Travelling with a Pet on Thai Airways

Considering travel with Thai Airways?

Tam showing Jamie some love

To offer a little background, my wife and I lived in Thailand for over 3 years and 2 of that we spent involved with a local dog rescue that is trying to help deal with the street dog population in Thailand. The shelter also provides a safe environment for sick/injured dogs that have been brought in from the street. During our involvement we became very attached to a dog named Tam.

For those that are familiar with Chiang Mai, Tam was rescued from a drain in the moat by the Thai Military, along with her litter of puppies in 2014. You can see the story here All of her puppies were quickly adopted, however Tam remained at the shelter. Care for Dogs is a wonderful organization, doing great things for Chiang Mai and surrounding communities, but a shelter is no place for a dog to spend years of their life in. In March of 2016 my wife and I adopted Tam and brought her home and she has been a wonderful addition to our lives since then. You can read a brief snippet about Tam’s adoption here

The day we brought Tam home.

For a myriad of reasons, we decided that Thailand was not the place for us long term and we began researching what was required to bring Tam with us to Europe. While there are many pet relocation companies, we discovered that they charge outrageous prices to relocate pets (we’ve received quotes from $2,000 up to $7,000 USD) and transporting Tam as cargo would include several days of travel and kennel boarding for her. As the street dogs in Thailand are generally not treated very well, Tam can be temperamental with strangers. Being able to bring her with us on our flight(s) as excess baggage (AVIH) was absolutely critical in our decision-making process.

While the requirements vary slightly from the US and Europe, the process is not terribly complicated (microchip, updated rabies vaccination and current titer test, health check, and export license). In July, we started researching the various airline carrier policies to see who offered the ability to travel with a dog as excess baggage (AVIH). After speaking with the booking agent at the Thai Airways Corporate Offices in Chiang Mai, we decided to make our travel arrangements with them. One of the reasons we chose Thai Airways is that our connecting flight in Frankfurt was thru Lufthansa who also allows for dogs to be transported as excess baggage. Lufthansa’s policy on transporting dogs as excess baggage (AVIH) only requires that the crate for a large dog be within specific dimensions (which Tam’s crate was).   Frankfurt airport handles millions of animals a year and our connecting flight with Lufthansa would take us directly to Faro, Portugal. This was the most direct route (24 hours travel time) and would minimize the stress to Tam. The booking agent at the Thai Airways Corporate offices told us that a dog up to 40kg. (animal and crate) would be $750 USD to transport her as excess baggage to Europe (IATA TC2 and TC3 regions). The agent’s quote was consistent with the Thai Airways Pet Travel policy found here As it was also much cheaper to fly her as excess baggage than to use a pet relocation service, it was a win-win for all of us.

Tam and I at the shelter.

Our initial reservation was completed via the Thai Airways website, at the end of July. We were scheduled to depart Chiang Mai on the evening of Christmas day and would arrive in Portugal the following day. The day after we booked our flights, we returned to the Thai Airways offices to provide them with Tam’s microchip number. The booking agent updated our reservation and provided us with a printed confirmation of our flights. Shortly thereafter we noticed the following entry on our booking confirmation:


* SSR = Special Service Request, AVIH = Animal in Hold

As requested by the agent, we returned at the beginning of December to confirm Tam’s reservation on our flight. In light of the entry on our booking confirmation noted above, we confirmed with the agent (once again) that we would have no issues including Tam as excess baggage on our flights. To avoid any confusion when we checked in for our flights, we asked that the SSR AVIH on our booking confirmation be updated to reflect the 40kg weight limit. The booking agent at the corporate offices called the Thai Airways offices in Bangkok and Lufthansa Airlines to confirm, once again, that we could in fact fly with Tam if she was under 40kg. After confirming with both, the booking agent updated the SSR on our booking confirmation to reflect the 40kg weight for each leg of our travels. With our reservation confirmation updated, we felt confident that we would be able to take Tam without any issues. All of the travel documents would be verified in Chiang Mai, Tam would be checked through at Bangkok and we would retrieve her in Frankfurt for medical examination and entry to the EU. Lufthansa would have put her on our connecting flight to Faro as excess baggage.

