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Living on the River - Kanchanaburi

Kanchanaburi, Thailand


On Sunday we said goodbye to Joe and Bangkok and set off for Kanchanaburi. Kanch is a region made famous by the move, "The Bridge over the River Kwai," but also has many other things to offer the tourist/backpacker.

We arrived at the bus stations and took a pcik-up truck taxi to the main backpacker strip (for whatever reason, all taxi rides in this area consist of getting on the backs of covered pcik-up trucks - nice breeze). A really cool thing about this area is that many of the guesthouses have accomodations that are literally on the Kwai River (see pics).

Though our rooms are far from luxurious and we have discovered that we are sharing them with a family of salamanders, waking up to sunrise right on the river is really really cool (and so is paying 5 bucks a night).

On Monday we decided to take a guided tour that coveed the highlights of Kancha. First off was a hike and swim up the incredible 7-tiered waterfall, Erawan Falls. Virtually a water playground paradise, this was easily the highlight of the entire trip so far, an one of the coolet experiences I've ever had. Something about jumping off rocks through waterfalls into crystal-blue water just does not get old. The waterfalls were breathtaking, and we even saw a group of monkeys during the hike.




Next we visited Hellfire Pass and its War Museum.

Hellfire Pass was a stretch of railroad cut through solid rock (a sort of gorge) that the Japanese forced POWs and other Asians to build during WWII. Following this, we saw a cave that was a war-time malaria hospital now converted to a Buddha-filled temple, and the bridge over the River Kwai itself (they try to hype it up, but it's really just a bridge....).

One of the most entertaining parts of the day was conversing with our Thai guide, Mai, who was very charismatic, though had a very poor grasp of the English language. Her answers to our questions were basically always an oblivious "Yes" accompanied with a smile and a laugh, even when we her answers contradicted each other. Often she would not even realize we were asking questions. Example:

Us (sweating vigorously after our hike): Hey Mai, is there AC in the restaurant we are going to?
Mai (smiling and laughing): hahahah
Us (shrugging): ....

Though we perhaps didn't learn as much as we could have, our conversations ended up being sources of constant humor throughout the day.

After our tour, we hung out at some of the bars around the strip that were all somewhat empty and desperate for clientele. It seems like, in general, whether due to the economy tanking our it just being the off-season, the tourist trail is significantly less crowded than what I expected. This is a great thing when it comes to sight-seeing (we had the waterfalls to ourselves most of the time) and having cultural experiences, but it would be nice if there were more travelers out to meet. This will probably change, for better or worse, when we get to the islands down south.

Today (Tuesday) we will wrap up here and head to Chiang Mai in the north of Thailand. More later.

permalink written by  bhkann on June 23, 2009 from Kanchanaburi, Thailand
from the travel blog: Ben's SE Asia Voyage
tagged Kanchanaburi and ErawanFalls

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From Bangkok to Kanchanaburi

Kanchanaburi, Thailand


We Brits arrived at Bangkok airport around 9am, wondering how we were going to get through another day without crashing out...particularly since the day turned out to be so eventful.

We hardly had time to recover from the flight before we found ourselves making yet more introductions - to the other half of our volunteer group: five Canadians, an American and another Brit. Steve, Jessi, Megan, Maddie, Paige, Callie and Emma respectively. And, of course, to our lovely project leader Claire, a native Thai who lectures at Bangkok university and who would, over the next two weeks, show us the Thailand tourists hardly ever get to see.

The minibus journey to Kanchanaburi gave us our first culture shock - the fearless bikers who weave in and out of traffic with their motorbikes impossibly loaded with everything from planks of wood to small children kept us occupied for some time, while the hair-raising 'exploits' of our driver (overtaking on a bend with a car coming at top speed in the other direction, anyone?) triggered motion sickness all round.

Our first stop in Kanchanaburi was, pedictably, the bridge over the River Kwai, where we had our first taste of the local cuisine and marvelled at the complete lack of health and safety regulations while crossing the bridge and attempting not to fall through one of the gaping holes or get mown down by the train.

Now, for the moment we had been anticipating the most: our arrival at our two-week volunteer project, based at Moo Baan Dek (translated as 'Children's Village School'), a school and community for orphaned, abandoned or unwanted children. Our role at the village would be to teach the kids basic English, play games and generally give these children the love and attention they desperately need. I'll write more about Moo Baan Dek later.

