A Swim in the Waterhole Below Klong Chao Waterfall

Thailand

Within the tropical rainforest of Koh Kood, is a natural cascade with an alluring freshwater swimming hole. The flowering trees drape around the pool and are alive with the movements of countless black and white butterflies. Two ropes hang above the water waiting for someone to leap in. The edges of the pool have a perfect rock shelf at seating level. An ideal place to peacefully float and listen to the constant hum of jungle life.

The waterfall is easy to reach. Most of the journey is paved for easy access by bicycle or motorcycle. The road that leads to the waterfall turns at P.D. Guesthouse. The path continues through jungle and groves of rubber trees. Their stripped trunks and little bowls are a sight of interest for those unfamiliar with the process of rubber tapping.

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The destination is well signed and impossible to miss.

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The waterfall can also be accessed by kayak but expect some hiking where the water shallows close to the waterfall.

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After the road ends it is about a 10 minute walk on a level clear path.

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Enjoy your swim in tropical paradise!

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Travel to Koh Kood Island with a Dog

Thailand

The city of Trat is the start point for most travellers heading to their island in tropical paradise (for information on how to transport a dog to Trat click here). All guesthouses are able to book boat tickets, but tickets can also be booked from the offices located near the Trat Market. A ticket of 350 Baht includes taxi service from Trat to the pier, the ferry ride, and taxi service to your guesthouse/resort in Koh Kood. The two primary ferries to Koh Kood are the Ko Kut Express and Ko Kut Princess (Koh Kood and Ko Kut are the same name for the island). Songthaews (converted truck bed with bench seats) are the common form of taxi service in Thailand. Dogs are allowed on songthaews at the discretion of the driver and attitude of the other passengers. To date, Zala and I have not had an issue.

On the Ko Kut Express

On the Ko Kut Express

The Ko Kut Express allows dogs with the exception of holidays and weekends during high season due to crowding. Have your guesthouse check in advance. Zala rode free of charge.The trip from the main land to Koh Kood is an hour. Be prepared for photos and looks of fascination from fellow passengers. Songthaews will be waiting at the pier to take passengers to their guesthouses and resorts. The trucks get packed tightly with people so, as always, know your dog’s threshold before you put them in this situation.

Many high end resorts such as Peter Pan Resort allow dogs. A few budget friendly guesthouses such as PD Guesthouse and Mata Guesthouse also allow dogs free of charge (no dogs allowed at Cozy Guesthouse). The island has a large population of stray dogs. They are an unavoidable part of island life. PD and Mata guesthouse in particular have a large pack of strays. Please see my article on walking a dog in thailand for advice on handling stray dogs.

Koh Kood is still relatively undeveloped and untouched. Be sure to bring enough cash for your entire trip. There are no ATMs on the island and only the big resorts accept credit cards. Dog restrictions do not exist. Your dog is free to explore the white sand beaches off leash with you and join you for meals. Enjoy your stay in tropical paradise!IMG_0569

 

How to Take Your Dog From Chiang Mai to Trat

International Pet Flight, Thailand, Uncategorized

Transportation and accommodations can be frustrating to find for pet lovers in Thailand. Here is what Zala and I discovered on our journey to the opposite end of Thailand.

Bangkok Airways is the only airline that will fly 45kg of (Dog+Crate) as checked luggage. Bangkok Airways has always been real great about keeping Zala out of the sun and minimizing her time in a crate the best they can. And as a bonus, I get fed a full meal and as many drinks as I can hold during a 55 minute flight. Meal price is included in the ticket with 21 meal options to chose from ranging from Muslim meals prepared in accordance to Halal rules to gluten free.

Unfortunately, only Bangkok Air’s airbus 319 and 320 can transport Zala’s large crate. The ATR 72 is the only airplane that flies from Bangkok to Trat, and it will only accept a 80 cm long x 45 cm wide x 65 cm crate with a max combined weight of 20kg. Bangkok Airways is the only airline that flies from Bangkok to Trat.

