It’s day five and I’ve still not slept for more than three hours due to jet lag. I can’t eat and I’m literally starting to see things out the corner of my eyes. I’ve spent half the night researching ways to counteract jet lag, to no avail. Today is the day I need the most energy, but I’m about as energetic as a snail. I also look like a snail with my backpack and front pack on as I walk in the humidity to Bangkok Southern Bus Station, however the show must go on and I’m so excited to see this beautiful river town I’ve heard so much about.
The food at the station looks slightly suspicious so we go to all backpackers favourite shop, 7-Eleven, for raisin bread and lassie. We then pay the guy at the ticket stand for bus No. 81. I see a nice modern coach go by a few times with No. 81 written on it, so I’m thinking we’re getting a bus with comfy seats, plenty of room and air conditioning. Whilst we’re waiting, I’m starting to need the loo but I don’t have three Baht in change to use for the restroom. I tell myself, I’ll use the toilet on the coach. A few minutes later a small mini van turns up. I’m wondering why it’s in the No. 81 lane, concerned our coach won’t have enough room to drive in. My partner shouts to me, “bring the luggage, it’s here”. Oh God no. There is now no time to go to the loo and there’s difinitely no loo in the mini van. We are pushed to the back of the van with a local man and ALL of our luggage. There is literally no room to move, not even a millimetre, and we stay in the same cramped position for over two hours as our driver stops to pick up and drop off random packages on the way. We discuss the possibility of me weeing into a bottle with no one noticing but I decide I’m not ready to go there just yet…
We finally get off at Kanchanaburi and I use my first squat toilet on this trip and it’s the best thing ever. I haggle for a taxi and soon we are on the back of an open air truck, taking in the sights and shiny green banana trees as we head to Bluestar Guesthouse. It’s cheap and our wooden bungalow sits on stilts over a swamp floating on the beautiful river Kwai. There is an outside porch and at night you can hear the fish jump. That evening we head down to the famous bridge over the River Kwai, soak up the atmosphere of the market then discuss the famous movie over a coconut curry.
The next day we decide our best way to see the surrounding area is to rent a bike. We rent a scooter and helmets from Yanee Bike rental shop. Tim had driven a scooter before but many years ago so he decides to have a few practice drives before I get on. We visited the World War Two Museum learning about how the prisoners of war were forced to build the bridge over the River Kwai under Japanese instruction, so weapons could be transported between Burma and Thailand. The bridge was eventually blown up and has since been rebuilt, although part of the original bridge remains. We also visited the cemetery for the prisoners of war. It was so sad to see how young these men were when they died. We got out of the town as soon as we could to avoid road traffic and then had an exciting drive through the surrounding scenery whizzing by chasing dogs, village life, children, farmers, rice fields and a swampy lily pond.
The following day we needed to cool off as the humidity had reached its peak. I had read about the beauty of Erawan National Park as it hosts seven waterfalls that you can hike to, and then swim in. We took a side cage taxi to the bus stop for the park. On the way, we saw the bus had driven past the bus stop even though we were early. “No problem”, said our taxi driver, who then chased the bus down like a mad man waving at him to pull over. The bus stopped and we jumped on, sitting on the floor amongst fifty or so passengers as the ticket collector clung on to the open door. I got chatting to two Thai students girls who told me about their love of dancing and red lipstick. Erawan Park was prettty and the hike only took two hours. The waterfalls were refreshing and cheeky macaque monkeys watched us swim amongst the shimmering dragonflies.
That evening we were lucky enough to meet a Dutch couple with a penchant for travel, partying and dentistry. We all went for curry then watched local Thais in their twenties, wearing denim and black band t-shirts, jamming music in the street. They’re videoing us videoing them, as we all dance and laugh like crazy. They give us homemade rum and we watch as one of guys, with huge hair, continually throws himself onto the band members, their guitars and drum kit. Somehow the band never misses a beat. Everyone is howling with laughter. The singer’s microphone is hanging from a fan and someone intervenes when the enthusiastic fan goes for the microphone. As we all head back to our guesthouse, the band rides past on black bikes and cars, with the enthusiastic fan clinging to the bonnet of the car, his hair and eyes huge and wild, like something out of a Mad Max movie. That night I finally managed to sleep. It must have been the rum.
To read more about my travel experiences in Thailand click on the following articles: