Kanchanaburi


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November 27th 2009
Published: January 22nd 2010
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Kanchanaburi

We left Bangkok's southern bus terminal heading west, bound for Kanchanaburi. It was a comfortable journey & only took around 4 hours, arriving into Kanchanaburi just after 3 o'clock. As Kieran & Kate had already been to Kanchanaburi, they recommended The Jolly Frog, a backpackers resort where they had stayed. So as soon as we unloaded our bags from the bus, we started walking over to the gang of eagerly awaiting taxi drivers, before being greeted by one of them who broke from the gang & ran over to us. Flapping about in his hand was a knackered old business card for The Jolly Frog, so as fate would have it, we decided The Jolly Frog was our destination of choice, or fate. Ten minutes after loading our bags into the battered old taxi, we pulled up outside The Jolly Frog. The taxi driver certainly was like a jolly old frog as he leapt from the taxi & ran inside to stake claim to his reward, whatever it be, for bringing us to the Frog. The only room available was the 4 person bedroom, with a bath. From experience, it's always best practice to check the rooms out before agreeing to anything, so Sam went off with one of the staff to do exactly that & Dean & I followed shortly after. The room was literary located on the river & the only thing that the room was, that the miserable lady on the front desk had told us, was big & had 3 beds - 1 double & 2 singles. The 'bath' as described, was in fact a bath-room, a mouldy one at that with a disfunctional shower. I'm not sure for one second why we imagined that there would be a bath in a cheap backpackers resort, but we did. The room wasn't the best, bar far, in fact it was probably the worst room we had seen on our travels, & with that said, we checked in.

Wasting no time at all, we dumped our bags & went to sample the food, hoping it was better than the room. One thing it was, was a lot cheaper than what we had been used to paying in Bangkok, & with that immediate cost saving in mind, Dean & I felt obliged to order 2 meals from the continental menu. Sam opted for 1 dish, prawn Tom Yam - a spicy prawn salad. Needless to say, we all enjoyed our food, all 5 dishes. Not leaving anytime for our food to settle, we paid up & went out to the front of The Jolly Frog, although at this point I was wondering what was so jolly about it all, as apart from the Jolly Green Frog on the front sign & the exception of the 2 girls who looked after the tour bookings, all the staff were a bunch of bloody miserable sods, the thought quickly passed & we walked out over to the left, where we hired our motor bikes. From where we were situated, we were able to get onto the main road fairly easily & so stopped off for some petrol, before heading about 4 km to Death Railway - the railway that was built in second World War by the P.O.W. captured by the Japanese, connecting Thailand to Burma; with Kanchanaburi housing the infamous bridge over the River Kwai. Our timing of arrival to Kanchanaburi couldn't have been better - we had arrived for the annual celebration of the bridge, railway & deaths of all the souls lost in the making of it. As we pulled up & parked, it was evident that the big celebration was in the midsts of being finalised as people & equipment were everywhere. After paying our parking fee & entrance fee, we walked a couple of 100 meters into the market area & quickly found ourselves in the middle of a busy crowd watching a traditional Chinese Dragon dance, with adults & children making up the Dragon. We watched the 'Dragon' pass before navigating our way through the busy crowd, eager to ensure we caught the sun setting over the river, hopefully getting the bridge in too. When we finally arrived at the bridge, we didn't know what to expect, or do, as it was buzzing with people of all different ages & nationalities walking along the bridge, & everytime we went to walk onto the bridge we were stopped by a Thai man claiming we weren't allowed to walk on it. Sam was slightly put off by his aggressive nature so decided to stand just off the bridge & take some pictures from the side, whilst Dean & I chose to ignore him & walked passed him onto the bridge where we joined many Japanese tourist's posing for pictures. Not long after it was evident why the man was trying to stop people from walking onto the bridge, a train was crossing - the bridge was still in active use. On the bridge, amongst alot of electrical equipment & Japanese tourists, were marked places to stand when a train passes over the bridge, so Dean & I jumped into one of them on the left. As the train slowly approached & began crossing the bridge, directly opposite a number of old death defying Japanese tourists jumped onto the tracks, struck a pose & began taking pictures of each other, much to mine & Dean's amusement, however not so much the Thai man policing the bridge. As the massive train passed, we captured some magical pictures, before walking back across the bridge to join Sam. On the way out, we stopped & enquired about the show, the first of which was being showcased in the evening at 7.30 pm. We were fortunate enough to speak with a well educated guide who strongly recommended we saw the show, as well as recommended what seats to sit on. As the seats he was recommending were more expensive, our 6th 'scam' sense started tingling, however he proclaimed "they are some of the best seats in the house" & although our finely tuned senses advised against it, we went with the guides recommendation & booked the tickets, paying 350 Baht each with the option of paying a deposit of 1,000 Baht each to have a radio-like translator that had it's own frequency to tune into for English. As soon as we had purchased our tickets, we quickly made our way back through the ever growing crowd of people to get to our bikes & get to The Jolly Frog as it was now 6.15 pm & the show started at 7.30.
We got back to the not so Jolly Frog, just in time to catch the end of the sun set over the river Kwai before getting showered & changed in our sweltering room, that had now accumulated a mass of small fly's that came out of no where, but were attracted to the lights in our room. After wasting about 5 minutes attempting to rid the room of the fly's, I decided it was all in vain so we left & headed straight back to Death Railway to watch the show. We pulled into our earlier parking spaces, which was a childrens playground & pulled up next to the slide. It was a lot busier than it had been when we left, so we found a short cut, missing out most of the crowd & allowing us to see some of the original trains that had been used & were now out of use & on display. As we had already purchased our tickets it was a lot easier to bypass the queue of people & go straight to the translator hiring desk where we deposited 1,000 Baht each in exchange for the hand-held radio & headphones before quickly passing through the gates & up to our seats, which when we arrived at had some chancers sat in them, who were swiftly removed. Shortly after parking our posteriors' down the show started, allowing us just enough time to tune into the English speaking channel.