From Bangkok on down, the journey must be completed on the ground.
There is no train.
The cheapest transportation service is the bus. According to a few reviews, individuals have taken cats and puppies in small crates and stowed them below with the luggage.
This is not an option for a 70lb Dutch Shepherd.
The next option is to rent a car. To my knowledge, there are no car rental options in Trat. Any car rental would need to be returned to Bangkok or Pattaya. This is not great option for those choosing to stay in Trat for a long period of time. The drive is at least 5 hours long.
The last option, and most expensive, is a van service. Renting a vehicle with a driver is common in Thailand. You can even rent a songthaew for a day if you wish. The only driver service I found that was willing to transport my big dog + luggage was Bangkok Beyond.

My driver (Tony) was waiting for me at the airport with my name on a sign. I had an entire minibus at my disposal. Zala was allowed out of her crate, and she got to hang her head out the window and enjoy the ride all the way down to the bottom of Thailand. I was given complimentary drinks and essentially free rein to ask for bathroom breaks and meal stops as I pleased. If I had not been anxious to get to Trat before nightfall, I may have taken advantage of this luxury.IMG_0379

The cost of this van service was 5550 baht. This is a lot of money to pay in Thailand for a simple trip from Bangkok to Trat. But the cost of a plane ticket including all my excessive luggage (Zala) is roughly the same amount as the van service and this was a trip my dog got to enjoy instead of being cooped up in a stuffy box.

Your options are a bit more limited in Thailand, but it can be done. I honestly believe Zala and I enjoyed our van journey more than we ever would by skipping over in a plane.

How To Select The Perfect Travel Dog

International Dog Travel, International Pet Flight, Uncategorized

From our struggles to our triumphs, Zala and I have learned the harsh reality of navigating the globe with an International Dog. Size, weight, and breed are very important factors to consider before you select your future travel companion.

Small dog breeds are the easiest to travel with. Many airlines allow small dogs (and cats) to fly in the cabin with their passenger. Quite a few hotels allow small dogs or are easily persuaded to make an exception. Many trains, buses, and metros (particularly in Europe) allow small dogs to ride free if they remain in their carrier. Little dogs often slip under the radar (pun intended) and are allowed places no other dog can go. For example, the opera in Monaco is open to dogs under 5lbs. Our friend Montecristo Travels is a fantastic resource for individuals who wish to travel with their small dogs.

Medium dog breeds can be transported in a cost effective manner contrary to popular belief. I distinguish between medium and large breeds because many airlines have a weight cut off at 32kg for pets transported as checked luggage. A travel blog called Let’s be Nomads has flown their Entelbucher Mountain Dog for free on airlines that allow pets to be counted towards the checked luggage allowance. When traveling to off the beaten path destinations, expect the aircrafts to be smaller and transportation options to be limited for big dogs. For example, Bangkok Airways cannot accept dog crates exceeding 80cm x 45cm x 65cm on their ATR 70 aircraft. Also, certain cities are starting to implement policies again large dog breeds. Beijing and Shanghai only allow one dog under 14inches tall per person within the city.

Large dog breeds are the most challenging dogs to travel with. This is the category my 70lb Dutch Shepherd fits into. There are not many resources available for travellers with large dogs simply because most people believe it cannot be done. Airlines that charge by weight are not reasonable for travellers on a budget. The best option for big dogs are airlines that charge a flat rate such as Airfrance, KLM, Delta and a few others. The purpose of this website is to not only to provide a fresh perspective on travel destinations but to become a resource for travellers with large breed dogs.

Traveling with a big dog requires extra work and the ability to think outside the box. This may mean part of your journey may be by air and the other part by ground due to airline restrictions. You may watch a small dog ride for free on your train ride from Lyon to Milan knowing your dog’s ticket cost the same as yours. Accommodations will be difficult to find in certain cities and countries, but writing personable messages and providing dog references can sway guesthouses and hotel owners. Zala and I have had the most success finding accommodations via unorthodox places such as airbnb, couchsurfing, and Facebook. Yes, Facebook, it is our secret to finding accommodations in Thailand. Many small guesthouses do not have websites, but they do have Facebook pages.

