Feline encounter on Thai adventure
CRADLING a tiger cub while he suckles a milk bottle you are holding is surreal and magical.
But the unforgettable mother-like nurturing belies the intense fun of the nipping creatures that soon come out for play time with a glint in their eyes.
Dragging string and towels on the ground as one would a domesticated cat, you have to remember never to turn your back.
While the cubs are tame, they have natural instincts to attack even after just a few months outside the womb.
A few pairs of legs found out the hard way as the cubs visualised KFC during their stalk-and-pounce rituals.
Thailand's Tiger Temple is an amazing hands-on experience, with the striped Indo Chinese cats learning how to integrate with people.
From taking them for a walk on a leash to scrubbing them with soap and hosing them down or even feeding them chicken, it's hard to believe it's truly happening.
The volunteers who work with the 102 tigers at the conservation park, many of them Australian, say there are more tigers in captivity in the United States than in the wild across the world.
Also a Buddhist temple, the monks believe the tigers are reincarnated monks and treat them accordingly as they work to preserve them, breed them and avoid extinction, we are told.
One of the Australian volunteers tells us the eldest cat handled is about four years old because they become too aggressive and have to be put out to pasture past that age.
He says the temple is also trialling a program where they place the more free-willed into the wild to breed themselves and hopefully create new generations.
But the volunteers say there is a lot of work to do to avoid tiger extinction and fear they will probably run out of time.
Playing, feeding and bathing the tigers is fun but there is something incredibly special about watching them play in the purpose-built lagoon in the temple's canyon.
Designed as exercise and for cooling in Thailand's blustering heat, the tigers leap off the rocks into the water tempted by gladiator-like Thai men with big cat toys.
The power and grace of their movement is mesmerising.
After a day out enjoying Thailand's countryside, there can be little better than winding down in the Novotel Platinum's horizon pool watching the sun set over Bangkok.
Two for one "happy hour" from 4pm to 6pm is divine. Simply charge the drinks to your room and sign off on them before you leave.
Or pop in for a drink at Platinum Lounge, just off the lobby, where the hotel's acoustic live band provides a perfect backdrop for an evening drink before hitting the town or before retiring for the night.
On-demand room service is just divine, pad thai and green curry that you would expect in any reputable restaurant.
Or if you are heading out, the hotel is an easy cab ride to top nightspots such as Iron Fairies, Bed Supperclub or Hotel Muse's rooftop bar Speakeasy which got the tick of approval from this writer.
But best of all Novotel Platinum is right on top of a six-floor paradise sure to cure any shopping fix needs.
The Platinum Shopping Mall labels itself Bangkok's largest fashion mall for one-stop wholesale shopping. It has become the new shopping mistress in town.
But before you even look through the shopping centre, stroll up to one of the counters and ask for a list of stores with larger size clothes and shoes.
The obliging staff should be able to print you out a list. This will be become your shopping bible.
The prices are already outrageously cheap but never forget to bargain. Think of it like dating and the prices and bargains are simply playing hard-to-get.
Most are only too happy to drop the price and you are guaranteed a discount if you buy three pieces from the one store. If they seem to give you tourist prices, tell them you live there.
Admittedly there is still not a huge amount of choice for us big-boned Aussies but combined with the thousands of handbags and other titbits across six floors, it's easy to spend a day in a shopping induced trance wandering through these wholesale outlets.
The hotel is smack in the middle of a potential shopping spree across Bangkok, with Siam Square, Siam Paragon, Gaysorn Plaza, Amarin Plaza and Central World within walking distance or a short cab ride away.
If you prefer something a little more upmarket, duck around the corner to Central World where you'll find brand names lower than Australian prices.
Or jump on the skytrain for less than a dollar and travel a few stops to Siam Square, Siam Paragon or MBK shopping centres.
Or for gadgets walk five minutes from the Platinum mall to Phan Thip Plaza for all your technology needs.
You can pick up memory cards, USB sticks, iPhone accessories and a variety of other electronic goods at a fraction of the price you would here.
Luckily you can simply find the escalator back to the hotel lobby whenever you need a break from shopping.
Whether it's the most comfortable bed in the world, the great food or the relaxing pool, it's a top spot to be.
* This writer was a guest of Novotel Platinum.
AirAsia flies daily to Kuala Lumpur from Melbourne and Perth and five times weekly from Gold Coast.
Additional services are scheduled during peak holiday periods.
From Kuala Lumpur AirAsia flies eight times daily to Bangkok. For bookings visit airasia.com.
WHAT TO DO AND WHERE TO STAY
To get up close and personal with tiger cubs, visit tigertemplethailand.com/.
To stay in the heart of Bangkok with a fashion mall down the escalator, visit novotel.com/gb/hotel-7272-novotel-bangkok-platinum/index.shtml or accorhotels.com.
PLATINUM FASHION MALL
- If you buy three things you get a discount
- Open 9am to 8pm daily
"Larger" size clothing stores:
- Fernity Room 120A, Ginza11, Basement
- Jaw Jair Jang Room 137 Ginza7, B
- Zeal, Room 138, Ginza7, B
- Pucicha, Room 193, Ginza8, B
- Get Fit Room 25, Ginza5, B
- W&B, Room 51, Ginza1, B
- Manaba, Room 746, Nathan8, Floor 3
- Fashion Art, Room 817, Nathan14, Floor 3
- Nong Nuch, Room 958, Camden11, Floor 4
- @Design, Room 98C, Ginza2, B