At the House of Paws

The barrier to entry for opening a dog café in Bangkok is extremely low: if you have a shophouse, leaving the front door open over night with a plate of leftover rice just inside will have you going by the morning. There are a huge number of extremely fat and tame dogs on the streets of Bangkok, mostly because if you are a Thai Buddhist you can make merit by leaving them food. Perhaps because there are so many dogs in Bangkok, there are not nearly as many dog cafés as cat cafés, unless you count 7/11s as dog cafés, in which case you have no standards.

We have somehow not been to any dog cafés, I think mostly because the dog cafés were in inaccessible locations or being closed because the dogs had been biting people. House of Paws is a new entry in the Bangkok dog café scene; it is convenient to the sky train, which also means that it is full of people and that there is, on Saturday afternoon, a line to get in. There’s an entrance fee of 150 baht per person, which gets you a drink (maybe more than one drink?) and two hours of dog-petting, which is not a terrible deal as the economics of pet cafés in Bangkok go.

They have two sizes of dog as far as I can tell, big- and medium-sized. I do not know any of the breeds of dogs. Here is what I think they had: Malamute. Golden Retriever. Corgi. Beagle. Schnauzer. Curly Terrier. One of those low-slung dogs with droopy ears whose name I forget – a Baskerville Hound? Something that was kind of a half-size Collie with short legs – maybe that’s actually a Corgi? I don’t actually know what a Corgi is. Some of the dogs wear sweaters which would be ridiculous in Bangkok except that the air conditioning is jacked way up. Advance publicity for the House of Paws promised that all of the dogs were led around by a monstrous Sheep Dog. No such Sheep Dog was in evidence. Perhaps he was being groomed or walked? There were two Golden Retrievers, but no one really cares about that.

One can buy little packets of treats for the dogs – these appear to be Pocky formulated in such a way as to be delicious to dogs. Some of the dogs will catch the treats in their mouths if you drop them in their mouths, which isn’t much of a trick, though that seems to be the only trick the dogs know. The dogs seemed pleased to be getting so many treats. Maybe if you came in the evening the dogs would be tired of the attention and would want to sleep; when we arrived, the dogs were still happy to exchange attention for treats.

Every once in a while a door opens and a new dog pops out to general applause.

A sign suggests that you can bring your dog here and they will wash it. I did not see anyone do that, and I suspect that if anyone did do that all the dogs would go crazy and start fighting. But that didn’t happen while we were there.

Here is the thing about dog cafés as opposed to cat cafés: they are very blatantly transactional. You give the dog a treat or attention and the dog pretends to like you. A cat café is more ambiguous.

It is hard to get good pictures at the House of Paws, mostly because it is a tiny space crammed full of dogs and people all trying to get pictures of the dogs. But I tried. Here a dog receives attention from several people:

Here Harriet attempts, with no success, to teach that same dog to do a trick:

Many people like dogs:

Harriet pets a dog and is petted by another dog which is being petted by another person:

Probably if Bangkok were destroyed, all of it could be rebuilt by the information in this photograph:

I don’t review dog cafés, so I don’t know how it does as a dog café. As a cat café, the House of Paws is an utter failure, as it contains no cats. Sorry.

We Wandered Around Northern Thailand A While Back, Part Two

So! Continuing. After we left Chiang Mai we drove down to Lampang, which is a few hours south of there. There is not, strictly speaking, very much to do in Lampang. It is a town on a slow river that is known for its horse-carts, and you can take a horse-cart ride around the town, like so:

There are some pretty old houses and the wats are pleasant enough. We ate at a delicious restaurant which was called something like Aroy Aroy One Baht which was delicious but actually cost more than that. The most interesting thing is probably the Lampang Herb Conservation Assembly (this place seems to have several names, but that’s what’s on the sign) which is outside of town:

I don’t know exactly what the deal is with this place – it seems like they grow a lot of herbs here which are sold in various forms. But they also have herbal steam baths and scrubs, which is why we went. I had a herbal steam bath, which seemed not unlike the way that Nero would have someone killed. Kim and Harriet had some kind of yogurt and turmeric scrub, which they were happy with. After that we left Lampang.

From Lampang, we were going south to Sukhothai, which was the biggest power center in what is not Thailand before the Ayutthaya era. On the way we stopped at Si Satchanalai, which is a Sukhothai-era site north of the main city. It is extremely well-kept; it does not seem to be particularly popular with tourists despite having UNESCO status.

Sukhothai-style ruins are characterized by the lotus-shaped tips of the chedi.

There’s been a fair amount of reconstruction and rebuilding in this site (as in the main Sukhothai site), and it can be hard to tell how much of what you’re looking at is original.

It’s a pleasant site, though it feels a little sterile compared to similarly aged ruins in southeast Asia.

From Si Satchanalai we kept going south to Sukhothai, which is both a modern town and a very large ruined city. It gets a lot of Thai tourists, slightly fewer foreign tourists. Our hotel turned out to be infested with rabbits:

The modern town of Sukhothai isn’t particularly excited (though it is the source of delicious Sukhothai noodles). The ruins are pretty nice though. The site is large enough that the best way to get around is via bicycle – ones with a back seat were conveniently available:

The site is very well manicured – Sukhothai plays an important role in Thailand’s image of its history – and it’s full of canals, ponds, and islands:

Like at Si Satchanalai, there’s been a great deal of reconstruction; however, the buildings here were grander to start with:

Khmer influence is pretty apparent on some of the buildings – this one was clearly Hindu:

Harriet works on something:

A few miles north of the main site is an iconic Buddha that seems to be used by almost every Thai wedding photographer:

And that’s what’s at Sukhothai! Oh, there’s also this pottery place, where Harriet painted a little cup:

Also it turned out that our hotel was infested with frogs and toads in addition to rabbits:

(If someone could figure out what kind of frogs and/or toads these are, that would be great, thanks.) Maybe the best thing about Sukhothai, however, is its airports. One does not often come across a lot of praise for Thailand’s airports, generally for good reason. The one at Sukhothai is pretty great though: in addition to large numbers of free snacks, it also has a zoo with a herd of zebras and giraffes. I did not, alas, get any pictures of this, but it is almost certainly the best airport zoo you ever saw.