During the next couple of weeks, we completed the remaining steps (health certificate and export license) to take Tam with us to Portugal. We’d been preparing Tam for months to get her to feel safe in her crate, how to drink from the water dispenser, and walked her vigorously to ensure her weight (including crate and accessories) was below 40kg. We invested a lot of time, money and especially energy in this process. We knew this would be a stressful journey for her (us too) and we tried to do everything we could to minimize the stress as much as we possibly could.

Headed to Thai Airways
Getting ready to leave for the airport.

We arrived at Chiang Mai International Airport on Christmas Day with Tam, and all of our belongings approximately 2 ½ hours before our flight. We provided the ticketing agent with the printed reservation confirmation (including all of the updates) that had been provided to us by the booking agent at the Corporate Offices. When we checked in, we had other issues regarding our baggage and associated fees but that is secondary to what followed. We loaded Tam (crate and all) onto the luggage scale and the total weight was 39.8 kg. We knew that her weight would be close to 40kg so you can imagine how relieved we were when we saw that she was under the limit. Shortly thereafter, our excitement was cut short when the ticketing agent told us that Tam could not travel with us on our flight because she was over 32kg.

There we stood at the Thai Airways counter on Christmas day, after months of preparation, checking and double-checking that we had complied with all of the travel and export requirements, ensuring that the 40kg. weight limit was allowed AND DOCUMENTED on our booking confirmation, in total disbelief that we were being told that we would not be allowed to take Tam with us.

We spent 2 hours at the ticketing counter dealing with an agent who seemed entirely indifferent about the circumstances. The only explanation that she was able to provide was “Bangkok not accept”. We had to ask for a supervisor and eventually the highest person in charge for Thai Airways at the airport. After speaking with the Supervisor and being told once again that Tam could not fly with us, the Duty Manager eventually came down and told us that the booking agent in the Corporate Offices should not have made the reservation for Tam and that Tam would not be able to travel with us (regardless of what was on the Thai Airways website or the printed booking confirmation).

With 30 minutes to our departure, our friend from the shelter, told us he would take care of Tam until we could make alternative arrangements. With no time to say goodbye, we headed for the gate in tears, without our girl. To say that this experience with Thai Airways ruined our Christmas and the beginning of our new journey is putting it lightly. When we arrived in Frankfurt and checked in with Lufthansa, the ticketing agent was confused because our booking confirmation indicated that we would be arriving with a dog, yet there we were, without Tam. We were still in disbelief about the whole experience with Thai Airways. To confirm that there wasn’t an issue with Lufthansa we inquired with the ticketing agent about weight / size limits and she told us that the issue was not with Lufthansa Airlines and they would have put Tam on our flight without any issues.

We received an email survey from Thai Airways after our trip was complete, but it certainly was not enough for us to convey our dissatisfaction with the situation. After some research on the Internet I managed to locate the email address for several Directors, including the Director of Customer Relations & Services Quality Department. On 2 January, I directed a lengthy email to three Directors at Thai Airways describing our experience. I also included details about Tam’s rescue as well as our involvement at the dog shelter in Chiang Mai. Several days later I received an email confirmation from Thai Airways Customer Relations Department that they were forwarded my email by the Director of Customer Relations & Services Quality Department and that they would be conducting an investigation into our situation.

On 10 January, I sent a follow-up email to the same Directors and the Customer Relations Department inquiring about our case. On 12 January I received an email from the Chief of the Customer Relations Service Department regarding the investigation that they completed on our case. In the Chief’s response, she acknowledges that Thai Airways Staff at Chiang Mai International Airport was in the wrong and should have accepted Tam on our flight, but she indicates that because we were given additional baggage allowance (as a gesture of goodwill) that there was nothing further Thai Airways would do for us.

My last email to Thai Airways was sent on Friday, 12 January and was directed to the Customer Relations Department, the Chief, (2) Directors and (2) Vice Presidents. In it I expressed that while we appreciated the gesture, including the additional bags was a soft cost to Thai Airways and that I would have gladly left behind our excess bags in exchange for Tam. I also highlighted that bringing Tam on our flight as excess baggage was the most critical part of our decision in selecting Thai Airways. As of Thursday, 18 January, I have not had a response from anyone at Thai Airways, nothing, zero, zip, zilch, nada.