The show that was put on was better than any of us could have apprehended. Parts of the story were told on a hologram type screen over the river & the rest was a live show re-enacting the history of the war, building of the railway & the bridge over the river Kwai - with the use of special effects (including the destruction & collapsing of parts of the bridge), fire works, boats & sound effects. The show lasted for about an hour, after which we all left in amazement & with a greater appreciation of the history of the bridge & it's significance in todays time. Due to the massive lights being used to light up the area where all the pictures & written information was, we weren't able to stay too long as the lights were attracting thousands & thousands of flying insects of all kinds, including mosquitos & we didn't fancy getting ravaged, so after handing our radio's back in, we went to find some food. Most of the food stands had closed but we were lucky enough to just catch the last one before it shut-up-shop. It was a Chinese stand serving well, Chinese food, so we all ordered & enjoyed 'Chicken Vegetables & Rice' & 'Crispy Pork & Rice'. Now that our hunger had been nicely satisfied, we decided to have a mooch around the night market, that had pretty much anything you could think of: food, clothes, toys, weapons of varying sorts, electrical appliances, furniture, hand carved veranda's, oh & miniature rabbits with clothes on - cute. We walked the full length of the market & back again, before giving in to the herds of bugs & fly's that were proving to be a real annoyance that could no longer be ignored. Just on the way out, Sam brought a pair of pajama bottoms after loosing the one pair she had to the washing services at the Blue Lotus & then we made tracks, back to the Frog. Back at the Frog, our room was still full of fly's, swarming around the lights & dead on the bed, it was a little cooler that earlier, nevertheless, we were all in for a poor nights sleep.