At the entrance to Moo Baan Dek (a little bit sunny...)

The village is built in the jungle - but it has been tamed by volunteer workers over the years and also by the kids themselves, who have quickly taught the more terrifying jungle creatures such as spiders, snakes and scorpions to keep their distance for fear of dissection! The schoolhouses and dormitories are basic but strangely beautiful wooden structures and our volunteer house is no different: the downstairs dining area is open and the bedrooms and bathrooms are functional: our beds were thin mattresses on the floor but we had flushing toilets - the ultimate luxury! The best thing about our house, however, was the fact that it was built on the bank of the River Kwai. The view of the river, jungle and mountains was just incredible, and one I will never forget. Photos (below) just don't do it justice.

So after settling into our house we set out to explore the village. The kids came to greet us right away, mostly to get their hands on our digital cameras! We walked down to a jetty on the river: there is a calm pocket of water where the kids are allowed to swim. Our first day at Moo Baan Dek was truly surreal, but it was about to get even more so...


Exploring the jetty, and first encounter with the kids


permalink written by  lucy3119 on August 8, 2009 from Kanchanaburi, Thailand
from the travel blog: Thailand 2009
tagged Thailand and Kanchanaburi

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Ein Hoch auf unseren Busfahrer!

Trat, Thailand


Heute schreibe ich über unsere Ganztagestour mit verschiedenen Minivans. Der Start war in Thong Pha Phum: so früh wie möglich aus dem Bett, schnellstmöglich ein Frühstück einwerfen und dann nach Chiang Mai - so der Plan. Aber wie immer kommt ja erstens - alles anders, und zweitens - als man denkt.

Weil unsere Option auf frühstück noch nicht offen hatte, entschieden wir uns für den überdachten Foodstall eine Ecke weiter, der garnicht schlecht von Einheimischen besucht war. Und weil dort, wo sich Einheimische häufen, das Essem immer sehr gut ist, hatten wir unser Ziel erreicht.

Das Frühstück haben wir aus Rücksicht auf unsere Leser garnicht erst fotographiert - ich hatte nämlich keine Ahnung wo aus in einem Schwein etwas derart geformtes hätte stammen können, und nun wo ich es gegessen habe, möchte ich lieber keine Spekulationen darüber. Nur so viel - ich glaube von einem ganzen Schwein bleibt am Ende vom Tag wirklich nichts mehr übrig...
Und Tatis Frühstück? Tja, kombiniere einheimische Getreidesorten mit Meer/See, und heraus kommt Reisbrei mit Fischsoße.

Gut gesättigt mussten wir nur ein paar Minuten auf die Abfahrt unseres Minivans warten. Der ging allerdings nicht in Richtung Chiang Mai, weil die Fahrt so lang gewesen wäre, dass sie nicht in einen Tag gepasst hätte. Es wurde in Richtung Ko Chang umdisponiert, eine Insel nahe der Grenze nach Kambodscha. Einem Tipp zufolge kann man dort mit Elefanten arbeiten (also Elefanten baden und so, nicht drauf reiten) - Steffi & Melanie, wenn dem nicht so ist, gibts Ärger! Des Weiteren könnte ich nun den Reiseführer zitieren, dass man da toll Tauchen können soll; aber das mache ich nicht, weil ich das (noch) nicht kann.

Der erste Zwischenstopp war mal wieder Kanchanaburi, mit 20 Minuten Aufenthalt, und dann besuchten wir für eine Stunde Bangkok: es reichte genau, um satt und nass zu werden.

Die letze Etappe startete dann um 14.30 Uhr, zu spät um die letzte Fähre zu erwischen, die uns auf die Zielinsel gebracht hätte. Endgültiger Stopp für den Tag war denn also das Garden Guesthouse in Trat: ein geräumiger Bungalow mit Toilette, in sauberem Zustand!! Hey!!


permalink written by  MaxTheDay on October 16, 2012 from Trat, Thailand
from the travel blog: MaTi in Südostasien
tagged Bangkok, Kanchanaburi, Minivan, Trat and ThongPhaPhum

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