Family holiday part 1

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July 2nd 2008
Published: July 2nd 2008
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We waited at the airport, as we had done a week earlier, with our signs held high and waited for the parents to stroll out. When we spotted them they looked exactly the same; we had a little reunion and were both surprised that Jo didn’t burst into tears! When we arrived back at the guesthouse we went straight to the Gecko Bar, which became our future meeting point. Everyone had Thai for dinner that evening with four of them having massaman curry, a Thai specialty. As we’d all had a long night traveling we had an early night ready to get up nice and early the next day; unfortunately that was to become a common occurrence and something Nick and I weren’t used to! We woke up and got the public bus into the centre of Bangkok as Le needed to buy a camera. Before going to the big electrical shopping centre we went to Jim Thompson’s teak house. The house itself is made from 6 Thai houses all joined together to make one large one; I didn’t find the house that interesting but we had a guided tour and the lady told us quite a lot about Thai culture which I really enjoyed. Apparently Martin is going to live a long life because he’s got long ears and Dad is going to be happy because of his big Buddha belly! That evening we all met up at the Gecko bar for a few drinks before ordering some food off a nearby street stall, we then went for a stroll and as we were buying yummy Thai pancakes a fried bug stall went past. Dad decided it would be a good idea to buy one of each bug from the huge selection for his pudding! He seemed to actually quite like them but Nick and I also tried them and I can tell you they tasted disgusting! Before heading back to bed we stopped at the petrol station bar and Mum, Jo and I shared a bucket of Red Rock which tasted very nice but we’re not sure what was in it and the boys all had beer.
We were up again early on Monday to go on an organized trip to the temples in Ayutthaya which is the old capital city of Thailand. The first temple we visited was really tall and slightly slanted but you could climb the steps to the top and look at the Thai countryside surrounding it. There was also a really cool laughing Buddha statue in the remains of a building which Dad can do an identical impression of! We also visited a massive outside reclining Buddha covered in a bright orange sheet and a fairly new temple with a 17m high sitting bronze Buddha inside. The last temple complex we visited had the famous Buddha head in the roots of an old tree which looked really good. By this point we were all getting a bit bored of temples and were happy to be going home earlier than expected. We had agreed to move on to Kanchanaburi the next day so I went to bed early, only to find that Nick, Martin and Dad had stayed up till the early hours of the morning drinking Sangsom (Thai whiskey)! After agreeing to meet at 9am I awoke to see 8.50 on the clock, oops, but as I went downstairs to see if everyone else had already left I was glad to see that everyone else had only just woken up as well. After trying to haggle for a taxi to the bus station we got fed up and decided to walk with our bags to the public bus stop instead, this was the parents’ first traveler test. We got the public bus to the bus stop before getting a bigger government bus to Kanchanaburi. It was actually a pretty carefree journey although the air-con didn’t seem very cold. When we arrived at Kanchanaburi bus station a man came over and told us about a guesthouse so we jumped in a pickup and went to check it out. The rooms seemed clean with air-con and hot shower but the real bonus was the guesthouse had a swimming pool, what luxury! Obviously the first thing we did was change into our swimming costumes and jump in the pool, even though it was raining! The men then brought a round of drinks over which we put under an umbrella at the side of the pool. We went to the night market that evening but as we arrived all the stalls seemed to be packing up so we didn’t stay long.
After a few early mornings it was nice to have a lie-in even if it was only until 9am. Whilst Le stayed in bed the rest of us went to the Thailand-Burma Railway Museum and cemetery a couple of kilometers away. It was a really interesting museum and I didn’t realise just how many Asians were killed during the making of the railway. It said over 80,000 Asian hired labourers died and of that only 3 bodies have since been exhumed and identified! We had intended to walk into town after the museum but the sun had come out so it was back to the pool for a swim before walking the 3km to the famous Bridge over the River Kwai. After going to the museum the bridge was well worth visiting and we were able to walk all the way across the bridge. Once on the other side we saw a train approaching so Nick, Dad and Le went to stand on one of the safety platforms on the bridge itself to watch the train go past. Martin was busy talking to an Englishman who was living in Thailand and did elephant rides with his elephant that he’d saved from the logging industry. Once the train had passed we walked back to the other side of the bridge and had a drink on one of the floating restaurants with a brilliant view of the entire bridge. In the evening we played our ‘Backpacker’ card game with some drinks from the 7/11 (Thai equivalent to Tesco).