Dog breed is also an important factor to consider. Certain dog breeds are more limited than others.  Snubbed-nosed dog breeds such as boxers, pugs, and bulldogs are not allowed to fly on several airlines.

These dogs are prone to breathing complications due to their short muzzles. They do not breathe as efficiently as dog breeds with normal length snouts which makes cooling off when overheated or stressed more difficult. Short nosed breeds are more vulnerable to changes in temperature and air quality in a cargo hold. Although the they receive the same quality of pressurized air as passengers in the cabin do, air circulation is not as ideal for a dog inside of a crate.

Because these breeds are statistically more prone to health complications or even death on air flights, some airlines do not allow these breeds on board. Travellers with a snubbed-nosed dog will be limited in airline choices. Do not let this stop you from owning and traveling with a dog that fits within this category. Just be aware of the individual limitations of your dog and always put their health and safety first. If your dog is easily stressed or has known breathing problems, do not put your dog at risk on a flight.

“Aggressive” dog breeds are restricted and banned in many countries. Some airlines simply will not fly breeds that carry this label regardless of the importing country. These lists vary but always (sadly) include Pit Bulls. Pit Bull is a generalized term for breeds labeled as Staffordshire Bull Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Bull Terrier, and any mix breed that matches the phenotype (appearance) of a Pit Bull. In addition, accommodations around the world may have restrictions against these breeds. Below is a basic list of restricted dog breeds. Please be aware this list varies among different countries, provinces, and states.

Pit Bull
Doberman
Mastiff
Dogo Argentino
Fila Brasileiro
Presa Canario
Rottweiler
Japanese Tosa

Owning a dog that is labeled as aggressive can make travel complicated, but be aware some countries merely have restrictions on the breed. This means extra paperwork and acquiring a license for your dog in countries such as Spain. Dogs such as Chihuahuas and Dachshunds are often listed among the top dog breeds reported for bites. Poodles and Dalmatians are known as aggressive dog breeds yet none of these breeds are put on these ban lists. Be informed and take care not to get wrapped up in the media circus surrounding some of these “dangerous” breeds. Support punishing the deed not the breed. Most dog attacks are a reflection of the owner not the dog breed itself.

I want to give a special thank you to one of our readers who posed this question to us. I hope this provides insight to those hoping to travel with their dog and also those who are looking to select the perfect companion to explore the globe with.

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An Ash Rubbed Cheese

France, Rhône-Alpes, Uncategorized

Don’t judge a cheese by its rind. Even if it is blackened with ash and fuzzy with mold. Before the invention of plastic wraps and waxes, creating protective rinds was the best way to preserve freshly made cheese. Wood ash is just one of the countless ways to encourage mold growth on your precious cheese.

Selles-sur-Cher is a 19th century French cheese made from goat’s milk. Its name originates from the town of Selles-sur-Cher. To bear the label, this cheese must be made in the department of Cher, Indre, or Loir-et-Cher. The goats of this region graze the floral grasslands of the Cher valley which gives this cheese its unique quality.

This soft white cheese has a doughy texture that will melt in your mouth. Its odor is light for a goat cheese. The outside is rubbed with a dark wood ash. The end result is a powdery blue-grey puck with its characteristic flat sides and beveled edges.  The thin salted ash rind is trimmed off to taste the soft, slightly nutty flavor within.

 The ripening of this cheese takes a minimum of 10 days and up to 3 weeks in a cellar. The more mature the cheese, the stronger the taste. This cheese is often seen in French cheese buffets for its decorative qualities.

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Simple Life Hacks to Save Money in Airports

Uncategorized

Bring a water bottle with your carry-on luggage. Make sure your bottle is empty when going through customs and place it in a separate bin for the X-ray machine. Contrary to popular belief, you can take a water bottle on most airlines. When you are in the holding area, fill it up at the tap, and save yourself from buying that $3.00 bottle of water.

