Siem Reap – day 349

A rather lazy morning as we recovered from two days of travelling, late nights, early morning and bad nights of sleeping! Pottered around the room slowly getting ready with a TV film on in the background as we both had a bath (it was amazing!) and then rinsed off in our waterfall shower. I think we have been totally spoilt with this hotel room – not sure I can or want to go back to slumming it again… 

Finally we were ready to leave the sanctuary of our room and did what we usually do on our first day in a new country – head to a couple of supermarkets to get a vague idea about prices so we know what we should expect to pay when we buy at a local store. We were both surprised to find that Cambodia is more expensive than Thailand – for some reason I thought it would be cheaper. Turns out that pretty much everything has to be imported which explains the prices but I’m not sure it’s going to do much for our budget!!

Had a late lunch in a small cafe before exploring more of the town. Visited sections of the night market, where I got to cuddle the cutest little baby in one of the stalls (one of the only stalls where we didn’t get hassled to ‘look’, ‘buy somethings’ or ‘help me out’). We walked in and out, up and down aisles looking at the well stocked stalls that sell everything – silverware, silk, wood carvings, stone carvings, Buddhas, paintings, rubbings, notes and coins, t-shirts, table mats… the list goes on. 

Walking back through the town to look at different food options for later on that evening. On the way back to the hotel, we walked past the Angkor National Museum which looms large on the road with nothing else nearby of interest. 

Back at the hotel, we washed some of our clothes and then got ready to have dinner with Hoai, a friend of mine from Vietnam, whom I haven’t seen in 7 years. We caught a TukTuk all together back into town and caught up over pizza and tiramisu. 
It was really nice to catch up and before we knew it, it was close on midnight before we were back at our hotel and going to bed. 

Tuesday 20th September 2016

Travelling – day 348

Neither of us slept very well. I think we were both anxious about the upcoming border crossing. We had booked to leave at 8am from the nearby Mo Chit bus terminal to the border market town, Rong Kluea, in Sa Kaeo just on the Thai-Cambodian border. We got up early enough to take our time getting ready and having breakfast. Leaving the hotel, we made our way to the local bus stop and caught the 77 bus to the station as neither of us wanted to spend the entire day sitting on a bus having been all hot and sweaty. The bus was easy and, before we realised it, we were at the bus terminal. Jayne picked up some custard buns as a snack before we found our bus. The bus driver was a brilliantly funny guy, having a joke with the cleaner by throwing rubbish on the floor every time she swept it. Jumping on the bus, it was an easy drive along the road. The bus wasn’t too busy so the air conditioning worked perfectly as we passed the time with monopoly and watching TV shows. A petrol stop after about 3 hours meant we got a chance to use the toilet and treated ourselves to a fizzy drink and a chocolate bar. Back on the bus we carried on passing the time with ‘Game of Thrones’ as the bus got busier and busier, meaning that the air conditioning becomes less and less effective. Also, as we got closer to the border, more people got on the bus and with each new passenger we were worried that they might be one of the aggressive visa pushers that kept getting mentioned on the Internet forums. Fortunately, we arrived at the border market with no problems. As soon as the bus had stopped, the luggage compartment door was pulled open and a handful of men stood close by. As Jayne looked after the two smaller bags, I grabbed our big bag and put it on. One man asked if we needed passport photos and when we said ‘no’, we had no more hassle. Walked through the Thai border section to get ‘stamped out’ with a total of 3 people in front of us. Took about 5 minutes maximum to officially leave Thailand before taking the path to pass by the casinos in ‘no mans land’. Arriving in Cambodia, we had to cross the road to go to the ‘visa on arrival’ office. Filling in the forms, we were the only tourists in the room with a dozen Cambodian officers. As we went up to pay for our visa, there was a clear printed sign stating ‘$30’. So when one officer showed us a scrappy piece of paper with ‘$30 + 100 Baht’ scrawled across it, I questioned it. He only insisted once more to pay the additional 100 baht before taking our $60 dollars for 2 visas. I asked if I could use the toilet, at which point he told me ‘no water’. I’m guessing that, had we paid the 100 Baht, there would have been water in the toilet!! Got the visas in our passport within minutes and we walked towards the immigration point to get ‘stamped in’ to Cambodia. Despite all the experiences that other people have had with this border, we didn’t have the same issues. Even the guard that tried to get the extra 100 Baht each out of us didn’t try too hard! We didn’t get on the ‘free’ shuttle bus as, after nearly a year of travelling, we know that nothing is really free and opted to walk the one kilometre to the bus station instead. Tried every ATM we came across but none of them accepted our card – Jayne thinks it might be a way of getting tourists to exchange money at one of the hundreds of exchange shops in the town. Fortunately, we had extra US dollars with us so we were able to pay for our mini bus ticket to Siem Reap. 

