We wanted to end our Thai adventure by doing some serious birding in Kaeng Krachen National Park but our preferred choice of a place to stay wasn’t available for the first two nights. So we thought that we would go and have a look around Phetchaburi.
We hadn’t quite appreciated that the city was only 20 minutes away from the coast and, as we were in need of some clean, sea air we took a ride out. We knew that we had reached the coast when we saw a Wat shaped like a Sampan. We have seen some beautiful old wats, some rather kitsch looking ones but this Wat took the prize for the most weird one in the whole of Thailand.
There was certainly the tang of salt on the air and the reason for that was plain to see. There were salt pans everywhere we looked and workers in them. In one pan the workers were raking the salt into very neat pyramids, presumably for further drying. They certainly looked very fetching in the evening light.
At another pan the workers were furiously ferrying the now dried salt into storage sheds. They were working fast not just to get the job done but because the salt is very caustic of course and, although they were clothed from head to toe, every now and then they would go and douse themselves in water before they returned to their exhausting task.
We were delighted to find that, in addition to the salt pans there were mangrove swamps full of shorebirds so we spent a happy hour watching them.
Petchaburi has a number of attractions including quaint old streets and some interesting wats. It also has a historical park – Phra Nakhon Kiri Palace – high on a hill above the city. It was built as a summer royal palace by King Rama IV and was completed in 1858. It is an odd mix of architectural styles – European, Thai and Chinese – and it is perhaps a little run down now but worth spending an hour wandering around.
For us the more interesting place to visit was Tham Khoa Luang Cave just outside the main city. This was a beautiful restful place with light streaming in from above. We happily spent our time wandering and just sitting and absorbing it all.
We were feeling relaxed and happy when we left the cave but that was not going to last for long. All around the temples, parks and other tourist spots in Petchaburi are large gatherings of Long-tailed Macaques. Like all monkeys they look quite cute at first sight until you realise that they can be quite aggressive. They will attempt to steal any food you might be carrying and to snatch any bags. We saw one in the back of a flat bed truck. The people had left their luggage in the open and the monkey was tearing it apart trying to get at whatever contents were in it. They will steal mirrors from cars.
I had taken the precaution of removing the car’s radio antenna and we were carrying no food with us, although Jane was carrying my camera bag whilst I my camera and tripod. We had parked in a lower car park hoping there would be fewer macaques there but as we got back to the car saw a male monkey on the roof. Standing quite a bit back from the car Jane waved her arm to shoo away the monkey as we didn’t want it trying to get into the boot when we opened it.
The monkey leapt. Not away from us but directly into Jane’s face, gripping her arms with its feet. Not surprisingly, Jane screamed and partially turned away. The monkey leapt off but not before it had inflicted a wound to Jane’s upper lip. At first she thought she had been bitten it was that painful but subsequently we think that a sharp fingernail might have inflicted the damage.
In a state of shock we went to a nearby pharmacy as Jane thought she ought to get some antiseptic cream or something. We explained the situation and the pharmacist immediately said, “Hospital. 600 mtrs.” And pointed up the road. So we headed to the hospital where Jane was more or less immediately triaged, weighed, blood pressure taken and within a short time taken to ER to be assessed and treated.
She was placed on a trolley and told she would be given anti-Rabies vaccine and a Tetanus shot and prescribed antibiotics. Although only some of the medical staff spoke English their care was very efficient if, perhaps, not with quite the same emphasis on clinical hygiene which we would expect in the UK.
I was eventually given a sheaf of paperwork and pointed in the direction of the next building. A Thai administrator took me in hand, gave me a ticket with a number printed on it and, by gesture told me to wait until my number came up (7-157). Eventually I was directed to a cashier to whom I paid about £80 and then to the pharmacy where the meds were delivered to me in exchange for the sheaf of papers. I had no idea what was going on but I just hoped that everything was now set so Jane could have her jabs.
She did indeed have her jabs, two anti-rabies in one arm, a tetanus in the other plus another anti-rabies administered directly to the site of the wound. Rabies is prevalent in this part of the world and whilst the likelihood of the monkey having the disease are slim the authorities take no chances. They have a very clear WHO approved protocol and it involves having vaccine administered immediately after the attack, then 3, 7 and 30 days later. This means that Jane will have to have two of the jabs when we return to the UK.
All in all we were in hospital for about two hours which I think is good going. The staff were very professional and helpful and tried their best to communicate with us. Certainly, Jane would rather have not been lying on a hospital bed during our holiday but we accepted that Jane had received the best clinical treatment in the circumstances.
Although it was all a bit of a shock, after a short rest we did manage to go out birding again late afternoon and we went out for a wonderful meal that evening. Phetchaburi wasn’t our finest hour in Thailand and Macaques are definitely on our list of animals to avoid in future. But we were still determined to enjoy our final three days in the country which will feature in my final blog.