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Published: August 16th 2012
Hitching a ride!
Entering the final week of our one year round the world trip we embarked on a full day of what Chiang Mai and the surrounding areas had to offer. We were picked up in the early hours of the morning from our eastern European looking hotel and proceeded to pick up the rest of the tourists who were also taking part in the day tour. Once the mini bus was full, we made our way along the dodgy thai roads, up into the hills where our first stop was at an elephant camp. The camp its self was a small road place, with a couple of huts and plenty of straw for the gentle grey giants to munch on. We boarded on trunked vehicle for a trek through the jungle and immediately were engulfed by an army of mosquitos wanting to feed on elephants tasty blood. The trek took us up and down the muddy trail, through the undergrowth and across the brown, flowing waters of a river all whilst we were trying to swat the blood thirsty flying pests! At the end of the trek we thanked our new elephant friends by feeding them some bananas before getting back in
Goods for sale at the Village
the mini bus and heading to our second stop of the day. We parked up along the roadside and set out on a small walk to see an unnamed waterfall, took a couple of snaps then back on the bus to visit a tribe native to the area. This turned out to be a disappointment as the tribe essentially consisted of two people and a stall selling some apparently homemade goods. After not buying anything and annoying the native tribe of two, we continued walking along the track to visit our second waterfall of the day. The waterfall was quite a dramatic one, with harsh, fast flowing water crashing down some twenty metres to where we were standing. With our fix of waterfalls for the day we then visited our second native tribe, this time slightly better as they had a village as opposed to a stall. This tribe specialised in handmade clothes, which a few people on our bus ended up buying including Cerri who bought a new scarf. By now our tummies were rumbling so we made a well deserved stop for a lunch break. Lunch was served at a roadside restaurant in the middle nowhere, but the
Row row row your bamboo boat!
supply of food seemed to be endless and very tasty. Having put a few pounds on at lunch we headed to our final activity of the day, bamboo rafting. In teams of four we clambered onto our one metre by six metre bamboo vessel. As we casually and gently meandered our way along the muddy water, our guide was intent on either getting us wet, soaked or actually in the water! He succeeded in all but the last one, no matter how hard he tried he couldn’t get us to fall in, several people on the other bamboo rafts weren’t quite as fortunate though! As the rafting trip ended the locals relaxing on the riverside decided to get involved and started splashing us and little kids using their knock off super soakers spraying us intently! With the temperature in the high thirties it didn’t take us long to dry off before being dropped back off at our hotel.
The following day was our last in Chiang Mai, so we got up early to make the most of it. Unfortunately the weather had other ideas, as the phrase raining cats and dogs came to mind. First we ducked into a
No we can't take him home with us
small venue called the Cozy cafe for a nice pot of tea. The rain let off for a bit so we went for a stroll, this lasted about an hour before the heavens opened again. This time we made shelter in the Euro Bar, where we past the time having some lunch and sampling every Thai Beer that was on the menu! Tired and sleepy from our afternoon beers, we strolled back to the hotel for a little nap before packing our bags as we were catching the bus back down to Bangkok later that evening.
The bus trip was much the same as before, although we made sure there was nothing of any value in our backpacks, so the thieving coach staff wouldn’t be so lucky this time! We arrived in the early hours of the morning, around 5am. And what do most people do if they happen to be up at this unearthly hour... thats right pop to Burger King! Well it was the only thing open considering the hour! We stayed in the American fast food franchise, watching the drunken tourists stumble up and down Koh San Road, some with new thai lady friends or should
The view from our room on the River Kwai
I say lady boys... we’ll never know! We did get accosted by a drunk thai lady who thought I was French super star DJ Mr David Guetta after asking for my autograph several times, she seemed bemused when I refused to by her a flame grilled whopper! The sun finally started to come up and we dragged our back packs along the dirty back streets to find our dodgy travel agent who had arranged for us to be on a mini bus to the nearby town of Kanchanaburi. A short trip, 150km west of Bangkok in an over crowded mini bus and we'd arrived at our destination. The town of Kanchanaburi, is small but itself and the surrounding province are steeped with history, adventure and culture, all of which we were hoping to see and do during our short stay here. We were dropped off at our accommodation, "The Jolly Frog" and once we'd dropped off our bags in the room we set out to explore our nearby surroundings. For those of you who are fans of classic war films, you be be aware of the 1957 blockbuster "The Bridge on the River Kwai". Well the bridge the film is
WWII Memorial Garden
based around is situated in the heart of the town, we decided not to see that this fine day but visit the large war cemetery to get a feel for all blood, sweat and tears that had gone on in the area during the epic battle that was World War II. Situated in the heart of town, this is the final resting place of almost 7,000 Prisoners of War who lost their lives during the construction of the "Death Railway". The Japanese Army, following their invasion of Thailand during World War II, brought British, Dutch, Australian and American prisoners to Thailand from Singapore, not many survived. Their bravery and legacies live on here. That evening we booked ourselves onto a days adventure for the following day and enjoyed our favourite meal Pad Thai Noodles whilst relaxing in the hospitality of the "The Jolly Frog" whilst enjoying an ice cold Singha.