Despite it only being a three hour journey, we had the obligatory ‘rest stop’ at a restaurant in the middle of nowhere with inflated prices. Whilst the other passengers ate some food (and paid for the drivers dinner) we found a quiet spot to sit down and wait until the bus left. The view was beautiful and there was a kid playing football (who didn’t want us to join in…). Back on the bus, we arrived at Siem Reap and, deciding to stretch our legs, walked the 4 kilometres to our hotel through the main streets in the town. Checking in, we headed to the nearest (and only) restaurant open and order dinner. One of the starters was fried tarantula, which Jayne wanted to try…Having changed her mind, she ordered beef with red ant instead. A nice meal, even if it was a little bit odd! Jayne had to pick through her meal to find the edible parts as it seemed that they had simply cooked the entire branch covered with ants!! I went for a less adventurous duck breast soup (which was amazing!). Walked the 50 metres back to our hotel and headed straight to bed, looking forward to a decent nights sleep for the first time in a couple of days.

Monday 19th September 2016

Travelling – day 347

An early start as we wanted to get an early bus to Bangkok, knowing full well that it could take forever to travel the 445km. An easy walk to the bus station with the usual TukTuk drivers asking us if we wanted to go to the historical park. I feel that the big rucksacks and walking towards the bus station might have been a give away that we didn’t really want to go to the historical site!! Arriving at the bus station, we waited by bay 2 for our bus to arrive. Stood up with everyone else (except 2 tourists) as they played the Kings anthem before boarding the bus. Slightly nicer than the one we caught the other day, we settled into our seats and played a game of monopoly before watching a couple of episodes of Games of Thrones. Stopped after about 4 hours for a lunch stop. Found out that we got a free meal with our bus ticket so we picked out a chicken Thai green curry and tucked in… It was enjoyable until I found a caterpillar in my lunch! Suddenly my appetite vanished and I just ate the free biscuits that we got on the bus. Arriving at the bus station around 4pm we slowly wandered through the streets towards our hostel. Was nice to stretch our legs after sitting for so long on the bus for so long although we were dripping sweat within 5 minutes of leaving the air conditioned haven of the bus terminal. Walked past the world’s largest outdoor market, dodging people constantly as we tried to walk around the outside and as they were weaving in and out of the aisles. Arrived at our hostel and got upgraded to a smaller room. We had originally booked a bed in a 10 person dorm where all the beds were doubles. Apparently, the other 8 people were from one family so they offered to move us into the 8 bed single bed dorm which suited us just fine! The beds were almost like the capsule beds you see in photos from Japan, all next to each other separated by a piece of plywood. Did some research about our crossing into Cambodia tomorrow, slightly scared by all the horror stories that are on the internet about being scammed and aggressive visa runners. Feeling a bit freaked out, we headed up to the TV room to watch a film and have a cup of tea. An irritating DVD that was scratched so we couldn’t watch the last 20 minutes of the film ‘Mr Right’, although the storyline was predictable enough to guess what was going to happen.

Headed out to have dinner although this area didn’t seem to have much except expensive western food outlets such as KFC. Eventually found a little street cafe in a backstreet where we ordered blindly from the menu with the help of an ex-pat who could speak Thai. Ended up with a soup, a type of curry and a salty egg papaya salad. Sounds strange but it was actually really nice. Treated ourselves to an ice cream before heading back to the hostel to watch another film before snuggling down into our capsules for the night. 