Sleeping beauty

Everything in our bags could be replaced, but there is a void in our lives right now because Tam is not with us. The part that really chaps my ass is that this wasn’t a failure of just a single ticketing agent at Thai Airways, this was also a failure of the Supervisor, the Duty Manager, and whomever the ticketing agent spoke to in Bangkok. Quite honestly, I think the Supervisor and the Duty Manager were more concerned with not “losing face” than they were with trying to properly address our issue. Any Manager with a modicum of customer relations skills (especially for an organization with 20,000 employees world-wide)  would make absolutely sure that when they have 2 customers standing at their counter, in tears, that they were 100% correct about their policies and procedures. That just wasn’t the case with Thai Airways management team.

3 weeks after our flights and several emails later it’s clear to me that Thai Airways, is not interested in doing what is right, they are only interested in the bottom line. I have not written this just to give caution to anyone considering traveling with a pet on Thai Airways, but to highlight that if you have any issues during your travels with Thai Airways, don’t expect much in the way of customer service, you can forget about the “service” or “relations” part. Don’t be fooled by the Thai Smile, it’s an empty marketing gimmick. (As of 22 January, Thai Airways has not responded to my email on 12 January)

If you know someone traveling to or from Thailand, especially anyone traveling with a pet, please feel free to share this with them. If I can help someone else avoid this kind of travel debacle (and heartache), then it’s worth the time to have written this.


Rice Festival @ Yafu Village

We were recently invited to Chiang Rai to celebrate the Rice Festival with a couple of the local hill-tribes and … WOW … what an incredible experience. We were only in the hills for a day but I’m still having difficulties gathering all of my thoughts. It was definitely one of those experiences that really puts life in perspective.

A panoramic view from our host’s balcony. The outhouse / shower is the small structure on the far right.




For anyone that may have the opportunity to experience a journey up the mountainside on a motorbike, it’s not for the faint of heart. We spent about 45 minutes to an hour on steep, unpaved roads that have been rutted and carved out by heavy rains. I made the mistake of not testing the brakes and suspension thoroughly on the motorbike prior to our journey and as you’ll see in the video, we had a minor spill coming down the following day.

We spoiled these two as much as we could.

Unless you were brought up on a farm it’s not too often that one gets to see pigs, dogs, cats, chickens, and even a Canadian Geese cohabiting in harmony, interacting, setting boundaries, even expressing affection with each other.

There’s no detachment from the food supply here. Several of the chickens and even one of the pigs that we saw foraging for food, just hours later provided several hearty meals during our stay and I gotta say that I had some of the best barbecued pork I’ve ever had. All of the vegetables were grown in the common areas of the village or surrounding hills and nothing went to waste. Anything we didn’t eat or use was quickly eaten by the dogs, cats, chickens and lastly the pigs. It was quite the experience to see the full circle of life. Here’s a little video of our food being prepared.

The only electrical power in the village was derived from small solar panels connected to each dwelling and the water was pumped from a local mountain spring. There was no door on the outhouse and for whatever reason the piglets seemed  to enjoy interrupting whoever was currently taking care of business at the time. There were no beds, we slept on the floor but I have to say, bamboo is incredibly forgiving and my back felt better after a night on the floor than it has on any of the “therapeutic” beds I’ve slept on in the last 10 years.

Most people from the west might consider these living conditions rather primitive yet what they lacked in the way of possessions they made up for with creativity, ingenuity and a genuine sense of community.



Care for Dogs

For the last 6 – 8 weeks we’ve been volunteering at a local dog rescue / shelter called Care for Dogs. Most of the 180 dogs here at the shelter are soi dogs that have been injured in some form, (usually accidental but often from neglect or outright abuse) including quite a few that have been rescued from the dog meat trade (yes the dog meat trade but that’s a different topic entirely).

Care for Dogs operates primarily from the blood, sweat and tears and the tireless efforts of a number of (mostly) volunteers dedicated to helping our four legged friends receive medical care AND find a new home. Care for Dogs is also committed to conducting a regular number of sterilizations each month to address the dog overpopulation issue here in Thailand.

