Leaving pai left a bitter taste in the mouth as we had such a good time lingering around soaking up the individualistic pai atmosphere yet we were heading back to the city again. The reason for leaving was for lucy to indulge in her passion for 'shopping and not buying' at the sunday handicraft market. That evening after a lot of walking and sentences beginning with 'eww thaaats niiiiiice' and 'what do you think of this one?' the fruits of a two hour trudge through the rain threatened streets consisted of some deep fried chicken (a bribe of food will always keep a man quiet) and exactly two silk(ish) cushion covers. When lucy was quizzed on the necessity for such an odd choice of purchase as she doesn't own any cushions , the reply was simply, 'well, ill have some one day, and, well, they were cheap!' Cheap indeed but with a further 8 months of traveling ahead, there is apprehension in the air over the possibility of keeping said hoarder's backpack below the airlines required twenty kilo limit. We are up to eighteen. Place your bets...
After a few days enjoying the unbelievably cheap and comfortable Bow Chiang Mai
guest house (we had a T.V, Dave watched lots of football, Lucy hunted for the remote) we caught an over-night bus to the historical old Royal capital of Ayuttaya. This ancient city was the capital of Thailand for 417 years until the Burmese came raging through in 1767 and destroyed many of the Wats that are scattered all over the place, beheading many of their Buddha statues.
After being woken up by our bus driver as our bags were being dragged down the isle, we were informed that we were at our destination. Looking outside we could'nt see much of a city, and it wasn't until we were on the roadside that we realised we were being dropped on the outskirts of town in a wooden hut by the super highway. With the rain beating down and sleep in our eyes there was no choice but to sit and wait for someone or something to pick us up. We had an offer from a 'taxi' driver to take us to a guest house but he was clearly a few too many sheets to the wind to get us anywhere close to our intended area of the city, and as
the locals were turning down a lift we declined his kind offer, allowing him to go back to his hammock, and stashed bottle of Sang Som. We sat out the worst of the rain until sunrise when two smiling motorbike taxi drivers agreed to take us and our backpacks for a slightly inflated fee to the centre of town. Our time in Ayuttaya was spent mainly exploring the Wats and old ruins, and feeding the fish at Wat Phananchoeng. The place has a massive nineteen meter high buddha that really has to be seen to be believed and local worshipers release fish into the river that are brought from the many stalls on the road. We watched England struggle to beat a stubborn Ecuador (the story so far) and ran into some people we had met in Laos.
To Lucy's relief we left Ayuttaya after only two days as she was visibly board by the place announcing 'If i see anymore Wats ill...' We took a local bus (it would have cost over 10 times on the tourist minibus) where we had to change in Supanburi for the service to our next stop Kanchanaburi. This town is made famous
by its involvement in the Second World War with the construction of the Thailand - Burma 'death' railway and the 'Bridge over the River Kwai'. Many films have been made and books written about the appalling treatment of western POW's and Asian workers who were used to construct the railway. The Japanese wanted a transport route towards Pakistan and India, and to construct the 415km railway took 18 months, which was fraught with mistakes made by the Japanese surveyors and took the lives of around 120,000 workers. It is said that there is one sleeper laid on the track for every life lost , mainly due to their working conditions and 18 hour backbreaking days, Diphtheria and Malaria. To walk acrosss the bridge today it is impossible to imagine the wartime tragedies that occurred here, as the peaceful river setting provides a scenic backdrop to this once torturous labor camp.
Sixty kilometers north is the un-missable Erawan Waterfalls that consist of seven levels of falls and plunge pools for swimming over a stretch of 3 kilometers through the jungle. Unfortunatelyy we only made it to the fifth level as the rain had mad it impossible to climb the steep
rocky inclines wearing nothing but flip flops under foot (not because we could'nt be arsed, honest). Going for a swim was like heaven as the muggy, humid temperatures were completely forgotten as the crystal clear water is freezing cold. All the levels are filled with fish that bite and suck onto your legs and feet if you linger too long in the same spot. The waterfalls in Vang Vieng where very similar in look and colour but the Erawan waterfalls provided a much more rewarding day out. The different plunge pools and falls are much more spectacular and the fact that we got a local bus rather than going on one of the tour buses made for a much more interesting trip.
Our last day in Kanchanaburi was spent in the company of captive tigers at a local tiger temple. All the tigers here have either been confiscated from poachers or born in the temple refuge. The monks have raised all of the tigers from cubs so they are used to human contact, but sitting next to one is still a nervous experience. You really have to see these animals up close to appreciate the size of them, one
swipe of a paw and its goodbye face. They were really tame animals but we kept in mind the whole time that the possibility to be included in the menu was a very real one, and although we look confident, i can assure you that the smiles are fake but the filling of undergarments was very much real. After a day with our new found feline friends, more mental torment ensued due to England's exit from the World Cup at the hands of the Portuguese. It may take some time to recover from more penalty disappointment, but with the beaches of Malaysia awaiting, we'll do our best!
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