Bangkok to Sangkhlaburi

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November 30th 2009
Published: December 3rd 2009
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Alrighty, upon my return to Thailand I had one more day in Bangkok, primarily to allow me to post home all the outsize and unwieldy souvenirs I had purchased in Myanmar. This done in remarkably good time I headed out to indulge in more of the fantastic street food which is on offer everywhere. Tummy bulging, but unable to resist buying everything I saw, I took refuge in a nearby massage parlour (with no food in view). This one had a slight twist though, the massage was performed by fish!

Having cleaned my feet I tentatively placed them into the water. This took nerves of steel let me tell you, the massage almost began before my feet even hit the water as the fish were practically jumping out of the water to get at them. It was I must say, a most unusual experience but one I would thoroughly recommend to absolutely everybody. Should you be lucky enough to have mildly tickly feet you should find it quite pleasant after the first minute or two. Should you be unlucky enough to have exceeding tickly feet then I can assure you your squeals and contortions will provide great entertainment for many
Fish massage - can fish breathe air?Fish massage - can fish breathe air?Fish massage - can fish breathe air?

See how they jump out of the water to get at you?
curious onlookers.

Having tended to my feet I then stopped for a more traditional head and shoulder massage, of the Thai variety. All I can say to this is, Yeaowch! Who knew such a small lady would have so much strength (nor have such sadistic tendencies), and I'm still not convinced my shoulders and elbows were meant to twist 360 degrees. Bruised and battered and not feeling remotely better for my maltreatment I headed out to the Patpong market (researching for Fiona's trip here obviously) where I was cheerfully greeted by all manner of colourful characters, many of whom were trying to get me to enter their establishment for the purposed of viewing one of the famous Ping Pong shows (or similar). Despite a certain morbid curiosity (I mean - how??? honestly, the mind boggles thinking about the mechanics of it all) I declined each offer and instead spent my time outside trying to identify the ladyboys from the ladygirls, just about the only give away feature is the height difference, man they look good.

Leaving Bangkok behind for the last time (hopefully) I caught the train to Kanchanubri. Little tip for others trying to do the same, tell the taxi driver to take you to train station at Bangkok Noi, my driver spent 5 minutes trying to decipher the map (which was written in Thai script) until I added that immortal phrase. Then he just grinned and shot off, getting me exactly where I wanted to go with time to spare.
Kanchaubri is home to the bridge over the river Kwai. Well, sort of anyway, the bridge (immortalised in film) never did cross the river Kwai, it crossed the Mae Klong. In order not to disappoint the tourists however the Thais simply renamed the river and everyone was happy. Kinda tickles my sense of humour a little that. The bridge itself is spectacularly uninspiring, as is the JEATH museum in town.

The museum at Hellfire pass is another story entirely however, I cannot recommend enough a trip out here, fascinating, interesting and heartbreaking. Do try not to come on an organised tour though or you won't have enough time to do the walk through hellfire pass, the museum provides free headsets to listen to as you walk which really adds ambiance to the whole thing. Alas, I had taken an organised tour and so only had time to trot down the 340 steps, walk through the cutting and then trudge back up those same 340 steps (this time I did not count, I was too busy sulking, my guide told me the number as she pointed to her over developed calf muscles). The only consolation was the fabulous fruit shake I bought at our next stop (actually, that shake was the only thing of interest at our next stop).

Moving on I ventured next to Sangkhlaburi, a small town close to the Myanmar border where I chilled for a few days doing nothing much but walk around town. I did attempt to see some of the local Karen villages, hiring a motorbike driver to take me there but it didn't pan out. I ended up collecting a passenger at a police checkpoint, in the form of one of the policemen who sat between me and the driver. Having driven a short way into the hills the policeman indicated I could go no further and directed the driver across a field towards a hand full of huts. The occupants of said huts were all out which caused much consternation. The policeman 1st confiscated my camera and then commandeered the map. Not entirely sure what he was hoping for as it was a hand drawn map consisting of a squiggly line with 4 villages scribbled in English.

Nothing daunted he sat at a table and poured over the map for a good 30 minutes whilst the driver and I sat and exchanged bemused smiles.
Eventually, the policeman sprang up and ordered us back to the bike where he directed us back through the field and then up the road he initially said we couldn't travel. Here we stopped at another tiny collection of houses this time with people inside. I was directed into one of the houses where, once inside I sat nervously in the porch (these were stilt houses, the porch floor was made of dried leaves woven over parallel bamboo poles spaced about 20cm apart, I was petrified I would fall through and ruin their house). Slowly but surely the porch began to fill with curious villigers. Many of them nursing mothers who all wanted their babies to touch my arm for some reason. Eventually a man appeared, the only English speaker in the vicinity, he presented a curious sight in his day glo cycling gear but it was nice to hear someone say something other than "jim" (who is this Jim with a ponytail, beard and rides a motorbike anyway?) or "happy helen".

Alas, his English was almost as limited as my Thai so all we managed to establish was that I was from Scotland. This news brought great delight to everyone around me, there was much handshaking after I imparted that snippet of news and another English word was added to the general repartee. Whisky! they all shouted and then served up a most potent smelling drink. I choked down the (thankfully tiny) serving of drink which smelled and tasted much like I imagine paint stripper does and then I was driven home (depositing the policeman back at his checkpoint as we passed). Word of warning, if trying that nameless concoction I had, try not to do so sat in the porch of a stilted hut, for the ladder down from said hut becomes remarkably difficult to negotiate once one has partaken of the brew. I speak from experience.

Once back in Sangkhlaburi I went for dinner at a little hole in the wall restaurant. Here I met a delightful Thai couple who helped me order and, when it transpired that the venues 'pet nit noi' (little bit spicy please) was my 'blow your head off' spicy, they ordered a coconut and jelly desert for me (gratis) which calmed the flames almost instantly. Once my face had returned to it's normal colour they rose to go, stopping only to serenade me with a remarkably good rendition of 'when Irish Eyes Are smiling'. A touching, if slightly bizarre moment.

I had hoped to get to Umphang from here but there is no direct road and the ride I had heard of across the NP would cost a staggering 18000 Bhat, far too rich for my taste. One of the hotel boys came from Umphang and was all set to give me ride on his motorbike for a much more reasonable fee, as he hadn't been home in ages but alas the hotel would not let him go and so that plan fell flat too. Reluctant to take the rational route due to all the backtracking involved I caught a bus out of town trusting to luck that I would settle upon a final destination before nightfall.


3rd December 2009

hey babe, still loving your blog, i think your better than michael palin and should be published. work much the same unfortunately, and oh so scarey suz is missing your fab sense of humour ! stay safe babe and i hope the rest of your trip is amazing will buy you new pants for your xmas lol, as they must be exhausted by now suzie xx
5th December 2009

WELL!!! be jaysus, that was a bit harrowing woman. wot was all that with the polis man. i would have be peeing myself. But one thing is most comforting, everyone in the world (even in the remote villages in asia) has heard of a wee country called Scotland. ahhh, my beloved home. does that not want to speed your return to yer ane folk.... well, probably not. just thought to inform you that it is time once again for our sojourn to creiff, i love the place, and am determined to get everyone to the pool and sauna and not the annual piss up in one of the rooms prior to party time. i look forward to finding out where you are going to end up before nightfall. 'gan steady pet' love fee xx

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