Day 253 to 259 – Thailand Part 5

unedited – this means we’ve typed them without reading or making any corrections to spelling or grammar – our apologies but no time this week

Day 253
Sunday 13th December
Rest Day Chiang Rai awaiting bus to Bangkok

We had a lazy chilled morning in the room as our bus to Bangkok was not leaving until 7.00pm.

To pass the time away we went to see the Black House which was an Arty Farty place outside of town. An eccentric artist had opened up his house to tourists, the entrance was fee, it was worth a visit but very strange. The man is obsessed with phallus shaped objects, dead animals especially sheep and meeting rooms. We didn’t stay long and got a local bus back to Chaing Rai and a tuk
tuk back to the shopping plaza next to our hotel. I had hoped to buy some clothes and possibly a new bra but we didn’t end up buying anything, it was all over priced so we went to the cinema instead. This was a multiplex inside the shopping centre, it had not been part of our plan but as we had time to kill it served a purpose. It was much cheaper than the cinema at home only costing £6.00 for both of us but the film was rubbish. We went to see Point Break which was a remake of an 80’s film, the original was better and that was rubbish too. Although the film was rubbish going to the cinema was an interesting experience, there were a lot of adverts but many of them public announcements about keeping the country clean etc and when the national anthem was played the cinema went quiet and everyone stood up, as a background to the anthem a series of pictures were displayed on the screen of the king and his family. The Thai people really seem to respect their King, which is just as well as we may have mentioned previously you can still be put in jail in Thailand for saying anything negative about the royals.

What I did notice whilst walking round the shopping plaza and sitting on the bus is that Thai people seem quite happy to openly pick their noses in public. They have a good route around and simply flick the contents on the floor, yukety yuk.

The bus to Bangkok was an overnight bus so we paid a little extra for a little bit of luxury, this included reclining seats with a massage function, extra leg room, DVD screen and choice of several movies and a waitress who came round periodically with goodies for you to enjoy. Security was especially high and the bus was stopped several times to allow the police to do spot checks on peoples ID’s and luggage, which was a little annoying but at least we were confident the bus was safe. The bus stopped at midnight to allow people a rest break, I was grateful for this as I had started to feel a little queazy, at one of the stands I purchased some milk of magnesium, at least I think that is what I purchased, it seemed to the job and I was able to sleep on and off until we arrived in Bangkok at 6.30am. Gary didn’t sleep as well but managed to watch several films instead.

Gary; So I laid my chair down to go to sleep and promptly felt the knees from the guy behind me in my back, then my shoulders and then he started to shove his feet under the chair so I could feel his size bloody nines sticking in my arse one cheek at a time, I was about to kick off when I realised at this stage that something odd was going on, then relaxed as the prods and pokes worked there way up my back again, I was not expecting a Massage chair.

Day 254
Monday 14th December

Arrives in Bangkok at 6.30am and had a stressful 10 mile cycle ride to our hotel (Gary I wasn’t stressed), once we arrived we were informed we could not check in until 2.00pm so we spent time getting to know China Town.

In the afternoon I had a snooze whilst Gary did some further exploring (Now I was getting stressed).

In the evening we went out for food to the local food market, our first stop was rubbish, my dinner looked like someone had delivered someone else left overs. As I was still hungry we went in search of more food and found an excellent stand selling fish and vegetables yum yum.

Gary was a little tired and stroppy (Gary; now I was really stressed) so we had an early night and both slept very well.

Gary; I found a local market selling tools and hard ware and all the good stuff, I even found a shop selling military style machine guns with hunting weapons, also knife shops which included samurai swords.
The markets in china town are endless, loads of narrow streets with a large array of goods. Lots of restaurants selling birds nest soup and also shark fin soup. We even managed to find a buddhist temple with live crocodiles in a fenced off water area.
Day 255
Tuesday 15th December

Early start so that we could get to the immigration office early. To get there we had to walk to Hua Lamphong train station, take a train to Laksi (which took about 1 hour) and a motorbike taxi, we were chilled and it was an enjoyable journey but a little annoying as it was only a mile or two from the bus station we had arrived at the morning before, hindsight is a wonderful thing.