Pack your lunch. You will most likely pack a better meal than an airport slippery meat and processed cheese sandwich and for a quarter of the cost. Be careful about bringing nuts, fruit, and meat. Check the regulations of your country of entry before taking it through customs. I personally have never had an issue.

Do not exchange all your money at the airport. The exchange costs will be inflated. Exchange enough to get you through the day and find a bank to exchange the rest.IMG_0265

Measure and weigh your bags before you arrive.  If your carry-on baggage doesn’t meet requirements, the price for additional baggage is higher the day of your flight. It is cheaper to add an additional bag online a few days before your flight than the day of your flight. I personally travel with a soft sided duffle. It can be pushed and squished into the measuring box even if I may have overloaded it a bit.

How to Import Your Dog to Thailand

International Dog Travel, International Pet Flight, Thailand, Uncategorized

Import permits and forms to file, 30 day quarantine, numerous vaccinations, and the horror stories of individuals being charged outrageous import fees with the looming threat of their pets being taken to quarantine.

Breathe

Smile

Traveling to Thailand with a dog is easier than it looks.
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The most accurate source for Thai import/export is the Thailand Department of Livestock Development website found here.

Whether you are arriving from the United States, Canada, or the European Union the requirements are the same.

  • Health Certificate, in English, authorized by the veterinary official of the exporting country.
  • Rabies Vaccination no less than 21 days prior to departure.
  • Leptospirosis Vaccination no less than 21 days prior to departure or a negative test result within the 30 days prior to departure (Leptospirosis is combined with the Rabies vaccine given in France).
  • Distemper, Hepatitis, and Parvovirus Vaccinations no less than 21 days prior to departure (normally these are already completed during puppyhood).
  • 30 day quarantine at owners expense (not enforced).

If your dog is not allowed as carry-on, find an airline that will allow pets as checked luggage instead of cargo. Cargo fees can add up fast on a long distance trip to Thailand if coming from the United States or in my case, Paris. I have talked to several individuals who successfully flew via Thai Airways. They also paid close to $1000 for a medium-large sized dog. Air France, KLM, and Delta have teamed up, and they all have a flat rate of 200 EUR/CAD/USD for pets flying internationally as either carry-on or checked baggage. For those traveling with a large dog, this price can’t be beat. Our airline of choice this trip was Air France because they run direct flights regularly from Paris to Bangkok. For those interested in taking a dog through Paris CDG airport, see my article on the topic here.

After you have gotten through customs for bipeds at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport (the lines can be quite long), pets that did not fly as carry-on will be at Z3 Oversized Baggage. Directly across from the oversized baggage claim is an exchange booth. I advise you take a moment to exchange some cash to help speed up the next few steps required to import your pet. There are two offices for animal customs in the Suvarnabhumi Airport, both are located at opposite ends by baggage claim 9 and 10. The primary office is located on the same wall as the oversized baggage claim.

I was met by three stern faced officials. Remember this is Thailand. Smile. I gave them a cautious smile and a respectful nod, and their faces lit up. Contrary to numerous sources on the internet, all paperwork can be done upon arrival in Thailand. I did fill out my Form No 1/1  in advance to save time (I had a connecting flight to Chiang Mai to catch!). None of these individuals seemed able to speak English, but I continued to throw beaming smiles in their direction, and they bustled through my paperwork. I was given three different forms requiring my signature, and I was asked for Zala’s health certificate. In the European Union, health certificates are filled out inside of the pet passports. Ask your veterinarian to print a separate health certificate form, these officials were not familiar with pet passports. The process may have taken 15 minutes, I paid a 100baht fee, and Zala’s vaccinations weren’t even checked!

The next step was to walk across to customs for bipeds with Zala’s two freshly stamped pieces of paper authorizing her entry into the country of Thailand. The customs official immediately demanded 1000baht from me. When I asked why, a finger was pointed to Zala’s paperwork and I received a look of exasperation. Afterwards, I researched what this fee is based off of, and this is what I found from the Thai DLD website.