If you come for a stay, you can expect to join us for a day of dog walking … so be sure to bring your walking shoes. Of course there are other ways you can help …. and yep that means cash. Providing food, shelter and medical care for 180 plus dogs is not cheap and Care for Dogs relies entirely on donations from people like you and I. Thailand is not exactly a thriving economic center and without the exposure to foreigners willing to donate to the shelter, I’m afraid that the center would not survive. We recently picked up a couple of leashes, collars and grooming supplies and it all cost about the same as they would in the US so even if someone wanted to send a “care package” in lieu of cash it would be put to good use.

If you are really feeling especially gratuitous you can sponsor a dog. Here’s just a few of the dogs we walk …

This is Fritz and Jones. Fritz is blind in both eyes but as you can see he’s a healthy boy. Unfortunately, he’s a bit too heavy to be carried out of the enclosure by most of the volunteers so he doesn’t get walked as much as he should. He’s a gentle boy who loves being brushed and cuddled with. Jones is a big boy too and he’s definitely the top dog in his little corner of the yard but his bark is much bigger than his bite.  Frankly, I think he’d spend all day licking the sweat off if I allowed him to.

This is Penny (left) and Tam (right). Tam and 3 of Penny’s offspring are segregated from the main yard because they don’t play well with other dogs. Penny has a cage all to herself because, well, her junk brings all the boys to the yard. Tam has become one of my wife’s favorites to walk and if we find ourselves in a position to foster / adopt, Tam will definitely come with us. Surprisingly (given her reputation), Penny has been a joy to walk, she doesn’t pull, listens quite well, and she even takes treats like a lady.

These 2 beautiful sisters were recently “found” wandering the parking lot at the local mall (coincidentally there was an adoption event going on the same day). This is the first I have seen of German Shepherds in Thailand so my guess is that they were brought in by foreigners, then ditched for whatever reason. Never the less, these 2 girls can’t be more than 2 or 3 years old and they are still quite playful. I don’t think that they have been walked on leash much and they tend to weave but I think that will be easy to overcome with a little persistence. We encountered a few soi dogs while we were walking the other day and they definitely got agitated but never got too aggressive. These 2 girls are not soi dogs and don’t belong in a shelter and I’d be heartbroken if they were broken up so I am hoping they find a good home together soon.
Rick the prick, Lulu the lap dog, and my bud Fritzi. Lulu is a very jealous dog but when she is getting attention she is all love. Rick is a social young male that loves attention but tends to bark at the other dogs when they get in the way of his human time.

Here’s just a few more that need YOUR SUPPORT.

To learn more, please visit the Care for Dogs website at and be sure to add them on Facebook.

Care for Dogs

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Care for Dogs 18.717037, 98.908242

Doi Inthanon

We finally made the ride up to Doi Inthanon, Thailand’s tallest mountain at 2,535 m (just over 8,000′) . This was by far the longest ride we’ve done on the motorbike (as evidenced by the nasty sunburns we are both dealing with at the moment) at just over 2 hours in each direction (a bit more than 100km). We managed to stop and take a couple breaks on the way up to Doi Inthanon but weren’t so fortunate on the ride home (more on that in a minute). Admission for farangs is 300 THB per person and 20 THB for a motorbike, definitely one of the more expensive sites in Thailand but well worth it.

As we experienced on the way up to Doi Suthep, the temperatures start dropping as the elevation increases and Doi Inthanon is no exception. The weather at the top couldn’t have been more perfect in my opinion, although my head got a little toasty just from walking around the gardens. The temperature difference is so noticeable it felt like we were riding into an oven as we descended the mountain back in to the valley. We were also very fortunate that there was little traffic headed up or down the mountain (which seemed incredibly odd for a weekend).

I believe there’s 6 or 7 total waterfalls to see along the road up to Doi Inthanon and we had originally planned to see 1 or 2 on the way up and several on the way down but we had some mechanical issues with the rear brakes which distracted us from pretty much everything else at the time (not to mention the rain that was headed right toward us). Luckily we stopped at this waterfall on the way up and managed to take a few pictures and cool off in the mist.

It’s a short but steep and windy road down but our 125cc made it up without any issues. There’s also a café and restrooms for visitors.