Sunday 18th September 2016

Sukhothai – day 346

Sukhothai is typically regarded as the first capital of Siam, although this is not entirely accurate. (The kingdom of Chiang Saen had already been established 500 years earlier). The area was previously the site of a Khmer empire until 1138, when two Thai rulers decided to unite and form a new Thai kingdom. Sukhothai’s dynasty lasted 200 years and spanned nine kings. The most famous was King Ramkhamhaeng, who reigned from c. 1275 to 1317 (Lonely Planet say 1275-1317, UNESCO say 1280- 1318) and is credited with developing the first Thai script – his inscriptions are also considered the first Thai literature. Ramkhamhaeng was one of the most important Thai sovereigns, as he brought Sukhothai extensive territory through his military victories. He invented the Siamese alphabet (Khmer script), as mentioned already, imposed strict observance of the Buddhist religion and instituted a military and social organization copied from his vanquished neighbours, the Khmers. But, before we saw the bronze statue of this legendary King we did the usual morning routine and grabbed a bus to the historical parks. 
The ‘night’ market was busier this morning than it had ever been and they were selling bags full of chillies and trucks full of pumpkins. An assortment of green veg, that would have made for an incredible jigsaw puzzle photo, was piled up a few stalls down from some slivers of very smelly fish. The patrons waiting for the doctor joined in the prayers led by the monks already inside the surgery and we took shelter in our little bus station until the joining others for the trip down the main road. Some jumped off at random places, but the monk, in his crisp saffron robes, and the three girls all got out at the big supermarket. We went all the way with a lady that must have been from France based on the text on her guide book. All three of us rented a bicycle to zip us around the grounds and between the various significant sites. Starting at the main temple of the central historical park, Wat Mahathat, we were starting our day at UNESCO World Heritage Site #55. We were looking for the atypical characteristics of the area with classic lotus-bud chedi, featuring a conical spire topping a square-sided structure on a three-tiered base. Obviously! Of course, I for one didn’t notice any of this. It was hot. At almost 28*C before 10:00 and the humidity to kill, we just wandered casually. This temple, completed in the 13th century, is surrounded by brick walls (206m long and 200m wide) (clearly the architect didn’t have OCD!) and a moat that is believed to represent the outer wall of the universe and the cosmic ocean. The original Buddha figures still sit among the the ruined columns of the old wí•hâhn (sanctuary) and the base of the main chedi is decorated with the relief-stuccoes of 168 Buddhist disciples. Just south of this impressive complex is Wat Si Sawai, dating from the 12th and 13th century, this ancient temple still retains it three Khmer-style towers and a picturesque moat. It was originally built as a Hindu temple but the sign describing all the evidence of it being such, with lingas, carved lintel depicting Vishnu and other designs were not obvious or no longer present. They were very nice and worth a visit before heading over to Wat Traphang Ngoen. Not mentioned in the guidebook, but recommended on our free map from the kind bike shop lady, the sign on the road describes its uniqueness as one without a boundary wall, with a main chedi, assembly hall (vihãra) and ordination hall (Ubosatha) in the middle of a reservoir. Continuing our culture tour of the park, we visited Wat Sa Si. The prevalence (and finally very obvious) Sri-Lankan style bell-style stupa – sometimes referred to as a chedi as well – is evidence of Sinhalese Buddhism in the area. The temple had a road going through it until 1978 and we sat away from the tree with dozens of smelly herons, looking at the new road next to the reservoir, as we had a break in the shade. We then carried on a bit and walked around the bronze statue of the King before thinking about lunch. A small distance from the main gate was the ever reliable 7-Eleven. A new big bottle of water, an isotonic drink and two ice lollies were in order to help cool down. The heat had probably reached it’s zenith of 33*C and we were feeling it. We cycled towards the North Historical park and got distracted by the Wat Sorasan/Sorasak (it’s hard to get reliable info these days). The main bell-shaped chedi sits on a base of elelephant structures. This concept is based on a belief that the elephant is regarded as a beast of burden for the emperor, and is a suitable animal to firmly uphold Buddhism through a period of 5,000 years. We took shade under a tree at Wat Mae Chon and took a breather and lunch. It can’t be said it was enjoyable as it can’t be said what it was we ate. We bought little tuna snack packs, but I don’t think there was any fish in it and the ingredients list was only for the crackers and a chilli mayo sauce. With limited time left to us before we turned into puddles we visited Wat Si Chum. An impressive mon•dòp with a 15m, brick-and-stucco seated Buddha. This Buddha’s elegant tapered fingers are coated with gold leaf from visitors and the effect was quite beautiful. No longer able to visit the tunnels of the structure to see the jataka inscriptions we made our way to Wat Phra Phai Luang. This 12th century temple is quite isolated to other sites in the area. It didn’t stop the Thai lady charging us an additional small fee to enter with our bikes. The Khmer-style towers are much bigger than Wat Si Sawai, but here only one of them looked to be in a good condition. It is thought to be the centre of Sukhothai when it was ruled by the Khmers of Angkor prior to the 13th century. The large site was the last we visited before throwing the towel in. Back we went!Dropping off the bikes we managed to get a bus immediately and the half hour in to town seemed much quicker than that morning. We probably should have rested inside and cooled down with several showers. Even though we weren’t burned we knew we had been in the sun far too long. We went to the pool to splash about. The idea was sound, except retrospectively it probably drained and dehydrated us more – we should have been drinking more and lying down. So it was that Katherine lay down with a headache and paracetamol and I stayed awake to keep track of time. Waking sleeping beauty we bought more isotonic drinks, collected our washing and had an early dinner/feast. Back to the guesthouse to pack we finally rested with some tv series on the iPad and sleep. 