Extending our visas was fairly pain free, the first part of the process was fairly quick but there was a bottle neck at the processing stage which meant people were waiting on average about an hour for their forms to be processed. This gave us plenty of time to people watch there were lots of western men of all ages with Thai women some with children in tow. There was one particular man who was very amusing, he was a large man who clearly had no dress sense what so ever, he had some blue elephant print baggy trousers on, with an hawaian shirt to top the outfit off he had a different coloured canvas bag over his shoulder. He had no self awareness at all and seemed totally unaware of people smiling at him as he walked up and down the aisle (Gary; Is she talking about me again?).
The other amusing pass time was listening to the poor trainees trying to pronounce people’s names to give them back their passports, I became Ginette with a ‘g’ as in gun and the last letter became an ‘a’ sound. You had to feel for them as there were people there from all over the world and I’m sure I wouldn’t have had a clue how to pronounce some of the names. Once we received our processed passports we repeated the journey back to our hotel.

In the afternoon we took a ferry boat to see Wat Phoo we had also hoped to see the Grand Palace and the Emerald Buddha but unfortunately both buildings closed at 3.30pm. As we were close to Khosan road the back packing end of Bangkok we decided to check this area of town out. As expected it was noisy, very lively with lots of shops, bars and cafes. We stopped for a couple of drinks and I even purchased a couple of new dresses for (£12) and caught the ferry back to China Town. As we had enjoyed dinner in the street market so much the previous night we went back for more and the food was just as good we had steamed squid in a pepper sauce, mix veg in a chilli and ginger sauce and some steamed rice it was all very good. The stall was very popular with tourists and locals as we ate our dinner we were aware of people waiting for tables and of people taking pictures of the flaming barbicue.

Bangkok has a lot to offer, we only scratched the surface and being in China Town it didn’t feel like another city visit, it felt really laid back, new and interesting definitely worth a visit, although like a lot of cities the drains were a little smelly.
Day 256
Bangkok to Kanchanaburi
Wednesday 16th December

Got to wear my new dress to do some sightseeing, which seemed like a good idea until I realised we were cycling to the Palace, not to be deterred I simply put on a pair of cycling shorts under my dress. I did get some funny looks, probably not the most appropriate dress choice for a touring bike.

The bike ride to the palace was about 2 miles the roads weren’t busy but we still had to navigate our way around a one way system to get there. I am really glad that we made time to go and see the palace and the emerald buddha both were amazing. It cost 300 baht each to get in and as we were short of time we didn’t pay for a guide or audio guide (which we would recommend). We had about an hour visiting the site but could easily have spent 2 or 3.

As we got back on our bikes to go to the train station a local police man took an interest in the bikes and kept touching my arm saying ‘so strong, so strong’,

We arrived at the train station with plenty of time to kill so sat in an outside cafe ordered a beer and talked to an English man who was also going to Kanbu*****. The train arrived early so we had plenty of time to load our bikes and bags and find a seat. The carriage had bench like seats on either side of the carriage, not the most comfortable thing to sit on for a 3 hour journey but there was plenty of leg room and stops so it was possible to get up and have a stretch. The bikes nearly cost as much as our fares at 80 baht each compared to our 100 baht fee (approx £2 each).

Once off the train we found our guest house with relative ease (although we did end up split up and had to search for each other for a short while), opted for a room with a fan, off loaded and went in search of food. We chose the first cafe we came to but there was plenty to choose from. As we were waiting for our food we spoke to a man from Cheltenham who had been visiting the area for 15 years. He pointed out a couple of bars that we should visit but informed us most were shut this evening as a respect for the fact that an old buddhist monk had died the previous year and was being cremated today.