We intended on stopping at a number of temples we saw along the side of the road on the way home, however that ominous rain cloud, that is visible in a few of the pictures, chased us home with our tail between our legs. Fortunately, we managed to stop at Wat Namtok Mae Klang just before getting to the first checkpoint headed into Doi Inthanon National Park (the last 3 pictures in this group are from a different temple that we stopped at briefly).

Just having fun with panoramic pictures.

This day trip was definitely a highlight for me and in spite of the crazy winds, rain and mechanical issues with our scooter, I’d do it all over again. It would have been nice to make a couple extra stops along the way home but I left my weather modification device in the US …… haha (kinda).

That awkward moment

I’ve probably had upwards of 50 or so massages since we arrived in Thailand and while I’ve had a few mediocre massages, I can’t say that I’ve ever felt awkward (not even when the ladyboy masseuse got caught checking out my package). Last night was the exception.

We got really spoiled at Pai Massage in Chiang Rai and we’ve been hoping to find a similar shop close to our new place. We’ve tried 3 or 4 different places since we’ve been back and finally had a pretty decent foot massage at a new shop a few kilometres down the road.

I tweaked my back playing badminton yesterday so I figured it was a great time to try an oil massage. I headed down late yesterday evening hoping for a relaxing massage before bed. Well, before I even got undressed the masseuse started calling me “sexy man” in her broken English. In and of itself I wouldn’t mind (who doesn’t enjoy a little flattery) but every time she said it, she followed it up with a loud slurping sound and would say something in Thai. It was perhaps the only time since we’ve arrived that I was glad I didn’t speak the language. Ever have one a nervous laughs? Last night was my time. Did I mention the massage was bad too? Fortunately, it’s not much of a loss when the massage was only $9.

3 down, 297 to go

It was a beautiful day and we haven’t done much exploring of the temples in Chiang Mai since we’ve been back …. no better time than the present.

It’s amazing that some of these buildings are still standing. I wish I could go way back in time a few hundred years to see what life was like in this area.

Wat Lok Molee

Wat Chiang Yuen

Wat Chedi Luang Worawihan

One of those funny little moments

My wife and I are both creatures of habit, when we find something we like we tend to stick with it and that has definitely been the case with food in Thailand. One thing that I really miss about Chiang Rai is our favorite spot for Khao Soi. Since we’ve arrived back in Chiang Mai we have been making it a point to try new spots. Unfortunately, we’ve tried 3 different spots for Khao Soi since we’ve been back (plus an old favorite) and none of them come close to satisfying our taste buds for this Northern Thai specialty. khao-soy

We ventured out this evening to try and find some Khao Soi at one of the small, local shops in the area. Since we can’t read the signs we look for pictures as we drive down the street. We pulled off to stop at one restaurant this evening and I said “kao soi” with an inquisitive look on my face, to the woman who greeted  us at the curb. She gave me an affirmative nod and we plotted our butts down on the small wooden stools in the ‘dining area’.

When the woman arrived to take our order, we said “kao soi” but the she kept asking if we wanted fried rice or something else. We finally agreed on Som Tom (mostly due to her persistence) which is a spicy papaya salad and left it at that since we were planning on a late dinner. They bring out 2 small cups of white rice followed up by our Som Tom shortly thereafter. We thought it odd that they brought out 2 cups of rice but we figured it was just something they did. We finished up the Som Tom, (mouths on fire)  and another 10 minutes goes by and still no Khao Soi. I figure either they don’t like farangs or perhaps there was something funny about our order. Sure enough, in Thai, the difference between rice and our favorite coconut curry dish is the duration in the pronunciation of “soi”. After a collective effort and quite a laugh in the restaurant, we realized that they didn’t offer Khao Soi at this particular restaurant.

We stopped at another restaurant a few doors down and struck out again, but they did have a yummy Khra Pao and the owner got a kick out of our Khao Soi story, so our adventure was not a total loss.

Just another day in Thailand.


Durian fruit … finally

Sooooooooo we finally decided to try a Durian fruit. Besides being quite expensive (approx. $10 USD for 4 servings) Durian’s are notorious for their odor. Apparently they can smell so bad they are banned in many hotels and other similar venues, like NO ADMITTANCE kinda stinky. Fortunately, we didn’t let it sit long enough for the odor to get bad, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I am still a bit intrigued at how bad they can really get.