Saturday 17th September 2016

Sukhothai – day 345

Not the most energetic of mornings. In fact, I slept on and off until about 10am which never happens. Had to remind myself that we have been traveling for 11 months now and not a week. I think that Australia was so ‘easy’ that it felt like being back at home whereas, in reality, we have done so much that it won’t kill either of us to have a lie in! 
The town we are in flourished from the mid-13th century to the late 14th century. Known as the ‘Sukhothai (Rising of Happiness) Kingdom’, that period is often viewed as the golden age of Thai civilisation, and the religious art and architecture of the era are considered to be the most classic of Thai styles. The remains of the kingdom, today known as meu-ang gów (old city) features around 45 sq km of partially rebuilt ruins, which are one of the most visited ancient sites in Thailand. However, we decided to skip the ancient city for today as neither of us had the energy or attention levels to visit our 55th UNESCO site and really appreciate it so we decided to visit the new town instead. 
Slowly getting ready, we walked into town past the river with its banks almost at bursting point. The water was about a foot away from the top of the wall and there were sand bags placed at certain sections were the wall was clearly slightly compromised… As water started trickling out behind it! 
Stopped by the tourist information centre to ask if there was a laundry nearby for us to do some washing only to find that it was closed and they were pumping river water out from their garden back into the river as quickly as the river was depositing more water back into the garden…

Decided that we weren’t going to get very far with all the flooded roads so we opted for an early lunch (or late second breakfast) in Poo. The lady in the restaurant pointed us in the direction of a laundry so, as Jayne ordered our food, I went and dropped off our clothes. Walking through the town after lunch we watched men fishing in the relief rivers and people going about their everyday business. For a tourist town, they clearly aren’t used to tourists walking around the new section! Our walk brought us out near the bus station so we decided to buy our tickets back to Bangkok for Sunday before continuing our walk. 

Found a temple, but we have no idea what the name is as its not mentioned in the guidebook or on any map, which was a beautifully decorated Chinese style temple complete with dragons. Even though it was deserted, there was a chimney full of burning offerings and incense burning from sand pots. Around the corner and over the bridge we stopped at another temple, Wat Ratchathani, which was clearly also having issues with flooding as the monks looked like they were walking on water as they crossed the site. Even the chickens were using the planks of wood that had been placed down to make the path accessible. Another beautiful temple, we found a quiet seat to sit and admire it in the quiet and calm. The only other thing to do in town was visit the museum which was 3km away – deciding that it was getting too late in the day to walk there and neither of us wanted to begin negotiations with a TukTuk, we made the hard decision to go back to the guesthouse and use the swimming pool instead – it was a really tough decision!! We messed around in the water until the sun set before going back to our room to get dressed and head out for dinner. Tried to find the night market to get something to eat. Think we walked past it – it was a handful of stalls, nothing like what was described in the Lonely Planet. Not sure whether it has moved as our MapsMe app said we were in the right place, we decided to cut our losses and went back to ‘Poo’. A couple of curries and a game of monopoly later, we stopped by 7-Eleven to grab some ice creams and headed back to our room for some ‘Modern Family’. 