We decided to take a wander and found a number of bars were still opened we had a drink in one and played a game of fuzz ball (table football) Gary thrashed me, I blame my rubbish hand which has a weak thumb, finger and wrist but it could be I’m just out of practice. There was a time I would kick his butt.

Day 257
Thursday 17th December
Kanchanaburi to Erawan Falls
approx 40 miles

Choosing a room with a fan was a mistake, it was a really hot night and I found it hard to sleep , so much so that eventually I slept in the spare single bed in the room. (Gary, to do this she woke me up and stole the sheet off the bed as well as the quilt – talk about a bed hog).

We were up fairly early and headed for the war museum, we had hoped to have breakfast on route but the hotel was much closer than we thought so did the input bit first. The museum was interesting and we learnt a lot about the Japanese and how the used prisoners of war to build the railway between Burma and Thailand.

We returned the restaurant we had been in the previous evening for breakfast, Gary had a full English breakfast the first in ages whilst I had a stuffed veg omelette.Once we’d had breakfast we packed up and headed to Erawan waterfalls.

The ride was fairly flat with some undulating sections, we arrived at the falls at 4.00pm tired and hungry. We decided to eat before pitching the tent which is just as well because no sooner had we reached the restaurant area than Gary started to feel queazy through the lack of food.

Gary; We cycled to current bridge over the River Kwai and had a photo shoot along with the hundreds of other tourists of all nationalities, you are allowed to walk over the bridge on the track even though it is a working train line. Our route today took us past a huge dam and resulting lake, then along the river to the national park whilst we had some good size hills either side of so it was a nice scenic day. We past lots of signs warning driver to look out for elephants but didn’t see any evidence of any ourselves.

When we arrived at the site we met a fellow tourer from Germany he was touring Thailand for a month, I later met him again whilst Gary was putting up the tent. He had down a lot of long distance touring in the past and was looking forward to spending time in Thailand. Instead of a tent he was using a hammock with a mosquito net, the temperature has dropped but I think it will still be warm enough for a hammock.

Gary; it was starting to get dark so we will leave viewing the falls till tomorrow, I had a swim in the river we are camped next too, it was a nice temperature and better then the option of the showers here, they are all built into the toilet cubicle so its a bit cramped and not very hygienic.
So tonight we could hear what sounded like a big birds call in the trees but on inspection the noise appeared to coming from a couple of large squirrels, I didn’t know squirrels had a call!
Day 258
Erwawan Falls to Hell Fire Pass
approx 43 miles

Gary’s diary

We got up early so we could explore the waterfalls before the park opened. The falls have 7 levels and most are pretty, the last 3 levels involved scrambling over rocks and boulders and climbing rickety ladders. There were some other people around but we had the place pretty much to ourselves. We were the first to arrive at the top level and had a swim in the pool.

Ginette – I was nervous getting in, firstly because it was only 8.00am so it was cold and secondly because there were big fish in the water and Gary was squealing like a girly and shouting they’re biting, I got in and splashed about lots so the fish wouldn’t nip me. As Gary was getting out to take some photos another couple arrived and agreed to take a photo of us, which was really sweet, or should have been but Gary tried to throw me in, the little bu**er.
On our way back down we agreed to swim in the 3rd level, the pool was empty and the water was crystal clear and full of fish some of them very big. We were a little braver and let the little fish nibble our feet.

We cooked breakfast, noodles, kale, tomatoes, onions, tuna and peppers at the camp site. The German touring cyclists we bumped into the previous evening came over for a chat and we spent the morning with him. His name is Torstan and he was good company, he’d done lots of long distance cycling so we were able to exchange experiences with him. Although it was good to have a chilled morning it meant we didn’t leave until midday and we had 43 miles to cover with 3 big hill climbs. By the time we set off we were hungry again but held off until we had covered the first 20 miles. For dinner we had vegetable rice at a roadside cafe. A drunken man kept trying to converse with us he was harmless but a pain in the arse.

