Kanchanaburi - Elephants, Waterfalls, Rafts etc

Trip Start May 13, 2007
Trip End Jul 26, 2007

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Saturday, May 19, 2007

Well, my bus journey to Kanchanaburi was relatively uneventful.  I got a first class, air-conditioned bus for little more than 1 pound for a 2 hour journey.  We were even given free bottles of water for the journey - beats National Express any day.  The scenery was beautiful, but I ended up sleeping most of the way because I hadn't gone to sleep until 1.30am and woke up at 7.

On getting off the bus in Kanchanaburi, I realised my guesthouse and the town centre were quite far away, so I decided to look around for a taxi, apparently such things don't exist out here, what they have instead is something which resemble a rickshaw.  A man on a bike with a little sheltered seat on the back for passengers.  I felt so mean getting in with my huge, heavy rucksack and him having to pedal 2 miles in the sweltering heat to the guesthouse!  He didn't even break a sweat or seem out of breath though!

My guesthouse, Pong Phen (www.pongphen.com) is really nice, I have my own little bungalow right on the river with a little veranda at the front with a table and chair - all for less than 2 pound per night!  the guesthouse also has a bar which shows films every night.

I arrived midday, so had a shower and something to eat at the guesthouse and headed straight out into town.  Not really knowing much about the history of the bridge on the river Kwai and the death Railway, I visited the memorial museum first.  It was really moving, I hadn't realised that over 100,000 prisoners of war had died building the railway in forced Japanese labour camps.  Thousands of them were British.  From there I visited the Allied Cemetery where all the soldiers were buried after the war when their bodies were recovered.  Its quite a macabre sight, rows of graves in every direction, many of them unknown.  To counteract the depressing day, I booked onto a tour for the next day to go elephant riding, trekking to a waterfall, bamboo rafting and on a train along the Death Railway, all for the princely sum of 15 pounds!  The evening was spend watching The 300 in the bar (it was crap!) then reading on my lovely veranda! 

I didn't sleep very well as I was afraid my alarm wouldn't go off and I would miss my 8am pick-up for my tour.  The situation wasn't helped by 2 geckos in my room who were making loud (what I assume to be) mating calls!  I never realised they could even make a noise!

I was joined on the tour by an Australian girl, a french couple an Argentinian girl and the typical couple of older, fat British man with young pretty Thai girl.  i've seen that a lot here, its sad for the girls, i think.  The man annoyed everyone else on the trip with the degrading way he spoke to his girlfriend all of the time, like she was stupid.  anyway, enough of me ranting!

First stop was the elephant camp, the bit I'd been most looking forward too!  The elephants were huge!  They put a seat on the back and me and Siany, the Australian girl got in, and the elephant trainer sat on its neck - I don't know how he kept his balance.  I don't know how I kept mine while the elephant lumbered around!  We were on it for about 45minutes and once you got used to the rhythm, it was actually quite relaxing.  We were taken through lush jungle and past a traditional tribal village then into the river, which made me a bit nervous!  I kept expecting the elephant to spray us with his trunk, but he didn't.  I was quite disappointed!  Alll in all though, I thourghly enjoyed it!

From there we were taken down to the river to our bamboo rafts.  On first sight, these didn't look tike they would support a small child, let alone 6 grown adults!  But, I was mistaken.  There were 5 of us to a raft and a thai man with a paddle at the front and off we went up the river.  It was very peaceful and relaxing and we went past some elephants that were bathing with their trainers.  The trip lasted and hour and while I enjoyed it, I was glad to get off as the seats were made of very hard wood and my bum was numb!

After that, it was back in the minibus to Erwan National Park, where we would be trekking up seven levels of the famous waterfalls there after having some lunch in a restaurant there.  the begining of the trek started out fine, it wasn't too steep and there was a clear path to follow and our guide was with us.  When we got to the second level, we all went for a swim in the pool at the bottom of the waterfall.  It was so refreshing, that is, until the fish started to bite!  It was mostly just little nips at your feet, but some of the bigger ones actually hurt!  It was a weird feeling!  Needless to say, I didn't stay in the water too long!  After the second level, our guide gave us a time to be back, and the group went off alone to the other levels, it was all clearly signposted though.  Everyone kind of split off and I was with Siany, the Australian girl.  The frther up the levels we got, the less clear and accessible the path became, so in some parts you almost had to climb!  It was worth it though.  The falls were absolutely stunning!

We were all feeling a bit tired by the end of this, but it was back into the minibus and off to a train station where we were loaded onto a very rickety old train and taken along the death railway to the bridge.  It is a quite unspectacular bridge, apart of course, for the tragic story behind it .  Then, at last it was time for home!  I was so knackered! 

I had a quick nap and a shower, then we'd all arranged to meet in a restaurant for drinks and something to eat.  It was nice to get to know everyone and I got to speak Spanish (which is getting rusty) with Annelli, the Argentinian girl!  So after food and a few beers I went off to bed, but again found it difficult to sleep, this time because of the heat.  oh, and I've realised why the beer is affecting me a lot more here that at home - turns out its 7%!

Today is going to be spend chilling out and looking around the town.  Tomorrow I'm leaving for Ayuthaya, the city of ruins.

Again, you can see all of the photos from Kanchanaburi (its takes too long to upload them to this site) at www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=21973&l=bb399&id=559965371
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