip up to Phimai Historical District (about an hour away) to meet up with a family that collected neglected ponies to help with the therapy of their daughter who has autism.
Phimai District is historical because of the multitude of ancient temples and ruins that the town was built around. Despite the historical importance, we didn’t really have time to visit on this trip. We ended up at this families property and stable which couldn’t have been more different then the racehorses housing. With wooden fencing and large paddocks for all the ponies/horses, it seemed to be a more ‘natural’ way of being for all the horses there. When the family arrived to took to ponies into their stalls where they are kept at night ( just to make sure all the horses get the same amount of food and water so they don’t have to deal with competition for food) and they took their daughters favorite pony, put on a jockey saddle and let her hang on while she rode behind her dad. Never seen a kid so happy.
Eventually the light ran out and we headed out back to Bangkok. We finally got back to Bangkok at 1:30 am Like I said, it had been a long day of travel.
The next day, I woke up at 6 am to get ready to meet Khun Dorn at his apartment complex. Going from my sisters house, I caught a motorcycle taxi up to the top of the soi, to catch what is known as the BTS or Skytrain (otherwise known as an elevated rail system) to what I thought was the correct soi. Turned out Sukhumvit Soi 24 is different then 26. After walking a bit I asked a group of motorcycle taxis if they knew where the complex I was supposed to go to was. After talking in really quick Thai, I just decided to get a ride… If any of you happen to find yourself in Thailand, I would recommend taking a motorcycle taxi. Yes, they speed, and usually don’t have an extra helmet, BUT they will get you to where you want to go for usually under .50 American cents. Can’t beat that. After a hair raising adventure along the back streets on the back of speeding motorcycle I ended up where I needed to be and then we were off.
While originally the plan had been to head to Kanchanaburi ( which would have been a couple hours drive) we instead headed to the Mounted Police Subdivision, located in Bang Bon, just an hour away. The only Mounted Police currently in Thailand, they do a lot of community relations, using ponies for anti-drug campaigns (I’m not sure how they do that) and riding for the disabled. Today was a day where they were giving rides to the disabled. They do all of that, despite constantly losing funding, and being in rundown facilities. Today, when we visited, they were doing riding for the disabled in the community, which included local families and a group home in Bangkok. The entire bunch included kids with cerebral palsy, downs syndrome and autism. With thirty kids wanting to ride and only four ponies – lack of funding- each kid was able to get their turn on a pony, accompanied by a side walker to hold them steady and help them through physical exercises. I really enjoyed being able to see this kind of community outreach, because in high school I organized a lot of riding for the disabled. Its great physical therapy for the kids as well as allowing them to have a novel and fun experience.
This finally summarizes most of my last two days. I plan on putting more pictures up, so stay tuned. I do leave for Mongolia ( !!!) this Friday evening/Saturday morning, so hopefully I will be able to still post and keep people updated. If not, you will hear from me in a week 🙂