“The importer must pay an import fee as prescribed by
the Ministerial Regulation, which was issued in accordance
with the Animal Epidemics Act B.E. 2499 (1956)”

The officials get to make up the import fee. Remember to smile, this fee can be dodged if you wish and this information can be found on the Thai DLD website, but 1000baht is roughly 30USD, not worth fighting in my opinion. And that’s it! Welcome to Thailand.

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Pack List for an International Dog Flight

International Dog Travel, International Pet Flight, Uncategorized

A Dog Crate That Meets IATA Standards.

I fly my dog around the world. Between finding an affordable flight, organizing vet appointments and sifting through import paperwork, the last thing I want to worry about is if my dog crate is allowed or not. Some airlines are stricter than others. I bought a dog crate with all the bells and whistles that meets the requirements of every airline I have come across. You can check the IATA standards for dog crates here. I bought a sky kennel, and I am very satisfied with it.

Extra Copies of Paperwork

I cannot stress enough how important this is. Every airline is different, but Icelandair’s cargo division attaches the health certificate to the dog’s crate. Upon arrival in Paris, Zala’s health certificate was no longer attached to the crate. Although technically only the original can get your dog into the country, I thankfully had a copy and got my dog’s clearance to enter France.

A Cheap Dog Bed

Don’t put your $100 orthopedic dog bed in the your dog’s crate. After a 10-15 hour flight, you can’t blame a dog for getting bored or frustrated and chewing up their bed. If your dog has an accident, you want a dog bed you will have no hard feelings about throwing away. I have never had either of these incidents occur with my dog, yet. It is best to be prepared. I keep Zala’s Ruffwear Highlands Bed in my carry on luggage as a spare, just in case.

A Water Bowl

A collapsible water bowl is a good thing to keep on hand. Some airlines allow water dishes inside of your dogs crate, but you have no way of knowing if it will survive the flight. Zala destroyed one of her two dog dishes on her trip from Seattle to Paris. As soon as my dog gets out of customs, I pour her a drink. Usually our journey continues by train or a connecting flight so Zala has to recharge on the go. A collapsible bowl takes up very little space in my carry on luggage, and I can smash it into any pocket in my pack while I am hustling to catch my next train or flight. I carry a Ruffwear Collapsible Bowl everywhere I travel with my dog including restaurants, cafes, trains, car trips, and any hiking adventure.

A Leash

I never go to an airport with my dog in her crate. I keep her leashed and by my side until the moment I turn her over to oversized luggage.  Get a leash  with a loop handle to easily half hitch around a chair leg. A simple hack for easy tie up is to use a carabiner for fast clip and unclip. Zala and I have spent a lot of time lounging within and outside of terminals.

A Muzzle

Small dogs get a get out of jail free card on this topic, but big dogs should wear a muzzle inside airports and on public transportation. Big dogs scare a lot of people, and I believe I am able to walk Zala freely throughout airports because I muzzle her. This isn’t to say that when we find a nice place to sit I don’t take off her muzzle because I do. I simply don’t put security guards and officers in a position where they need to tell me to crate my dog. I don’t want to give the public a reason to file a complaint because this will only create more rules and restrictions for future pet travel. I use a simple mesh muzzle that slips on and off easily and can be crumpled in my pocket. Be careful, this style of muzzle does not allow a dog to pant and can cause overheating in hot climates. Invest in a basket cage muzzle if your dog will be wearing a muzzle for long periods of time or in hot climates.

Dog Food

If possible, pack enough dog food to mix and smoothly transition your dog into a new brand in your future country. It can be difficult to consistently use the same brand throughout the world. The one dog food brand I have seen consistently from the United States to Western Europe to Southeast Asia is Pedigree.

Favorite Toy

It may not seem important to you but in a dog’s world this is a big deal. A favorite toy from home has a calming effect on dog’s adjusting to a new home/country. Zala has taken her Extreme Kong across the world with her. It is the equivalent of a pacifier when she is anxious. I am a big fan of Kongs because they can be stuffed with goodies while you are away and provide some mental stimulation for your dog. I’ve even freezed things inside of it. Zala has been obsessively chewing on her black kong on a daily basis for two years, and it is still in one piece.