It’s definitely an unusual fruit, the texture was a bit like a soft banana crossed with a light mousse and the flavor was even more strange. There were hints of pineapple, apple, and banana and while it took a while to grow on me, I’m quite the fan now. And apparently, they are incredibly nutritious.

Goodbye Chiang Rai

Just 2 more nights to go then we are heading back to Chiang Mai.

There is a lot of love about Chiang Rai, it has the small city feeling that we had back home in Washington, there’s plenty of beautiful temples, outdoor activities and sights around the area to see but (and no offense to some of our new friends) Chiang Rai feels a bit like Leisure World. I think we’ve seen almost everything that Chiang Rai has to offer, in fact I think we covered almost everything in the first month or two that we were here. Perhaps we should have spread our explorations of the area out a little more but we wanted to see as much as we possibly could. I just didn’t think we’d run out of things to see so fast and unfortunately, we can’t fabricate an active social life out of “good intentions”. The bustling expat community and social activities in Chiang Mai are hard to beat.

The weather from November – February was just incredible, if I had to guess it’s among the best in the country, maybe the world during that time of the year. Mornings were in the mid 50’s with highs in the afternoon in the upper 80’s AND NO RAIN!!! After 50+ inches of rain in WA. the previous year with barely 8 hours of daylight in December, we felt like we were in heaven. Believe it or not we even wore jackets on a number of trips out at night on the motorbike.

Unfortunately, we were amazed (more like dismayed) at how bad the smoke was from the annual burning that began in late February. Many days it looked like the valley floor was blanketed in fog and to say it was gloomy is an understatement. We barely saw the sun for a couple of weeks. But, now that we’ve experienced our first smokey season, we’ll definitely take advantage of that time to travel next year. And, as the temps have started to rise, we’ve become acutely aware at how necessary a good air-con is and unfortunately, the living room in the house we are renting doesn’t have a/c. With floor to ceiling glass, it’s become unbearably hot during the day. All fun little lessons during our first year in Thailand.

For anyone that is interested, Chiang Rai definitely offers a more authentic Thai experience than some of the other popular cities in Thailand. English is not nearly as prevalent here (not that I expect people to speak English) and we’ve picked up far more Thai expressions than we did in Chiang Mai but I’ve gone days without speaking a full sentence in English. I’ve even started using ‘kop’ with my wife purely out of habit. I will say, there’s a certain solitude to not speaking the native language, and I’ve learned to adapt by using gestures, and non-verbal forms of communicating and when it just doesn’t go right, I smile and say thank you. It’s humbling (liberating kinda) to learn how unimportant you really are when you realize that bitching and complaining about things is fruitless BECAUSE no one understands you anyway.

We also discovered the best massage place, check out my notes about Pai Massage on our Local Favorites page. We said goodbye after one last good foot massage this afternoon. We enjoyed them so much, I think we’ve had 2 massages a week since we arrived ( 30 – 40 in total probably). Our quality of life has definitely improved in Thailand, no doubt about it.

Lastly, we’ve missed the food variety that Chiang Mai offers. We love Thai food, don’t get me wrong, but being from the west (and quite spoiled) we prefer a little more variety than Chiang Rai has to offer. We tried Mexican one night and when we ordered the nachos, the woman brought out microwaved Nacho Cheese Doritos and I believe it was Pace Picante Salsa. Jamie and I got a good chuckle out of it no less but you can’t do that to a guy that grew up in Southern California. I don’t know what the Thai’s think of OR would think of legitimate Mexican food, but it might be a great opportunity for someone looking for a small business to setup (there’s tons of fresh chicken, hot chiles grow incredibly well here, there’s plenty of corn for fresh tortillas, avocados to top em off, setup a small cart down by the school and voila). It’s possible to get a decent burger and even a pizza but like most farang food, they just aren’t the same caliber that you can find in Chiang Mai.

We are unfortunately having a bit of an issue with our landlord but I’m going to wait and see how our departure goes before I blog about that part of our Chiang Rai experience. The whole situation may have spurred a new business idea anyway, so stay tuned.

Our new lives abroad