Sunday, November 16, 2008

Amazing Kanchanaburi one-day trekking trip

Today's jungle adventure was fantastic! I had heard that Chiang Mai in the north offers incredible scenery, but since we only have five full days in Bangkok, we decided to opt for a destination within a half-day's drive of Bangkok, which led us to a Kanchanaburi one-day trekking trip.

We got picked up at our hotel at 6:30 a.m. this morning and made the drive to Kanchanaburi in a comfy van. There were only four of us, so we had room to stretch out and snooze along the way. At one point we were at a dead stop since a herd of cattle was walking in front of us on the road. Thai cattle have a distinct look and they reminded me of a cattle version of a Siamese cat...very lean and gaunt. P.S. Thailand used to be called Siam, so maybe that's why. :)

Today we had our first exposure to non-Western Thailand toilets, which are pretty much bowls in the ground on a raised platform. You have to squat (there's about a foot drop down to the start of the hole) and you have to throw your TP away (which you had to provide yourself). Then you use a ladle to pour water in the bowl to "flush. " Uber cucka.

Our first stop was the WWII cemetery, which houses the graves of allied prisoners who perished with building the Death Railway (of which we took a train on), which also includes the bridge over the River Kwai. (Phil and I saw The Bridge On the River Kwai movie a couple summers ago during Playhouse Square's Cinema on the Square summer series. Who knew I'd visit in person?!)

We walked across the bridge over the River Kwai, however, no one mentioned that trains still cross it, so it's an understatement to say we were surprised to see an oncoming train headed our way when we were half-way across. We scrambled to a platform on the side to dodge the train, which started crawling once it approached the bridge.

Next, we took a crazy train ride over the Death Railway. At first there was no where to sit or stand, so we were hanging off the side, but we eventually wiggled inside. We were packed like sardines and the only thing to hold on to was the ceiling. (I kept thinking that Phil would have killed me if I made him go along for this part of the trip since he's not a big fan of crowds.) Quite the bumpy ride, but really great scenery. Lots of bamboo, sugar cane, banana crops. We even saw a pagoda on top of a mountain.

Then we rode over to a floating restaurant with some fellow travelers from Australia, New Zealand and the Netherlands. We haven't met any other Americans yet in Thailand...mostly Aussies and Europeans. Lunch was light and satisfying. Thai beer was extra refreshing before we took a long tail boat to our bamboo raft for some lazy rafting down the river.

As we rafted, we noticed this Indiana Jones-esque wooden bridge with a jacked up hump in the middle. Some people were trying to cross it, and we laughed at them because it did not look easy...actually it looked crazy. Then I felt a flash of panic when our rafting guide gestured for us to climb up the hill because I guessed what was coming.

This bridge was insane! Tons of boards missing, swayed like crazy. Mary and I laughed and squealed like fools as we crossed...well, I mostly laughed and she mostly screamed since she's afraid of heights. I had nail marks in my left arm from her clinging to me as someone ahead of us started purposely swaying the bridge. It was an unbelievable and exhilarating experience! Indie would be proud.

Then we finally arrived at an elephant camp for a 30-minute trek through some light jungle on an elephant's back. Our elephant was an 18-year-old little girl. We found out most elephants live to be 100 years old. She flapped her ears against my feet, and her prickly hairs on her leathery skin tickled my legs. Every now and then she grabbed a branch to chew.

Afterward, we fed her bananas. Her trunk was like a big suction tube! She was eager to eat and got a bit pushy with asking for more treats. We were happy to oblige. Such a fun experience.

Finally, we stopped off at Sai Yok Noi waterfall and hiked up to the top to splash around in the refreshing water after a humid day. Some of our travel mates agreed to keep an eye on our shoes and snap our photo once we got to the top. It was a bit slippery navigating up the rock; however, coming down was more difficult and we slithered down the rock until we were back on solid ground.

Got back to our hotel around 7:15 p.m. and decided to stay in since it's raining, and we're exhausted.

One more thing to mention: we read in the paper this morning that more than 100,000 people paid their respects at the palace last night and many stayed over night to observe all of the festivities. Read more here.

Tomorrow is a more thorough visit of the Grand Palace a
nd the temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Keow). Also plan to get to Wat Pho, the temple of the Reclining Buddha and also home to the Thai massage school. Lots of history awaits!


  1. Dear Santa

    I want an elephant for Christmas. I promise to feed him and walk him every day. :)

  2. Me too!

    Next time I go to Thailand, I want to adopt an elephant for the day.