A Travellerspoint blog

Thailand

The bridge over the river Kwai

Or the story of how I got brave on the back of a scooter

sunny 34 °C
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The best way to see the sights around Kanchanaburi is by scooter: most sites are outside of the city and the distances between them are reasonable. So we decided to rent one (Gege got an international drivers license before we left) and I had the dubious pleasure of taking the backseat. Now, for all of you who have never been on the back of a scooter doing 40 to 50 km/h before: it’s terrifying, ok? Especially since Gege hadn’t driven a scooter in quite some time, so it was all a little wobbly in the beginning. We got the hang of it during the day, though, and before lunch, I was filming from the back of the scooter 0_0.

Link to YouTube.

First stop was Tham Khao Poon, a cave wat. It was quite narrow and small and all, but thankfully my claustrophobia didn’t really bother me. Probably because the narrow parts were short and followed by big caves.
The Buddha images didn’t impress us much; for one because they are not spectacular to begin with, but also, because we’ve seen so many Buddha’s by now, they just make us eye roll. The caves themselves more than made up for it though. There were huge stalagmites and stalactites and we even saw some bats. Apart from that, the humidity inside must have been nearing 100% and it wasn’t so deep that it was actually cool, so we were quite sweaty and panting by the time we climbed back out.

Not always very wide

Not always very wide


Or high

Or high

There was supposed to be a mountain Wat not too far from the caves, so we tried our best to navigate that way. We had a map – that didn’t quite show all the roads correctly - but the signposts are either in Thai or not very clear, so in the end, we missed it. After a long drive we passed them, but never found the entrance. We did find Wat Ban Tham on our way and tried to get a picture of the stairs that go up the mountain. It’s a huge dragon, coming down the mountain and the stairs eventually lead into its mouth and through its body, up into the Wat. It looked a little Chinese to be honest, but that’s possibly simply because I associate dragons with China.

Dragon in the mountain

Dragon in the mountain

On our long way back down – looking for the boat restaurants – we missed our exit and landed square in front of the Thailand-Burma Railway Centre. It was signposted far les exuberantly than the Mea Klong Dam we crossed to get here, but – as it turned out – far more impressive.
The Thailand-Burma Railway Centre is a museum about the thing that made this area infamous: the Death Railway. If that doesn’t ring a bell, it’s the railway that runs over the bridge over the river Kwai (pronounce the ai like ua in square, not the way the movie taught you, they fucked it up there). The museum is very well done and has lots of information about the PoW’s, the camps and the railway. In short, they worked too long, in terrible circumstances, with little or no food and slept in sickness ridden camps. But what made it most impressive to me, was the possessions and letters they showed of the PoW’s. I find it hard to describe the gut wrenching feeling you get when you read a letter PoW this-and-that received from his 4-year old daughter in which she explains that she’s been very brave, because she’s lost a tooth and didn’t even cry. And then asks ‘What are you doing, daddy? I thought and thought about it. What are you doing?’. The last sentence on the display was that the PoW died of beriberi two weeks after receiving this letter.

I spent quite some time in the museum and because we couldn’t find the boat restaurants in the end, we had a very late lunch, 16.12 h. late. We figured we couldn’t leave here without seeing the bridge over the river Kwai. Not because it’s that impressive, it’s a bridge, after all. But because it’s so famous. It was mostly a ‘we are here now, let’s go and see it’ kind of deal. Well, it was indeed unimpressive and full of tourists, but we have seen it, walked on it, even.

Bridge over the river Kwai

Bridge over the river Kwai


Together on the bridge

Together on the bridge

Back at the hostel we met a nice couple, she was from Spain, he from Columbia, both studying in London. And we revisited the night market with them. We left them there to enjoy it, but for us the bus to Erawan National Park would leave at 8 the next morning, so we wanted to get some sleep.

Posted by DanaGege 11:05 Archived in Thailand Tagged the thailand river bridge sights asia over kanchanaburi kwhea Comments (0)

Travelling day

And no fighting

sunny 34 °C
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We slept wonderful, thanks to air-conditioning with a remote control, so we were up nice and early and visited the National Museum of Ayutthaya. I don’t remember the full name of the museum, but trust me, it was named after a king and full of Buddha’s. It was a short visit, which left us time to see the fighting show of ancient Ayutthaya fighting style. Unfortunately, these shows are only held in the high season. Teaches us for coming when everything’s cheap ;).

That left us with little else to do than go back to the hostel, pack our stuff and say goodbye to our very friendly and largely toothless hostess. We said goodbye to Tony’s as well with an early lunch and got onto the bus to Kanchanaburi.

Upon arrival there, we tried a few hostel, but quickly ended up back at the first try. Dinner at The Hut was nice, but nothing special. The nightmarket was great fun though. Very atmospheric and busy, it was lots of fun to just walk around. Although – admittedly – the amount of great and strange sweets and other foods that were available for very friendly prices, probably had something to do with that as well.