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How to Safely Walk Your Dog in Thailand

Thailand, Uncategorized

IMG_0128In Thailand, a dog has a different connotation than many western countries. A pet dog in Thailand usually is a stray that gets food from a home or store front and therefore casually spends its days lounging around that area. At most, these dogs may get a worn collar, but a dog on a leash is a rare sight. A large leashed Dutch Shepherd led by a white farang (foreigner) is a sight worthy of stares and even photographs.

Many homes, temples, and stores are the place of residence for several soi dogs. Usually they form packs of 2-3 dogs, sometimes more. Even if the home front is fenced, these dogs will simply jump over. They are very territorial and a daily part of life when living in Thailand, especially for pet owners. It can be very intimidating when a pack of barking, high hackled dogs come rushing toward you and your dog.

The fact is, every stray soi dog has been hit, kicked, or had a stone thrown at it throughout its life. These are dogs that have learned the art of survival. Although territorial, they take care not to get injured because this can mean life or death to them. These situations can be smoothly handled if you remain confident and in control.

When traveling down a new street, carry a stick or (my favorite) a water bottle. When a pack of stray dogs come rushing up, use a confident voice and raise your hand as if to throw or drag your stick against the ground. These dogs know a faker when they see one, empty handed threats mean very little to them. Do not yell or get agitated. This will only excite the dogs, and you will lose respect with any local Thais within ear shot for ‘losing face’. This will deter the majority of strays, for those brave few that continue coming (my dog came in heat upon arrival in Thailand), I will give them a splash of water from my bottle. They will never forget and will leave you alone from there on out. I do not actually throw objects or attempt to harm these dogs, a mere threat is more than enough to set boundaries.

If you walk the same area regularly, these dogs will accept you within a few days. Furthermore, stray dogs can have better socialization skills than most house dogs. I don’t fear my dog being attacked as much as the transfer of disease or illness from close interaction. If you are someone who abhors the use of a leash and feels confident in your control over your dog, this is the country for you. Locals who actually do take their dogs on walks usually don’t have them on a leash.

Owners with small or fearful dogs should take extra care in new neighborhoods. I have had a few instances with small shop dogs lunging out and biting at my dog. My dog is now accepted in the neighborhood, and we can walk peacefully around followed by nothing more than a few halfhearted barks. It also helps that Zala is bigger than all the dogs around her. As stated earlier, these strays have learned the art of survival and will not take on a fight without cause, especially with a dog that is a head taller. I will add that my Dutch Shepherd not only scares the local strays but also the local Thais of the area. Keep this in mind when you bring a large dog with you to restaurants and coffee shops.

Although a dramatic change from dog walking lifestyle in western countries, bringing your dog to Thailand can be done if you remain actively aware of your environment and take extra care in reading the dog behavior around you. This experience may actual strengthen your bond with your dog as you will be assuming the role of pack leader and protecting your dog from others. Best of luck and be aware of your dog’s personal tolerance of this kind of environment and always keep their safety first.

Domestic Dog Flights in Thailand

International Pet Flight, Thailand, Uncategorized

Watch for changes and additions to this list as we find and experience more airlines.

Bangkok Airways

Pets will be charged 80 baht per kilo.

The maximum weight (dog+crate) allowed is 60kg.

The maximum crate dimensions are 100cm long x 60cm wide x 75cm high.

Thai Airways

Pets are charge 6 euro per kilo.

The maximum weight (dog+crate) allowed is 32kg.

This information was provided by e-mail from a representative of Thai Airways in Paris, France.

Nok Air 

Pets not exceeding 15kg (dog+crate) will cost 200 baht.

An additional charge of 200 baht will be applied to pets exceeding 15kg.

The total weight must not be over 30kg.

All information is for dogs traveling as checked luggage. Rates and regulations for dogs traveling as cargo may vary. Zala and I have successfully travelled via Bangkok Air. It was the best experience we have had with an airline.