We were going to hire mo-peds the next day to go to some local attractions but Dad wasn’t feeling too well so we rented bicycles instead. Dad, Le and I stayed at the guesthouse lazing by the pool while Nick, Mum, Jo and Martin went on a cycle ride to the TAT office to get some more information and maps of the area. On their ride they went through a monk village and saw a temple depicting scenes from Heaven and Hell. When they got back with the bikes Mum, Dad, Nick and I cycled to the elephant man next to the bridge and arranged a ride on the elephant for me and Mum. The only problem was we had to ride her bareback! We both clambered on being pushed by a guy on one side and pulled by another on the other side! Once we were on she slowly started walking down the path, luckily we managed to stay on although it took a while for us to get our balance on her. Halfway to the river the elephant decided to pick up a stick and started whipping Mum with it as she thought Mum was a fly! It was so funny. We were asked if we minded getting wet before they took the elephant in the river and made her go under the water so that Mum and I got absolutely soaked through! They did this for about 15mins before we walked back to the village and we were each given a bunch of bananas to feed her. We then cycled back so that Jo and Le could go and have their ride.
Luckily the next day Dad was feeling better so we hired 4 mo-peds so that we could go to Hellfire Pass and the Tiger Temples. Dad and Le were on one, Martin and Jo on another, Mum had her own and Nick and I were on another. It was so funny as all the drivers had to wear helmets, Nicks was too big and Martin only just found one that fitted his head! Although I’m not sure the helmets would help much in a crash as they didn’t look very sturdy. Hellfire Pass was 80km away, the weather was lovely the entire way and the scenery up through the hills was spectacular. As we arrived at Hellfire Pass Le got off the bike on the wrong side and burnt her leg quite badly on the exhaust. Hellfire Pass is the deepest cutting (28m) through solid rock along the railway line, POWs were made to work 18hr shifts with only 1 break in order to complete it quickly! After a look around the museum we planned to head toward the Tiger temples stopping for lunch on the way but it started pouring down with rain, we ended up stopping in a little wooden café where they spoke very little English and all had fried rice or as they call it ‘Cow Pat’! We finally arrived at the Tiger Temple at 3.15 and rushed to get our tickets as the tigers get put away at 4pm. We had to sign a disclaimer before we went in though! We rushed to Tiger Canyon where there is a small queue to have your photos taken with the tigers. While everyone else queues up Nick and I run back to see the tiger cubs and have our photos taken with them. Just as we got back Mum and Dad were at the front of the queue so we slipped back in. We were led around one at a time quickly having a photo taken before being moved on to the next tiger. As we’d arrived quite late we got to walk the last tiger out of the canyon with the abbot (monk). At the top of the canyon the cubs were brought out again for a few minutes and loads of turnips were emptied onto the path for the boar, deer, horses, buffalow and birds to eat.
On our second from last day in Kanchanaburi Nick, Mum, Dad, Jo and I caught a rickety public bus to the Erawan waterfalls. Our crazy bus driver was beeping his horn the entire way there. When we arrived we walked up to the 5th tier where Nick, Dad, Jo and I stayed as Mum walked up to the 7th tier! The water was so nice and cooling and there were loads of Thais there playing in the pools. When Mum came back we walked down to one of the pools which had a natural slide into the water. Only Nick and I went down the slide but Mum went swimming and kept getting nibbled by the fish! We then all went to the 2nd tier which was the nicest. It had an overhang so you could go and stand under the waterfall itself which was fun, although getting there wasn’t as all the women got nibbled by the big fish! Due to the limestone in the cliffs the water in the pools was a milky blue colour which looked really pretty. It started to rain as we went for some lunch before catching another public bus back to the guesthouse, although this bus was in an even worse condition with rust, cracks, holes, leaks and the batteries were under a t-shirt in the front of the bus getting wet! Our last day was spent relaxing by the pool.


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