Day 11 - Heading towards the River Kwai

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December 16th 2017
Published: December 21st 2017
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Day 11 - So today we are heading to Kanchanaburi, which is home to the River Kwai and the famous bridge that crosses it. I had planned on us taking the train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi, which uses sections of the original death railway itself, but for some reason everyone we meet in Thailand strongly discourages using the trains......this is proably because they are trying to get our business for himself or his brother or his Auntie's Cousin's half sister Pete, and taking the train doesn't get our baht into the driver economy. Regardless of this, the people we have spoken too have generally made good arguments against the train, it's slow and uncomfortable and often late/delayed. Anyway, we got up and packed our stuff, ready to leave the Shanghai Mansion and upon checkout, the porter wanted to know where we were going next (everyone wants to know where we are going next, again, everyone has a 'friend' who can get us there! This is not done in an unfriendly way, just the way it is 😊 ) So we tell him we need a taxi to the train station. He said "you catch train?", and I said yes, we catch the train to Kanchanaburi. He said I can get you car. I thought he meant a taxi to train station! The next thing I know we are at the taxi/tour stand out front of the hotel and they are negotiating a price, return from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi. I had always planned to get a private car back to Bangkok anyway since we have a plane to catch and trains are notoriously late/unreliable, but I really was keen to catch the train to the River Kwai! Anyway, long story short, we booked the car return with these guys for a decent price and figured at least it removes the difficulty of getting 4 of us with all our luggage to and from train stations etc and having to find our hotel ourselves. So since we were in no hurry to go and catch a train, we arranged to leave our luggage at the hotel for a couple hours while we went and got some lunch and had one last look around Chinatown.

Chinatown is no less hectic and crazy in the daylight hours! Corey insisted we must go back to the #5 Street Food stall in Bangkok where we had eaten the night before, and we all agreed since it was so good. We made our way back through the smelly durian stalls and trinket sellers to the alleyway where we were last night. Todd tells me now that the gentleman we had met there had said to just call him Jim 😊 So Jim was still there (so much for 8 hour shifts!) and he welcomed us immediately! Corey told him he wanted more chicken and rice and we sat down at the rickety wooden bench again and enjoyed watching the scene unfold before us in the street. Food sellers both mobile and static, kids playing, dogs running up and down the street, it's an amazing little feeling of community. As we sat chatting with Jim about the dogs he went across the street and picked up the little Shitzu terrier that was laying in the shopfront of a little pet grooming place across the way and he brought him across for us to pet. We are missing our animals! Whilst we had the dog a little girl ran up to him to chat with Jim and to pat the puppy and I said 'is this your grand daughter' and he explained that she was actually the daughter of the owners of the shop next door......he called them 'neighbours', and I guess they are, since many of these guys live where they work. Clearly everyone around here knows and looks out for each other. It's nice! I guess it's also necessary since everyone lives in such close proximity. A definite change from our neighbourhood where at best we are indifferent with our neighbours, and at worst they break into our home and their dogs attack our pets!

Anyhoo, we finished up our lunch, said farewell to Jim and his family and headed back to the Shanghai. Once there we discovered our vehicle out front (blocking traffic haha), already packed up with all our luggage and ready to go! So we jumped in and off we went. Bangkok traffic, as usual, is pretty bad, though honestly, not as bad as I had been prepared for, so it was all good. On our way out of the city, all of a sudden ahead of us a massive jam which was preciptated by a large amount of military personnel directing traffic off of the highway and onto the nearest exit and parallel road. I reckon our driver was swearing in Thai under his breath at this unexpected detour but it did look like the road we were forced to exit onto was running along in the right direction anyway. So for several long kms in traffic we sat there wondering what was going on when all of a sudden a couple of police vehicles hammered past sirens blasting. The driver laughed then and was excited. He said 'It is the King! It is Rama X!' So apparently when the King travels, he travels in style. All highways clear of any cars but his incredibly lengthy motorcade and escort vehicles. We saw him (briefly) as he hammered past in the back of his Rolls Royce with a Monk in his bright orange robe in the passenger seat. Wow. That is kind of cool, and well worth the delay! Not long after the King passed the highway was re-opened and we were able to get on again at the next ramp. The driver had very little English (I sooo wish I had learned more of Thai language, I am struggling just with the basics!) but was trying to explain to us something about the King and the Grand Palace and where he was going, but it was difficult to understand. Anyway we were on our way after that, the traffic thinned right out as we got further from the city and we relaxed into the drive. It's about 2.5 hours from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi. We stopped once along the way at a petrol station to get out and use the loo and grab a drink. Yep, so we are definitely heading to more 'rural' Thailand, non-flushing toilets and no toilet paper (you 'flush' with a bucket of for the TP, I still don't know what the story is there, even if you were a fan of the butt sprayer, you still end up wet! Are the peeps really just pulling up the trousers with water dripping from the butt? So much fascination with the toilets lol, the also had both "western" and "squat" options at this place. No one was keen to try the squats and I had come prepared with my trusty travel tissues so all was well.

We watched the country become more mountainous, I realised I had missed mountains! These ones are very green in comparison to what we are used to though! Kanchanaburi is actually quite a lot bigger than I expected, it had a huge food market on the way in and lots of little shops and many hotels and resorts. When we arrived at the Good Times Resort which was to be our home for the next 3 days I immediately regretted not booking more time here. This place is beautiful. It's not that the hotel is particularly fancy, it's not 5 stars or anything, but it is sooooo beautiful! From the gorgeous open air reception area with the hollowed out logs with cushions as couches and the gorgeous decorations, the lovely swimming pool in the centre of the resort and, best of all, the bar/restaurant which is right on the River Kwai and just stunning. There are koi fish swimming under the deck and they follow you as you walk along, hoping you might throw them something to eat. They have 2 resident cats, who were sunning just out front of the reception area (we love this, we miss our fur babies at home!), and our rooms were large and beautifully decorated, with towel sculptures awaiting us on the bed and elephant lamps. I love it.

We dumped our stuff upstairs and went down for a drink at the bar. OMG, it is amazing on the river. We watched the sun set and enjoyed a few to many cocktails. Todd and Corey went for a dip in the pool and then we freshened up a bit and headed back to the restaurant for dinner. Food was great, and the staff are just top notch amazing and friendly. So happy I chose this place! They also run tours for really reasonable prices and we booked two for the following 2 days. A private driver will take us to some sights tomorrow and then we will do a group tour the next day. Yay! This is really relaxing after all the hustle and bustle of Bangkok 😊

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