Assorted foods on the nightmarket

Assorted foods on the nightmarket

Sweets at the nightmarket

Sweets at the nightmarket

Yellow watermelon

Yellow watermelon

Posted by DanaGege 21:25 Archived in Thailand Tagged food market thailand asia kanchanaburi Comments (0)

Ruined Wats

So many Tomb Raider levels

overcast 32 °C
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Our first night in Ayuthaya was not entirely restful: we could either turn the air-conditioning on – which made the room decidedly too cold – or off – which meant melting away. So we went to sleep with the airco on, woke up because we were freezing and turned it off, woke up again because we were melting and turned the airco back on, woke up because we were freezing etc. When we went to the reception the next morning to ask for the remote control (so we could set the temperature ourselves) we were offered a blanket. So, we decided to pack, check out and see about the hostel we saw on hostelworld before coming to Ayuthaya.

Unfortunately, that took us 30 mins of walking with two backpacks each and we were in sort of a hurry, because rain had been predicted for the afternoon and we wanted to get some Wats in before being forced inside.

So we dumped the backpacks, rented two very small bikes (the Thai are one of the smallest people in the world, the Dutch one of the tallest, you do the math) and cycled around the Wats in old town. The good museums were closed today, but oh well.

BIG bikes for rent

BIG bikes for rent

And here’s where I have to admit I’m a child of my time, possible poisoned by my time. You see, I know very little of Buddhism and nothing of Wats, so looking at their ruins, I can’t form an impression of what it would’ve looked like or what it would’ve been used for exactly. What I do see? Uncountable Tomb Raider levels. I see that Lara would climb to the top of this Prang, to find a way down and inside to get to the treasure chamber. Or, if I were playing TR, I’d have Lara crawl in here and there would be the ‘treasure sound’ and some ammo or a health pack. Or, if this were a TR level, there would be a pond right there with an underground passage into the temple complex. So yeah, my mind was corrupted by videogames. Still made for an awesome sightseeing tour. Plus, fic inspiration, which is never bad.

Centuries old and still impressive

Centuries old and still impressive


Laterite on sandstone

Laterite on sandstone

Around the fifth Wat it really started to rain though. Not the slight drizzle we’ve had earlier, but full out rain. So we hid somewhere under a pagoda with a bunch of Thai and sat it out, playing Angry Birds. It didn’t take more than 10 minutes I think, plus, it made the weather that much better (read, lots cooler). So we got back onto our bikes and attacked the 30 min trip to yet another Wat, outside the city.

Some short remarks about Thai traffic:
- There are more scooters on the road here than I’ve ever seen together in all my life;
- Thais drive on the left side of the road… mostly;
- Pedestrian crossings do appear but are happily ignored, the way to cross a street that has anywere from one to four lanes is thus: walk as far onto the street as possible without being overrun, wait for a gap, move forward, wait for a gap, move forward etc. I remember a computer game like this: Frogger. I wasn’t very good at it :S;
- Because of some weird tax advantage most cars here are pick ups;
- The best translation I can give you for the rules as to who has the right of way is: if you’re bigger and faster, you have the right of way.

That said, the last Wat really wasn’t worth the 30 bike ride, but oh well.

Posted by DanaGege 21:14 Archived in Thailand Tagged traffic thailand ayutthaya asia Comments (2)

Partying with the animals

And meeting elephants for the first time

semi-overcast 30 °C
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This Monday was Gege’s birthday, but unfortunately, we didn’t really have time to do something special, because we were leaving for Ayutthaya later in the day. We did manage to visit Dusit park and zoo in the morning, though.

It wasn’t too big, so manageable in a morning and it was rather nice. Upon arrival we were visited by the nastiest creepy crawly we’ve seen so far. A huge centipede – and when I say huge, I do mean huge – lazily came walking from between my feet when I was applying sunscreen. Let’s just say that I have the right to scream like a girl.

Creepy crawly

Creepy crawly


And this is where it came from

And this is where it came from

We didn’t like the aquarium; it was simply cruel and heartbreaking to see so many fish in such small boxes. There was an aquarium no larger than the average backyard swimming pool with at least 40 nurse sharks and a ray in it. So we went out quickly.

The snake cave was a lot better. They had many types of snakes, a lot of them indigenous to the area, and the terrariums were large and well done.

In other news, we felt less warm, even though it was supposed to be one of the warmest days so far.

We got lucky at the meerkats, as they were being fed just as we walked up. Tried to make a movie of it, but since we put the battery back the wrong way around after charging, there was some confusion. I am certain I taped the washing of the elephants after their show, though. (We didn’t see the show, it ended just as we came to the ring).

Meerkat lookout

Meerkat lookout


Elephant bath

Elephant bath

Here's the video I made (finally):
Link to YouTube.