We started our day tour early the next morning, with our first stop being at the Erawan National Park. We were here to see the Erawan Falls, which have seven levels dropping down over 1,500m and is regarded as one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Thailand. Here we
Couple's Combo at the waterfall (see the size of the fish in the background!)
and the rest of the gang that were on our day tour, hopped of the minibus and went exploring. Now before I carry on I would like to inform you that our tour guide for the day was a lady boy, not just any lady boy but a very stocky one named Christina. So off exploring we went, stopping off at the first of the seven pools which had plenty of fish swimming in it. We were informed that the fish here did occasionally enjoy a nibble and I thought it was about time I had another fish foot spa and jumped right in. Although it was slightly nerve wracking as some of the fish having a nibble were actually the same size as my feet! With all the dead skin removed from my seasoned travelling feet, we headed on up to the three levels stopping off at one particular level that had a bit of a rock slide leading into a pool reminiscent of the one we had visited in Samoa. Obviously I was the only person stupid enough to give it a go, as the climb up to the top of the rock slide was particularly treacherous and
Hellfire Pass - Spooky
slippery but it proved worth while and refreshing when I splashed down into the cold water of the pool below afterwards. Out of the pool and back on land we continued up the levels only making it as far as level six, as there was apparently a bit of a drought in the top pool. After our trek and descent back down the muddy track, we were met by our tour guide who had arranged a well deserved spot on lunch for us. Bellies full and mouth slightly burning from the spicy curries we'd been served, we left behind the beauty and splendour of the Erawan National Park and continued onto the World War Part of our tour. We travelled to the aptly named Hellfire Pass or “Chong Khao Khart” as it is called in Thai, we were here to visit the museum and the Konyu Cutting. The museum was officially opened by the Australian Prime Minister Mr. John Howard on 24th April 1998 and it housed exhibiting artifacts and told the true story about the Thai-Burma Railway. We learnt all about how the Japanese Army treated their POW's and what they had to endure to stay alive. With our
Hellfire Pass Tour and Memorial
heads full of knowledge we headed outside the museum to Hellfire Pass itself. The Konyu Cutting section was chosen following a survey of the abandoned section of the railway undertaken by an Australian engineer assisting construction of the nearby Khao Laem Dam. It provides a stark demonstration of the engineering undertaken at that time, in the form of one of the most impressive and largest cuttings along arguably the most difficult section on the entire railway. Groups of men worked around the clock for 16-18 hours to complete excavation of the 17 metre deep and 110-m long cutting through solid limestone and quartz rock in only 12 weeks. Forced to work at night, Konyu Cutting was nicknamed Hellfire Pass because of the mixture of hammering noise, lighting from fires, oil fired bamboo torches and carbide lamps that created an eerie illumination that looked like the Fires from Hell. As we strolled along the four kilometre Memorial Walking Trail, we put on the our ponchos to try and stay a bit dry as the rain started to fall. We listened to the guided tour packs that had been given to us that depicted stories narrated by actual POW's who had survived
Couples Combo on the Railway
the ordeal here, and with each damp foot step along the old serene railway track we got more and more immersed in what actually went on here, it was captivating. The next stop was at Tham Kra Sae Train Station. This is just one section, and arguably the most dramatic, of the notorious “Death Railway” over the River Kwai. With 'Christina' our guide leading us, we began walking on the wooden trestle railway span from Tham Kra Sae Station into Amphoe Sai Yok Cave. Almost every tourist heading to the River Kwai stops here to walk on the trestle and into this cave alongside the tracks. There is a large Buddha inside placed by the villagers and we were told that the Japanese stole valuables from here and hid them in this area. Since World War II, artifacts have been dug up and the locals still occasionally find one of the valuables! Next we jumped on the train to ride the "Death Railway" along the cliffside towering above the water on bamboo stilts to the heart of Kanchanaburi and arguely the most famous war artifact in Thailand, the Bridge over River Kwai itself. Arriving in the heart of Kanchanaburi, we
The Bridge over the River Kwai
made our way to were the hoards of Japanese tourists were clutching onto the tripods, if only they new the true story behind what their countries army did and how many people they killed to make the bridge that stood before us. The iron structure was quite a spectacle, and as we posed for a few touristy snaps the sun came out and a train went right over the bridge, which you have to surprisingly dodge by jumping down off the track and onto the side tracks one to avoid getting squish by the train but also balancing on the rafters so you don't fall into the river below! With a full day of history and war memories relived under our belts, we retired early as we had another full day of activities ahead of us the next day.
