Published: November 30th 2009November 29th 2009
View from the speedboat
So the top gear journey of the year begun. We left Puhket bright and early stood on the side of the road waiting for a bus. The fact that there was no bus stop or timetable didnt matter as we knew it would come but we hoped it would stop for us. The journey to Ko Pahyam would see us lug our bags onto the bus, a coach to Ranong where we were picked by Vijit (the guy who owned the accommdation) in his pick-up truck, then we got his speed boat to make the 30min trip to Ko Payham where we were greeted by a Utar truck that would carry our bags to the bungalows. One thing about Ko Payham is that there are no roads. Well actually there are roads but roads only big enough to fit motorbikes and very small trucks on. I would say that they are 5" in width. I digress slightly but this got me thinking- did they deliberately make the roads that small as to limit the infrastructure and therefore curb the inevitable two-headed beast that is tourism or did they just decide that they had done enough for the day and finish early.
The dreamer in me would like to say it was a bit of both but I suppose ill never know. Even so the roads are that small that the only way round is motorbike so with our bags on the milk truck we rented mopeds and followed it to our next 'home' via 5' path and then dirt track!!. We arrived in the pitch black but were greeted by 5 or 6 of Vijits extended family. They helped us with our bags and we checked in. The rooms were basic, the shower was outside but the bed was comfortable and it was late.
The next few days at Vijits were bliss. It was very quiet, the people were so helpful and the beach was less than 60 secs walk from our room. I think the afore mentioned road issue has an impact on the amount of visitors to the island but I liked that. While we stayed at Vijits we never saw more than 8 residents!!! Kind of cool to think that we had the beach to ourselves. So after a quick tour of the island (it was very quick because there are only 4 'roads' and there are
only 500 inhabitants) we settled in for a few games of pool and booked ourselves in for a sunday lunch the following day at the only English bar. For the next few days we literally recharged our batteries. The 'things to do' section of the Ko Payham brochure is very limited but that was good for us as we spent the time on the beach and being looked after by the very helpful staff. The main notes of interest were that Dean and I shaved our heads on the beach and Barry, Elaine & Sam consumed a whole bottle of Samsung one night playing Blackjack with the funniest most made up rules I've ever heard i.e. Dean 'my rule is that all of the two's and red jacks are the same as black jacks so you have to pick up 5 cards' Hilarious!!!!
So after the duracells were on full we made plans to leave Ko Payham and head for Bangkok. It was at this point that Kate and I decided to skip Bangkok and head straight for Kanchanaburi. The rest of the gang wanted a few more days in the capital but Kate & I decided that our
kidneys needed further rest and that Bangkok's Chang Towers would not help in doing this. So we would repeat the journey back to Ranong but this time we opted out of the speedboat and got on a ferry (it sold chang so i didnt matter that it took an extra 90mins).
Before I wrote this blog I mentioned the mission we went through to get to from Phuket to Ko Pahaym ( i think all in all it took 12 hours) but little did i know that the next stage to Kanchanaburi would be like a stage from the tour-de-thailand and would take Kate and I 26 hours door-to-door!!! We left Vijits at 11.47am on Sunday and arrived at the Jolly Frog (yes thats right) at 13.52 on Monday. Here how it went: a 2 hour journey on a ferry, waited for 2 hours before getting a 3 hour coach journey to Chumpon, missed the train so waited another 2 1/2 hours for next available train, a 10 hour night train to Bangkok, a stressful 1 hour taxi journey to the bus station after we dropped the guys off on the Ko San road (because no fecker knew where
Little House on the Prarie
the bus station was even though it was 4km away. Its like me being a taxi driver at the Yew Tree and not knowing where Digbeth coach station was tsk!!!!), then a 2 hour bus journey to Kanchanaburi then a 10 min taxi motorbike to the Jolly Frog. Needless to say we didnt feel very Jolly when we got there but nothing some Spag Bol and cold Chang couldnt sort out.
My first reaction of the jolly frog is that it was looorrrveeerrrlllllyyy (in my mind i said it in a dublin accent but thats by-the-by). The rooms were in a u-shape and they had a garden in front with hammocks and deck chairs overlooking the River Kwai. History lesson 101- Kanchanaburi is made famous for its Bridge and its Death Railway. During WWII over 60,000 POW's were killed building this strategic bridge linking Malaysia and Thailand. The fact it was a very strategic to the Japanese meant that it was blown up, DOH!!!! There has also been a film made about this historic period in Kanchan's history, which I'll admit I havent watched, called the 'Bridge over the river Kwai'!!! I think it won some academy awards and
Al fresco showering
maybe an oscar or two but it was made before E.T which is as far back as my film knowledge goes.
Kanchanaburi's main pull is obviously the bridge and it draws lots of Japanese tourists to the area. This became very evident when Kate and I visited the bridge. Suprisingly to me you can walk across the bridge and it is still used by trains. This point wasnt that suprising it was the fact that the bridge is only 4" wide for the track and then some very ropey track outside of that. As it was so busy with tourists we had to step onto the side of the track and I swear you could fall down into the river with one mis-step.
We decided to make use of the mopeds on the second day and visited the Erewan National Park. Its 70km from Kanchanaburi and it took us about an hour on some eerily quiet roads. The national park itself consists of the Erewan waterfalls which has got to be one of the nicest attractions we have seen so far. There are 7 waterfalls that start of small and finish up with a 40m monster. It takes
Al fresco toileting
about an hour to trek to the top but prize at the top was very worthwhile. Each waterfall has a pool at the bottom you can swim in with crystal clear fresh water. It was beautiful!!! The only distraction was a number of European couples taking pictures of each other in what can only be described as 'porn poses'!! Where we would just stand infront of the waterfall or infront of the rocks these guys would drape themselves with arched backs, angled legs and provacative looks on their faces. Crazy Europeans!!!! Obviously Kate and I p*ssed ourselves laughing at them but im not sure they understood why.
Our final day in Kanchanaburi we spen visiting the WWII museums and looking at the period of the bridge bombing. It was very interesting and they had a lot of genuine artifacts from that time. Im sure that for people interested in this subject would find Kanchanaburi's museums very interesting and would take a lot from it. For Kate and I our knowledge on the subject was minimal so we found it very informative and it added a bit of substance to what we knew about the bridge. As we were told
New night train porter
it would be a lot colder in Chang Mai, which was our next stop, we both decided to catch up with our sun tans and spent the afternoon by a local hotels pool before making plans to leave Kanchanaburi the following day.
So we said goodbye to the Jolly Frog, by doing an impression of a Jolly Frog at the front gate, and waved goodbye to Kanchanaburi in our crammed minivan back to Bangkok. it would only take 2 hours or so before we arrived back the Ko San Road. As we hadn't seen the guys for a few days and we fancied a Bangkok fix, Kate and I decided we wanted to stay for a few nights before heading up north an another night train. So back to Bangkok it was and most definitely back to the madness.
Hope everybody is well and all your Christmas preparations are coming on?! :-) Fingers crossed for snow hey!!!
K & K
There are more photos below