The next morning after sleeping in a little longer than we had planned to, Dean & I got up, got showered & packed our day bags ready to go to Erawan Waterfall - apparently the most visited National Park in Thailand. Sam wasn't feeling too well & felt sick, so decided to stay & try & sleep it off. We also planned to visit Tiger Temple, so arranged for Sam to be picked up by a taxi from the Frog & be dropped off at Tiger Temple where Dean & I would meet her from Erawan Waterfall; at 2 o'clock. After breakfast, Dean & I got underway as we had a 62 km journey ahead of us to the waterfall, taking the best part of an hour , then we had to get up to the top of the 7 tier waterfall, get back down & drive another 32 km back to meet with Sam at Tiger Temple, all in 4 hours. When you're against time & have a massive journey ahead of you, the last thing you need is a crap motor bike & despite a recent spray paint, mine had surely seen better days. Flat out, I could barely get 90 kmph out of the thing without it sounding like it was about to explode. Dean on the other hand however, had the rather appropriately named 'Honda Dream', which flew like a dream, so for most of the way along the boring straight road, I was playing catch up. It took just a little over an hour for us to reach our destination - leaving us just over 2 hours to get up & down, & maybe a quick dip in one of the 6 tiers that you can swim in. With that in mind we wasted no time & started power walking up to the first tier. It took us about 10 minutes to walk from the entrance to the first tier, & took about 5 minutes before I was in the water. Being keen & eager to get a couple of snap shots, I forgot my sun glasses were still hanging from my t-shirt & as I climbed over the water & onto a rock, positioning myself for the shot, off slipped my sun glasses into the water. Given that I had paid just under 100 GBP for my Ray Bans, I wasn't about to let them submerge to the bottom of the following water & end up somewhere down river, so quicker than they had fallen into the water, I had taken my t-shirt off, tossed my camera over to Dean & dived into the water desperately rummaging around trying to grab hold of anything that resembled the shape of my sun glasses. After 2 attempts I thought I had lost them. And it was only after Dean insisted I have one more go & "dive deeper in between the rocks", that I finally managed to find them, wedged between 2 rocks. With that palaver out of the way, we carried on to the next tiers, they were all different, but equally as beautiful as the last - clear, fresh, aqua blue water crying out to be swam in, however we didn't have time as we had to meet Sam, so on the way up to the 7th, we picked one that we would swim in on the way back down. When we got to the top, we finally got some signal on our phones, so called Sam to make sure she was feeling better & OK to meet at Tiger Temple as arranged. Unfortunately she wasn't & didn't feel up to going so Dean & I decided we would head back to the Frog, leaving us with a bit of extra time to enjoy the falls, stopping off at most of them for a quick swim, particularly enjoying the 4th as it had a giant rock that acted as a make-shift slide & the 2nd because of the massive fish that followed you, occasionally biting at your feet or legs. Once at the bottom & back at our bikes, we mentally prepared ourselves for the long & boarding journey ahead of us & got underway. Not too far from Erawan Waterfall & on route, was Sri Nakarin Dam, so we pulled over & took a couple of pictures before quickly getting back on the way. Not too shortly after leaving did I realise that the petrol gauge was firmly stuck on the big red E (empty) & we were in the middle of nowhere, not even a barrel of gasoline with a hand pump on the side of the road to be seen. And, to add to the drama, Dean, on his 'Dream', had sped on ahead & only whilst in pursuit of him to let him know I needed to pull over at the next petrol station, did I shoot passed the only station I had seen in ages. I pushed the bike to the brink of the scrap heap, braking the horn in an attempt to get Dean's attention, which luckily paid off. We turned around & headed back to the petrol station, which in the end proved to be a waste of time. Being in such a remote place, the Thai lady manning the pumps couldn't speak English & therefore didn't understand when we asked which petrol needed to go into the bike "92 Red or 95 Green?". And just to top it off, not content with the burn on my left leg from a pipping hot motor bike exhaust, I burnt the inside of my shin on my right leg, just for good measure. Still with no petrol but a newly acquired burn, that stung even more with the wind blowing against it, we made our way back to the Frog deciding to chance it on the petrol fumes that I had left in the tank. Thankfully however I didn't have to, as 4 km down the road as if sent from the skies above, was another petrol station & this time the chap on the pumps instantly knew which petrol had to go into our bikes & put 1 litre of 92 Red in. Now the petrol gauge was showing just shy of the big red E we started off again, only with 27 km left to do.

We arrived at the Frog just after 4:15 pm & probably not a moment too late. Sam was now very ill with suspected food poising. Thankfully Barry & Elaine had arrived an hour before & had stayed with Sam, but as soon as I saw her, I knew she needed to go to hospital as she was severely dehydrated & ill from the poising. I quickly gathered up everything I thought we might need whilst Barry called the taxi driver that had dropped them off at the Frog & arranged for him to pick us up & drop us off at the nearest hospital. Ten minutes after arriving back at the Frog, Sam & I were in the back of the taxi heading to the hospital, which was about 8 km from the Frog so we were there in no time. As we pulled up, a young girl came out with a wheel chair for Sam & I carried her over to it where she lay slumped, exhausted from the symptoms of food poising & dehydration. I checked Sam into the basic, yet clean hospital before explaining her symptoms to a nurse who wrote them down & created a record, which was then handed on to the doctor.