Friday 16th September 2016

Travelling – day 344

A rather non eventful day filled with buses! We’d organised our mini bus back to Bangkok at 7.30am with the aim that we would have plenty of time to get a bus up to Sukhothai, North Thailand, without any issues. Quickly had a flick through emails and Facebook whilst we waited for the ‘taxi’ to arrive. Driving down the road it seemed like the driver was playing a real life version of ‘Mario Kart’. I think the more worrying part of it was the sign that said ‘please wear your seatbelt’ – no shit! I really wanted to but the seatbelts were all wedged into the seats making them unusable. So clinging to each other instead, we weaved in and out of traffic clearly trying to hit the magical ‘?’ boxes to get extra mushrooms or lightening bolts. It was almost a joy when we stopped for petrol, obviously having used up so much petrol in our race car! Weirdly, the petrol seemed to be being pumped straight into the engine rather than into the tank from the side…As soon as we hit Bangkok, we could understand why the driver may have been driving like that… It was gridlock. Clearly with a fast turn around and deadline to drop off and pick up passengers, we made up so much time in the first section that we were still on time at the train station despite our crawling speed for the last couple of kilometres. Arriving at Mo Chit bus terminal, we headed to the hundreds of ticket counters to find the one to get us to Sukhothai. Apparently, most of them do so it was just a case of choosing one that suited our budget and time frame! Got the one leaving as soon as possible but it still meant we had an hour and a half wait. Fortunately, the bus terminal was air conditioned and clean so we settled down with our stuff in a seat whilst Jayne pottered off to look for a timetable to get us to Cambodia in a couple of days. We had sat next to the information hut which had a series of adverts for the bus companies, playing out like mini soap operas – the boy and girl who sit next to each other on the bus and fall in love; the old man who loses his basket of star fruit on the bus (don’t ask!) and the young man who ‘stole’ them and then returned them! Dragging ourselves away from the brilliantly poor acting, we headed over to the food court to get some lunch before the bus. We ordered the worst curry we have ever eaten, the meat was mostly gristle and even the rice was undercooked – it was really disappointing. Stopped off at the 7-Eleven to grab some snacks for the bus and headed over to our bay. The cutest baby boy was stood there with his mum. As we smiled at him, he threw up the pinkest vomit I have ever seen. Giving the mum some wet wipes to help clean him up, the kid kept throwing up… I had no idea that much vomit could come out of something so small! No one seemed particularly fussed that this little vomit machine was about to get on a bus for 6 hours as the bus driver just kept throwing buckets of water down where he had been sick. Of course, we were sat just behind the mum and child – and next to them was a military police officer in a pristine beige uniform…

The journey wasn’t too bad although the 6 hour journey did take nearly 8 (oh, how I miss the reliable time keeping of the Greyhound buses in Australia!). Managed to pass the time by watching ‘Modern Family’ and ‘Game of Thrones’ on the iPad. That’s right – I have succumbed to peer pressure and started watching GOT. I’m three episodes in and I can tell you three things… 2 character names (John Snow and Kaleesi) and that ‘winter is coming’ – that is all I know from three hours of watching! Anyway, I’m sticking with it cause I know Jayne really wants me to get into it before she starts watching the second series. Had a bit too much screen time so decided to take a nap… Foolishly stretching my feet out under the seat in front of me as, after 6 hours of nothing, the vomit kid decided to make a swift but effective come back – all over my feet… Damn me for wearing flip flops!Arriving in Sukhothai at about 20:30, we were happy to stretch our legs and walk the 1 kilometre to our guesthouse, even in the rain. Dumping our bags, we headed straight out to find something to eat. Not much open at that time but we found a restaurant called ‘Poo’. For the novelty factor more than anything, we went in and ordered Sukhothai noodle soup (a slightly sweet broth with peanuts, glass noodles and chicken). It was really nice and was probably the best thing we could have eaten as it wasn’t too heavy but it did fill up our bellies. Back at the guesthouse for a quick shower to wash off the days grime (and the remaining vomit that didn’t come off with the wet wipe) before crawling into bed. 