After we had seen everything in the zoo, we went back to the hostel to pick up our bags and set out for Ayutthaya. Once there it took some time to find a hostel. Not because there were no rooms, but because they didn’t want to drop the price, even though it’s low season. Finally, we had dinner at Tony’s and did some shopping. We bought Gege a little birthday cake, to have some sort of celebration after all.

Gege's birthday cake

Gege's birthday cake

Time spent in Asia: 4 days
Sights seen: 8
Travel time: 16 hours

Posted by DanaGege 20:05 Archived in Thailand Tagged nature park thailand zoo bangkok ayuthaya asia dusit Comments (1)

Floating shopping

Or bumper boats

sunny 34 °C
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We had to get up early on Sunday; the bus to the floating market would pick us up at 7:30, so for one day, breakfast in the hostel was served at 7 for us, instead of 7:30.

Bein served breakfast at the Sivarin Guesthouse

Bein served breakfast at the Sivarin Guesthouse

It was very nice to have an air conditioned bus and the motorboat ride to the floating market was refreshing due to the wind and water. But when I say motorboat, don’t misunderstand. It’s a boat (rather long and narrow and riding low in the water) with a motor on a long stick (they steer by moving the stick from left to right), hence motor boat. They go with reasonable speed on the narrow canals, so the wake is significant and sometimes the boats jump over each other’s waves (which makes some Chinese tourist squeak in your ear *g*).

Life along a canal

Life along a canal


House along the water

House along the water



We took a peddle boat around the floating market. Not cheap, but sites is not what we want to save money on, besides, 150 Baht is still peanuts (1 euro = around 40 Baht). I’m glad we decided to take the boat, because – even though it was rather warm – the experience is not the same from the waterfront. The canals are lined with boats that sell stuff, from groceries to tourist crap (mostly tourist crap) and when you’re paddled past, they stick out their hook on a stick and pull you up next to their boat, so you can ‘peruse the wares’. Besides that, there are literal peddlers: smaller peddle boats from which the Thai sell hats, fruit and even wok a meal for you (as the guide said, you can eat on the boat, drink on the boat, but you cannot sleep on the boat). Now imagine the size of an already narrow channel halved by the boats lining it on both sides, full of tourist boats and add the dozens of salesboats and you can imagine that it’s full. We met several traffic jams on the water, at which point a game of ‘bumper boat’ ensues. The skippers gently bump their boats into that of the person next to them and keep peddling, pushing each other out of the way.

Meals being prepared on the boats

Meals being prepared on the boats


Floating fruit

Floating fruit

Link to You Tube.

Once back on shore, we tried kannom krok, a traditional Thai breakfast. It mostly tastes of coconut and is very sweet, but it really wasn’t bad. For my Dutch family and friends, they look like two ‘poffertjes’ stacked on top of each other with the flat side touching. They come filled with pumpkin, spring onion or corn (they like sweet corn here, KFC sells it in an ice cream, imagine a McSundae with corn instead of caramel, weird huh?).

Kannom Krok, a traditional Thai sweet breakfast or desert

Kannom Krok, a traditional Thai sweet breakfast or desert

After this experience, we got the chance to go to a snake farm, but since lonely planet warned that those are turned into circus spectacles where the keepers ‘fight’ with the snakes, we opted out and went back to Bangkok.

The long ride back to the city left us Hungry, so we grabbed a bite in Kaosan road. It was good, but nothing special, but since Kaoson is the backpacker’s street, it was rather expensive. By that I mean 120 Baht, instead of the 50 we paid the day before.

After lunch we climbed the Golden Mountain. Now that sounds impressive, but it’s really not much more than stairs with an attitude. It gave us a nice view over Bangkok however. Also the weird spectacle of a big assortment of laundry lines, full of money.

Money laundring

Money laundring

Stairway encounter

Stairway encounter


View from the Golden Mountain

View from the Golden Mountain

Wat Pho and Wat Arun came next. Wat Pho boasts the largest reclining Buddha in the country: 46 meters long and 16 meters high. It was large and it was a Buddha, that's about all you can say about it. I will let the pictures speak for themselves.

Collection of Prangs

Collection of Prangs


Reclining Buddha

Reclining Buddha

46 meters oong

46 meters oong


Me, making Europeans proud <img class='img' src='https://tp.daa.ms/img/emoticons/icon_wink.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=';)' title='' />

Me, making Europeans proud ;)

At Wat Arun, we had a ‘Italian softdrink’, which turned out to be syrup (in our case kiwi flavoured) soda and a whole lot of ice. Ice, made from the local tap water. We decided to be brave (or stupid, but warm) and just drink it and hope for the best.

On the boat back to our side of town, we were treated to a gorgeous sunset.

River sunset

River sunset

After a very nice Japanese noodle soup with roasted pork and a stop at the 7/11 it was time to realize that it can’t be vacation forever: I did the laundry.

Time spent in Asia: 3 days
Number of sights seen: 7

Posted by DanaGege 20:42 Archived in Thailand Tagged mountain market thailand bangkok golden floating wat asia Comments (0)

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