No longer than 15 minutes of arriving at the hospital, Sam was sat in front of a doctor who thoroughly checked her over & diagnosed Gastroenteritis as the cause of her symptoms i.e. severe food poising. Immediately after his diagnosis & prescription of drugs to help ease the stomach cramp, sickness, diarrhea & aching joints, Sam was wheeled round to her bed where she was put on a number of drips as well as having 2 injections, but not before the nurse attending to her managed to find a vein in her thumb (?) to connect the drip, which after a number of failed attempts & my help, she did. Once Sam had calmed down from the panic of being in the hospital & the clumsy nurse, she fell asleep, & despite my best efforts not to, I did shortly after at her bedside. I woke a couple of times to check that Sam was doing OK before dozing off again in the surprisingly comfortable hospital arm chair. Three hours had passed when I woke to find Sam coming around from her sleep, bright eyed & cheerful - back to her old self again. Ignoring mine & the advice of the professionals, Sam decided that now she felt better she wanted to check herself out & not finish the remaining fluids in the drips, so with that said & a final go-ahead from the doc, we checked out & settled our bill of 2,160 Baht, which included all the medicine, hospital bed & the doctors examination, it even included a discount because she hadn't used all of the fluids in the drip. We left the hospital & called the taxi man who had dropped us there & asked him to come & pick us back up & drop us off at the Frog. Fifteen minutes after calling him, he arrived & took us back to the Frog. On the way back I wondered how much this overly nice taxi driver was going to charge us for the round trip, & in my mind, I was expecting about 130 Baht. But no. What was I thinking, he's a taxi driver, he wanted 400 Baht. I think I was more annoyed at the fact that he tried to play on the fact that he had gone out of his way to help with Sam, when in fact it was no different to any other pick up, or drop off. In the end I paid him 200 Baht & sent him on his way insisting that he didn't expect another call for the use of his taxi services. We met up with the others who had hung around at the Frog waiting to hear how Sam was, all relieved when she walked through with me. Needless to say, Sam wasn't feeling up to eating a big meal so had a chat with everyone before going to bed to rest; exhausted & drained from the days events. After eating with Dean at the restaurant just opposite the road that led down to the Frog, I grabbed Sam some Water Melon & a Fanta, got the money back for the taxi we had paid for to take Sam to Tiger Temple & then went back to the room to try & attempt to go to sleep. The reason that I say 'try to' & 'attempt' is firstly because it was hard enough trying to get any sort of sleep in that room unless alcohol induced, as when you're drunk, it's easier to over look the fact that you're sharing your bed with dead fly's & secondly, on the weekend the river is plagued by floating disco barges that lumber up & down cranking out 'The Best of Now 90'. Not that you would mind, I mean Now 90 wasn't the best, but the fact that there's only 4 people dancing on these floating discotheque renders the whole thing rather pointless. Due to complaints from the locals & with thanks to one individual in particular who was championing the sinking of the blasted barges, meant that it only went on until 12:00 am, so not long after that did I finally manage to concentrate on trying to get to sleep.

The following morning, despite wanting to get out of the skanky bed, we lay there for another hour, or 2 before getting up to pack our bags, dump them in Barry & Elaine's room & check out of the 'Groggy Frog'. Over breakfast we made our plans to visit Wat Pa Luangta Bua Yanasampanno Forest Monastery, Tiger Temple. Fortunately, the journey wasn't as long as the one to Erawan Waterfall, so we figured we'd need to leave at 12:45 pm, leaving us enough time to get lost & still arrive there in time for the 2 o'clock opening. We left just after 1 o'clock, meaning we had no time to get lost, which thankfully we didn't as the 38 km journey was pretty straight forward. We parked up in the dusty red car park with 10 minutes or so to spare, time enough to decide what we were going to pay for as we wrongly assumed that the 500 Baht entrance fee covered everything, however it only allowed entrance into the grounds. Anything else like feeding the cubs (which we couldn't do as we were too late), or walking the junior Tigers with the monks, or watching the adult Tigers enjoy their evening activity session in the canyon all carried an additional cost, depending on what activity you wanted to participate in. Being in a group, the pressures of making a 'group' decision rendered us all useless, so we just paid the entrance fee & hoped that we might be able to pay & participate in one of the other activities when in the grounds.