As the sun was poking its head above the horizon in the distance, we awoke from an early nights rest re-energised for an actioned packed day in front of us, the theme today being animals. Leaving the Jolly Frog Hostel in the wee hours, our minibus for the day took us deep into the mountains and rain forest to an
Elephant Camp. Now for those of you who have been reading this blog previously your probably thinking "but you've already been to an elephant camp and ridden an elephant?". To be honest I was thinking the same as well, but we'd organised a one on one session with Tamao our 46 big eared friend. Arriving at the Elephant camp we hopped on Tamao, and took him for a short stroll around the undergrowth so he could have a nibble and do his business! After the stroll, we made our way down to the river where we then became employees of the elephant camp. Our job title.... Elephant Washer! Still on the back on Tamao, we took turns taking the grey giant into the muddy waters of the flowing river and giving the elephant a good scrub all over, not forgetting to wash behind his ears! The locals from the elephant camp kept telling the elephant to dunk us under the water, which was fun until he told us to be careful of the leeches! Cerri had such a great time with the elephants and was extremely close to deciding that if she threw out all her clothes in her humongous
My turn to have a bath!
back pack she would be able to fit Tamao in it and bring him home! With one of Thailand's magnificent creatures down, we then headed to our second of the day, The infamous "Tiger Temple" where we were joined by our aussie friends Rachel & Andrew from the trip the day before. I say infamous as there are lots of rumours about this place and the goings on between the Tigers and the Monks that run the place. So we went to make our own minds up and plus where else in the world are you able to pet a tiger! Along the driveway leading up to the Tiger Temple, there were herds of cattle and what looked like deer and I could only think which one of you is on the menu for Tigger and his friends tonight! We arrived quite late in the day, so were in a bit of rush and headed straight for the main attraction, a photo of you stroking a Tiger. Turned out you were able to pose with about 6 different orange and black stripped four legged friends, including a little tiger cub. We were then able to actually hold a tiger on
A tired Tigger!
the lead and walk them like a dog back towards their home in the temple. From there we moved onto the zoo aspect of the place where we watched and took plenty of snaps of tigers playing. You could then pay a little extra for the end of the day Tiger Training session, Andrew the aussie being a keen photographer fancied trying to get some action shots and as he was paying I thought I'd join him! A small crowd of fifteen then huddled around a small watering hole surrounded by tall cliffs, where we then proceed to watch some crazy thai men jump in the water with the large cats and play with them as if they were kittens! Arriving back in Kanchanaburi, we all jumped in the shower and headed to a little pizzeria with Rachel and Andrew. After which we stopped off at a roadside bar which made Weatherspoon's prices look like you were drinking Crystal Champagne! The aptly named "10 Baht Bar", which is equivalent to 20p proved to be a great little place as we spent the evening sampling various different rums, whiskeys and many many another spirits!
We said goodbye to Kanchanaburi the
Cat Fight . . . Literally!
following morning and jumped back on another over crowded mini bus to take us back to the smelly hustle and bustle of Bangkok. We decided to treat ourselves to a hotel with a pool on the roof, so we could spend the last couple of days of our one year round the world trip soaking up the sun, ensuring we went home with a good tan! Unfortunately the weather gods had other ideas as it proceeded to rain constantly for the next 48 hours. Excuse the pun but we didn't let the weather dampen our spirits and ventured out to have a couple of Singha's and some Pad Thai noodles, possibly our favourite food and drink combo! On our last evening in Thailand, Cerri thought her backpack wasn't quite full enough and that she was in desperate need of a couple of Thailand's finest "same same but different" aka fake handbags! We hopped on a tuk tuk, as we hurtled along in the rain the driver trying his best to avoid the quickly forming puddles on the road to Patpong Market. Whilst Cerri was shopping and bartering for several Prada handbags, I amused myself by people watching mainly the seedy
Taking the Cat for a walk around the park
old men with the young thai ladies on their arms! With several counterfeit items purchased we made our way back to the hotel to call it a night.
The final day of twelve months of travelling, was a sad day. Firstly it was raining, so we were unable to do what we'd planned which was to spend the day lazing round the pool. And secondly we knew that we'd be back in the doom and gloom of the UK soon. But as ever I always turn the negative into a positive, we would be able to see all our friends and family back home and we wouldn't have to live out of a backpack that contained our worldly possessions anymore! With the bags stuffed, sat on and packed we checked out of our hotel and had a stroll for any last minute bargains and nik naks to take back home for people before sipping on our final Singha lager well we had to get rid of our Thai money! We popped into Papa Jai's to pick up Cerri's handmade dress after all the alterations had been made, jumped onto a taxi and headed to the airport. Boarding the plane
10B Bar = Happy Days!
we both turned and waved goodbye to Thailand and the amazing past twelve months of travelling we were finally heading home......
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