Thursday 15th September 2016

Kanchanburi – day 343

Had a lazy and self-indulgent morning, just pottering around, watching a film and enjoying the view of the River Kwai from our raft room. Managed to drag ourselves away from our room to the rooftop restaurant and ordered ourselves a couple of mango smoothies as we flicked through the Thailand Lonely Planet book and checked emails as we continued to enjoy the view and quietness of the river. 
Leaving the guesthouse, we headed for the Thailand Burma Railway Museum that we had skipped the other day.Good job too as we spent nearly two hours looking around the exhibit. A mixture of information plaques, model scenes and recovered artefacts from PoW camps, the museum was incredibly moving and had both of us nearly in tears (Jayne more than me, obviously – I am a robot!). The drawings by prisoners that had been kept by their families and donated to the museum were incredibly detailed and the song that I used to whistle as a child (I knew it as the ‘work song’) was apparently composed at the PoW camps with the lyrics ‘bollocks to the Japanese’…

Feeling slightly emotional drained, we sat in the museum cafe, looking over the memorial cemetery, drinking our free coffee – it was comparable to tar! Even Jayne had to add sugar. Decided to go for a walk around the town and chose to follow the heritage walk which goes past all the original houses that were used during the PoW times to house visitors, generals and high ranking officers. The houses themselves were beautiful, boxed in on both sides by modern builds, you could almost miss them if it wasn’t for the information plaques that were positioned outside each one. Finishing the heritage walk we decided to just wander in and out of the back streets, going wherever the wind took us. Found a building being constructed with men sat on the iron girder as they were nailing in the wooden beams below, we walked past pet shops with puppies and kittens (took all our restraint not to buy every single one!) and we even stumbled across a market that wasn’t listed on any map. A bizarre animal was on display at the butchers counter – almost a cross between a large rat and a small goat… Maybe we should be more careful with what we order at the night markets!Back to the guesthouse via a lovely temple, although we didn’t go inside as neither of us were wearing shorts that covered our knees, so we just enjoyed the grounds and peeked inside from the bottom of the steps.We had decided earlier today to treat ourselves to a Thai massage as, in all the times we have been to Thailand, we have never had one. Both feeling a little nervous, we headed into the spa and got ready. They started by washing our feet – mine were scrubbed slightly more vigorously than Jayne’s, including the use of a nail brush. My only hope is that is was because I was wearing flip flops and not shoes! We then were taken to a room outback to begin. I have never enjoyed any of the traditional massages that I have had in the past. I think it is the feeling of someone touching you all over but any time I have had a massage I always get told to ‘relax’. Well, this one I loved! Not only did I get to keep all my clothes on (always a bonus!), my lady was like a tiny little, but incredibly effective, sledgehammer! She managed to work her fingers, elbows, knees and feet into every muscle. It even felt at one point that she was going to remove it from its ligament connecting it to my bones. Felt much more relaxed too as I was lying right next to Jayne and I could hear her toes, fingers and back crack with every movement – we all giggled so much! The women chatted away in Thai as they manipulated and twisted various limbs around. My woman even walked up and down my back which was amazing! Feeling far too short to be an hour massage, we were drinking sugary tea and feeling incredible – all for the insane price of 200 baht each (about £4.30).Headed straight over to the night market for dinner where we continued our ‘try anything that looks interesting’ approach, hoping that we didn’t end up with the rat goat meat we had seen early. Started with a very strange savoury/sweet pancake thing followed by some sausage with chilli sauce. We then got some noodles, red Thai curry and rice to eat back at the guesthouse with mincemeat parcels and sweet eggy pancakes for dessert. Everything was amazing except for the mincemeat parcels – a weird cross between a mince pie and a steamed dumpling, even Jayne didn’t want to finish them (if she won’t eat them, we know it’s bad!). 

Watched the ‘Inbetweeners 2’ during our feast and then packed up our bags ready for our early start tomorrow. 

Wednesday 14th September 2016

Erwan National Park – day 342

The river was much calmer than it had been the last two days. The flotsam trapped at the next floating guesthouse was all cleared and there was a hint of rain. We enjoyed our bowl of cereal on the deck, with Katherine being very loud and clumsy all the while – or maybe I was shattered and everything sounded like thunder and a brass band. Maybe it was a combination of the both, but we were up at the corner of the war memorial waiting for the passing bus to take us on our way. 
A local gentleman stopped and tried very hard to convince us to take his car. Nowhere was it clear if he was a taxi driver of just someone with good English. He collared in the Briton standing next to us and all he could hear was noise, he didn’t understand our Thai friend. We thought he was gone, only to find he had parked around the corner and was now trying to explain the cost benefits of his system, in English and French. Clearly we looked French. If only there was a bakery nearby I would gladly have a croissant in hand and take the stereotype. 
An enjoyable short hour and a half bus journey and we were at Erawan National Park. The rangers came on to the bus to sell our entrance tickets and we cruised down the steep hill to the car park. Changing in the shower cubicles we then had a trek ahead of us to the 7 levels of waterfalls:

1 – Hlai Khuen Run

 2 – Wang Macha

3 – Pha Namtok

4 – Oke Nang Peesau 

5 – Buea Mai Long

6 – Dong Prucksa

7 – Phu Pha Erawan

At falls number 7, I had a pedicure from the fish and the kissed gently on the arms by the little bees. Katherine went on an adventure and climbed up higher to see more of the area. She was missing most of the drama with the local man getting sick. He was violently ill from exertion, heat or something far worse and the family were nonchalant about the whole affair. The security card had to give out to them for not making any effort to clear up the mess. After all, there was plenty of water to wash up the stuff on the rocks and the episodes in the pool had all been eaten by the fish. Back at fall 5, perhaps could have been my favourite if it wasn’t so busy, we watched a stick thin girl scream her head off when the fish started nibbling her. Like, what on earth did she expect. With no sympathy, we watched the various antics unfold from a rock and enjoyed how the ware cascaded in the area and the fish were swimming about the larger pools. 

A few hundred meters below waterfall 5, not far from the track and yet peaceful and empty, we found a slice of the national park for ourselves. Feeling a bit self conscious at the moment and especially with so many judging eyes I togged off and got in to the clear waters. The fish swam round me like sharks or piranhas before a kill and once the initial few tiny ones braved the assault, they all joined in. It took quite some time to get used to the rasping feeling on the skin and poor Katherine was unable to stand still at all, the prickly little bites weren’t to her amusement. Trekking back downwards, the swimsuit wedgie I had managed to alleviate was now back and not at all discomfortable for being a bit wet now as well. Retrieving our food back from security (one of the only few that obeyed the rules) and our deposits for water bottles returned (clever system of enforced) Katherine ventured in to waterfall 2 for a prospect swim. With loads of people around the edge now satisfying to hunger fish, she was able to escape to the cascades and float about for a bit. I sat it out, helped a lady whom had slipped badly and generally just chilled. I got a few close shots of a monitor lizard before it slinger down the embankment and swam downstream. While Katherine was having a quick shower and changing I could hear the screams – the lizard had obviously continued down the waterway to fall number 1. Hahahaha!We sat on the most comfortable seat on the bus for the journey home, although it meant being next to the open back door. We different views of the amazing landscapes it felt much quicker than going to the park. We jumped off at the train station and used the same trick as yesterday to access 20mins free wifi. I managed to upload a blog and check some emails. 

Kat chilled on the river deck while I had a shower. The passing karaoke barge sounded dreadful and I could easily have done with a few flaming arrows and put everyone onboard and ashore out of their misery. To the night market again, our evening choices consisted of brand new choices again – sausage wontons for starter, fish dumplings as an amuse bouche, crispy spicy pork and bamboo chicken for main and sticky rice and mango for dessert. The hardest choice for the rest of the evening is what to watch before going to sleep. 