The first beasts that we encountered were a herd of Water Buffalo, bathing in the muddy waters & then as we walked a little further up the path, we came across the Leopard cage, but couldn't spot a Leopard, so quickly moved on. A little further on from the Leopard cage with apparently no Leopard in it, we walked up to the main open area where a crowd of people were now gathering, & as we drew closer, it was apparent why. There in front of us lay a beautiful Tiger, a junior one. He seemed relatively un-bothered by the flashing camera's & people posing in precarious positions close around him, however occasion had to be tapped on the head or repositioned, I guess so not to eat an unsuspecting visitor who was stupid enough to put there head too close to his mouth. We all had our picture taken with him, but he seemed to have a particular disliking towards Barry, so as mentioned, had to be sat back down so Barry could hover over him & nervously smile back at the camera & have his picture taken. After that, & a few more shots of some of the other junior Tigers who were chilling with their monk handlers, we made our way over to the canyon, where we came face-to-face with the big'uns, 10 of them, docile & recumbent on their backs, lazy from their afternoon feed & the heat of the hot sun. It wasn't long after that we found ourselves, each in turn, in between the gigantic majestic cats - all stroking & posing with them whilst the qualified handlers took pictures with our cameras. All totally thrilled by the experience, we decided to book the last 5 places for the 'end session', which was where all of the 10 adult Tigers were let off their leads & participated in bonding & stimulating playtime in the water at the bottom of the canyon. We didn't have to wait too long before the 'end session' started, where we plus another 10 people were put into a cage; waste high & then the Tigers were let off their leads & came running down to the canyon. The Tigers were playful, but made more so by the crazy handlers who also joined them in the water, hitting them on the nose with a half blown up plastic bag on the end of a long bamboo cane, encouraging them to dive & attack the bag - taking it in turn, whilst others chose to fight between themselves in the water. We all stood there in total amazement, being just feet away from the Tigers, not knowing which way to point our camera's as there was so much playful activity going on. The session lasted for about 40 minutes & after it finished, the Tigers were walked back to their cages & we were left to make our way out of the grounds at our own pace, catching sight of more Water Buffalo, Wild Boars & Wild Deer. We also saw the Leopard that had been hiding in it's cage in the make shift tree canopy, who also had a strong disliking towards Barry, but luckily there was a cage separating them.

The journey home was long & annoying, made so by our blasted bike that couldn't even keep up with captain slow (Barry) & just seemed to take forever. When we finally got back, we went straight for food as Sam, Dean & I were heading back to Bangkok. Sam & I was travelling up to Sukhothai & Dean to Chiang Mai where he would be joining Kieran & Kate. Sam's stomach was now feeling a little better, & so she ordered Bangers & Mash with onion gravy & I had 1 of 2 Sunday roast's that was left. Both meals were fantastic, just what we needed to set us up for the 4 hour bus journey back to Bangkok. After finishing our meal & a couple of Chang, we headed back to the Frog, picked our bags up from Barry & Elaine's room & got a taxi to Kanchanaburi bus station where we just made the 08:30 pm bus back to Bangkok.

The bus journey seemed to go fairly quickly, as often is the case when travelling at night, mainly due to less traffic on the roads. We arrived into Bangkok at around 12:45 pm & headed straight to Sawadee House & checked in. This time we were one floor above where we stayed last time, so had an extra flight of stairs to climb to the 4th floor. We flung our bags onto the floor, went for a shower in the shared bathroom on the floor below, & then went straight to bed, shattered from the days activities & travel - plus we had an early start the following morning to Sukhothai, somewhere that Sam & I were particularly excited about visiting.


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22nd January 2010

sam ur so brave lying next to them tigers. love and miss u lots x
22nd January 2010

hi there
Hi there guys fabulous pictures of your new pets,Jazzy just loves them and Theo wants his own lion or tiger so he is really envious of you both. Glad to see you both looking so well, still missing you both loads though. Jazzy sends kisses and hugs xoxoxo, Max has dragged himself away from his fifa 10 to say hello, and Theo just wants to be there,not with you guys but the tigers! Loved reading your new blog take care speak soon, The Seatons X X X X X.
22nd January 2010

Sending lots and lots of love xxx
22nd January 2010

The Doolittles hit town
Sam, I knew how ill you had been but the blow-by-blow account brings home how horrible it was. You looked amazingly well when we spoke the other day. Incredible wildlife - I don't mean you, Dan - bothered by insects but frolicking with tigers. Amazing pics. Speak to you soon. Loads of love to you both. Dadxxx
28th January 2010

xxx
Hello my lovelys, Its nice to finally see the photos after hearing about this so long ago! We are missing you both ever so much you know! Really hope to speak soon, it feels like forever! Love you fookers!!!! Miss you, Big hugs and all things lovely! xxxxxx
8th February 2010

Hey guys, hope all is well with you. iv been hearing lots of great things from sue about you adventures. LOVE LOVE LOVE the photos, particularly the tiger ones. send one to me!!! Everyone misses you. Last night you missed out on a tasty sunday dinner at my house, and one of melanies delicious cakes (cherry pie with lemon and cinnamon, just in case you wanted to know!). Take care, lots of love from roch and the belnavis crew x x x x x x x x x x x
16th February 2010

where are you guys?
Er hello there, is anyone there? missing the blogs guys its nearly been a month since the last one and I am getting withdrawal symptoms! I have to read all the old blogs to get a fix. Thanks for the lovely card and pepper,now I can think of you both when Im cooking. It would be great to see you guys on Skype , but I dont think you will get a good reception in the middle of the Borneo jungle, so when you are in a good reception area we are nearly always online to see and talk to you guys. Lots of hugs and kisses The Seatons. x x x x x

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