On route we saw elephants straddled up for riding on. The views of the mountains on either side were really good, in front of us was the mountain range that separates Thailand from Mynamar. We also saw monkeys today

The road was a busier main road but the traffic was not too bad as we had a hard shoulder to cycle in. There were lots of resorts on route scattered alongside the River Kwai which we couldn’t see but it ran parallel to the road. Ten miles from our destination we stopped for a drink at a coffee house we realised they had wifi so got the computers out to check for accommodation, there were a lot of expensive resorts, we had come to the conclusion that our cheapest option was probably to cycle back down the hill we’d just climbed but as we were paying the bill we realised that the coffee house had accommodation, (this was not advertised on any of the signs outside or inside the cafe). When we enquired we were offered the opportunity to camp or stay in a room, we opted for a room, it was a little expensive at £16 a night but that cafe sold beer, chocolate cake and ice-cream and it meant we didn’t have to cycle down the hill.

Day 259
Saturday 19th Dec
26 miles
I had a broken nights sleep and woke several times with a sore throat so ended up sleeping in until 8.30 (heaven) Gary had been awake for a while so was itching to get up and go. I managed to calm the puppy down long enough to have some breakfast before we cycled the 10 miles up to Hell Fire pass.

The museum is really informative and reinforced some of the information we had read at the museum in Kanchanaburi. We used the free audio headphones to walk the track where the railway had been built. These were great, they provided information about what we were seeing but also provided accounts from prisoners of war who had built the railway.

the cuts are deep and long, it’s incredible that the men that cut through the rock had no power tools it was all hammer and tap, chisels and dynamite. 12,000 allied prisoners of war died building the railway plus 90,000 Asian workers that had been forced into labour. The deaths were caused by starvation, beri beri, fever, cholera, beatings, work accidents and some by allied bombings. At one of the cuttings I had the area to myself, walking along I could hear footsteps but none else was there, I took off my headphones and it was the bamboo trees rubbing in the wind, very eerie.

There were lots of school children in and around the museum, they didn’t seem particularly interested in the museum they’re purpose seemed to be to practice their english with the tourists. To do this they had some had questionnaires to complete, but rather than asking the questions after introducing themselves they simply gave the questionnaire over for completion. I am all for supporting children to learn a new language but this was just irritating, not only did they not practice their english but the questionnaires were totally inappropriate for the setting. I was trying to read about the history of the railway, whilst completing a questionnaire about my favourite food. I completed about 8 of the same questionnaire and then refused to do any more.

The museum and walk was a really moving and informative experience, I would really recommend it to anyone visiting Thailand. As an added bonus it was completely free. On our way out of the museum we met another tourer from Poland unfortunately we had a train to catch so couldn’t stop and talk for along but he seemed like a nice guy.

We cycled back to Lim Soc to catch the train back to Kanchanaburi, we had already cycled this route and we wanted to ride the train over the original wooden bridge and cross the bridge over the River Kwai. It was a lovely train ride (if not a little slow) and a beautiful sun set, we tried to take some photos of the sun setting over the mountains but the train was going too fast, but it was one of the best sunsets we’ve ever seen.

we also passed a resort that a zip wire, it was a trolley and track, it really did throw the person on the zip around as it twisted and turned it was a bit like a big dipper.

Once we’d unpacked at our accommodation we went in search of food and beer. We had hoped to be a little more social in Kanchanaburi as there were lots of bars, but we lost interest after we stopped at one bar and spoke to an ex pat from Australia. He owned the bar and was everything that we don’t like about Australian men, sexist, opinionated and arrogant, that is not to say all Ozzy men are like this it just seems to be the ones we have bumped into on our travels (not that dissimilar to the ex pats from the UK). Fortunately at our next bar we met a nice guy from New Zealand, he was travelling Thailand and Indonesia for 2 months, we didn’t stay long and was back in our room for 10.00pm – light weights.

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