And that is what I can remember of our trip to northern Thailand whenever it was that we went there. We had a pretty good time. I will try to be better about documenting things in the future.

We Went to Chiang Mai and Some Other Places and Mostly I Forgot to Write About Them

So at some point soon we will not be in Bangkok, we will have been in Bangkok, and we felt slightly bad about not wandering around Thailand as much as we might. There are a lot of other places to see around here, and somehow we only rarely think about going other places in Thailand. So this time we decided to go to the north of Thailand. We’ve been to Chiang Mai twice before, but both trips were underwhelming, and we felt like we were maybe missing out. So we went back. This was in February, actually. At the time I had great plans about how I was going to write up our various adventures, but then I forgot to do that, and now I am trying to reconstruct what happened there from notes jotted down outside the herbal bath place in Lampang and the photos that were on my phone. But probably this will not be particularly accurate, so don’t go making any big life decisions based on what is in here.

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Harriet wanted to take the train up (she was still upset that our last trip to India hadn’t included overnight trains), so we took the overnight train from Bangkok. (Kim was in Singapore, so she flew up.) We have taken the trains in Thailand precisely once before, on a weekend trip to Ayuthaya which was not, perhaps, the most pleasant journey in the world. But Thailand just got some new trains from China and they were supposed to be deluxe and exciting. So we bought two tickets and went to Hua Lamphong, Bangkok’s old railway station. Here is a mechanical fortune-telling man in Hua Lamphong:

You give this old man ten baht and he gives you a printed fortune. The fortune was in Thai and I managed to lose it before we could translate it which was probably not the most helpful thing that could have happened.

Our train was, of course, late; we briefly panicked that there had been some mix-up and we’d gotten a train without beds, but after an hour we did get a new train with beds eventually. The train and its beds were extremely pleasing to Harriet – we got a top and bottom bunk, and Harriet was excited about sleeping on the top bunk and went to bed at seven. One has rarely seen anyone so excited about trains:

But the problem with these trains very soon became apparent: there are extremely bright fluorescent lights in the corridor right next to the upper bunks. Harriet assured me that we should switch because she couldn’t sleep with such a bright light. I assented. This was a terrible mistake. The trains are so new and modern that the lights never go out. So we arrived in Chiang Mai the next morning, Harriet well-rested, me less so.

Harriet and I had a day to ourselves in Chiang Mai so we predictably went to the zoo. The Chiang Mai zoo is maybe the best in Thailand, or at least the best in Thailand that is not at an airport (more about that later). Mostly there are a lot of animals to feed. In rough order:

¶ Sheep:

¶ An emu (or maybe a rhea? Someone check this):

¶ A sea lion:

¶ An elephant:

¶ Some kind of hornbill:

¶ A crocodile:

¶ And obviously a lot of fish:

Also there are plaster animals to sit on:

The Bangkok zoo is maybe superior in its selection of plaster animals, but I think that’s the only way in which it’s better. There’s a very nice aquarium which I didn’t take any pictures of. Maybe my phone’s battery died? You will have to imagine how wonderful it was.

After we went to the zoo Kim showed up and probably we went to a hotel and had dinner. Who knows! I didn’t take any pictures of that and I forget what happened. Evidently the next morning we went out to the Maiiam contemporary art museum:

That afternoon, however, we went to Chiang Mai’s most exciting museum, the Museum of World Insects and Natural Wonders:

It is quite a Museum!? – possibly this is the best Museum!? in all of Thailand and certainly it is one of the world’s great Museum!?s. It was started by a Thai mosquito scientist and his wife and it is full of wonders. Many of the wonders are mosquitos or mosquito-related, but they are not constrained to this. The mosquito scientist took up painting to get his message across:

There are a lot of these painting which illustrate moral and ecological precepts in nightmarish fashion. There is an admirable collecting impulse on view:

Mostly the labels are perfect:

The mosquitoes of Thailand have a president even if the country does not:

I think about these scenes sometimes:

Always historicize:

And giant mosquitoes outside:

It is a profound disappointment that this museum does not have a catalogue for sale – it would be fantastic. This museum is basically the reason you should go to Chiang Mai: most of the rest of the city is hippy nonsense, but this museum is great.

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Let me see, what else was there in Chiang Mai. The wat next to our hotel was devoted to puppies:

Maybe it was actually a museum of puppy figurines, I don’t know. The wat also had a museum of old stuff, and that’s also worth visiting:

It is the kind of museum where the only reason that you know you’re not actually visiting someone’s attic by mistake is that there are labels on things. Some day there will be no more fans and people will wonder what they were and they will go to this museum and they will find out. It’s good to be prepared for such a time.

We did some other things in Chiang Mai and I can’t remember what they were any more and they probably weren’t that interesting or I would have taken pictures of them. We ate some delicious food, I guess, though there are plenty of pictures of food in Chiang Mai already. After we went to Chiang Mai we went to Lampang and then Sukhothai and some day I will get around to writing about them. Maybe tomorrow!