Tuesday 13th September 2016

Death Railway – day 341

An early-ish start to the day saw us eating Milo cereal and fruit on our riverside veranda, watching the boats charge up and down the river Kwai. Had decided to take the train over the historical ‘Death Railway’ and wanted to catch the first train up to Nam Tok. Arriving at the station, we found out that you could only buy tickets 30 minutes before the train departure time, unless you wanted to buy a souvenir ticket for an extra 200 baht which included a complimentary drink… (FYI, the train ticket only cost 100 baht each). With just under an hour until the train was due to leave, we headed over to the ‘Death Railway Museum’ however, they recommend at least 40 minutes to look around and, knowing what the two of us are like for losing track of time in museums, we decided to save it for another day. Across the road was the war memorial cemetery. The railway was commissioned by the Japanese during WWII as a way to transport supplies overland for their troops from Thailand to Myanmar rather than by sea which had been compromised several times by the opposition. The railway was constructed by thousands of prisoners of many nationalities who cut down big trees to make the rail supports. Many thousands died during the construction of the railway (the memorial claims it to be as much as 1 in 3) due to the difficult terrain, the tropical climate, malnutrition and disease. The war graves were beautifully maintained and there was a real feeling of respect for each of the men who died here. We wandered up and down a couple of the rows, noting that some plaques merely had the individuals name, D.O.B and rank whereas others had been inscribed with a poem or a sentence from their families. Sad to think that some of those families never got to visit their loved ones resting place.Back at the train station, we bought our tickets and were on the train heading along the death railway. Sat opposite a couple from Bournemouth who rent out property for a living and pretty much travel all year round (they are my new idols!!!). About an hour into the journey, we pulled into a station and suddenly saw a bit of a hullabaloo going on… Turns out, the train engine had caught on fire and the guards were putting it out with fire extinguishers. We then had to wait for over two hours for another engine to turn up so we could carry on our journey. All of the tour groups, including the couple, were put back on buses and visited the ‘Deadly Curve’ part of the railway whilst we waited… And waited… And waited. I went off in the search to get something to eat and found a shop that was doing a storming trade to everyone stuck on the train. They were even offering people hot water to make instant noodles, which we ate although we did have to have a Milo ice cream first (it was hot after all!!). About two and a half hours later, we had a new engine and were back on our way. The death railway was set against a superb scenery backdrop but I have to admit that even my heart was beating fast when we slowed down over the bridge and it was still creaking. Arriving in Nam Tok, we should have had two hours to look around before catching the train back but, as we were so late, we had no time and simply sat back down and made our way back to Kanchanaburi. Deciding that since we hadn’t done very much all day except sit on a train, we got off one stop early with the intention of walking to the night market for dinner. The stop was the River Kwai Bridge which you are allowed to walk over – so we did!!! It was very strange walking over a bridge we had just ridden over, even more so that they were safety platforms regularly on the bridge to use if a train did come along! Walking back down the main road, it almost felt like we had taken a wrong turn. It was so empty and quiet! And then the bars offering fish and chips started popping up! Before long, we were back to an area we recognised and headed to the market. Much smaller than last nights (clearly it was a weekend thing), we still managed to find some amazing food for dinner. Sausage on a stick to start, noodle soup for main and a custard chocolate toast dessert thing. A quick shower back at the guesthouse before watching the final episode of Friends in bed. Monday 12th September 2016

Travelling – day 340

Typical… The day we have to set an alarm is the day that I don’t wake up ridiculously early of my own accord. Really wanted to throw the phone against the wall when it woke me up with its shrill musical sound. Fortunately, Jayne was in a much more functioning and capable humour. Up we got, showered, dressed and packed up our bags, ready to start the adventure again after three days of practically being hermits. Took ages for us to check out as the reception lady had gone walk-abouts and the cleaner just kept repeating ‘2 minutes’ to us. Fortunately, we weren’t in a rush so used the opportunity of an empty reception to steal a few of the lychee sweets that were in the bowl. 

All checked out and good to go, we started walking towards the oriental ferry terminal. Now, I’m going to openly admit that in all the time we were in Australia we didn’t have any problems with anyone. Within five minutes of walking down the road in Bangkok, I had already been told that ‘I eat too much’ and that the ‘ferry closed on Sunday but TukTuk good price’… Oh, how I had blissfully blocked out the joys of SE Asia. Even though we’ve been here several times before and travelled this area for the 8 months prior to Australia, the culture shock was a huge smack in the face – as was the fact we had a culture shock to begin with!! Kind of assumed we’d slip straight back into the Asian way of travelling, but it might actually take a few days to get back in the swing! That being said, walking down the back streets of Bangkok was nice and the ticket man at the ferry terminal restored my faith in humanity by making me laugh. Kept saying he was from ‘wetland’ and did I know it?!? When I said ‘no’ he seemed really shocked. We then suddenly realised he meant ‘Scotland’.Jumped on the really crowded ferry that took us up the river. Clearly there has been a big push in recent years to clean up the river with a huge reduction in water pollution and signs everywhere warning of big fines for littering. Dropping all the other ‘white’ tourists at the Grand Palace, we were the only ones left going to Thonburi stop for the station. Jayne managed to navigate us via the hospital to find the station. Got our tickets and then waited for the train. Leaving me with the bags at the station on benches that looked like they may have been recycled pews from a church, she headed off to look around the food market. Couldn’t quite tell if it was a night market or a morning market but at the time we were there it was a little bit deserted. Bought lunch from a street vendor – papaya salad, rice and meat kebabs. Jayne described them as mystery meat but I recognised one of them as chicken hearts. Not sure what they others were but they tasted good, so who cares?!?The train journey up to Kanchanburi was pretty easy although we were both struggling with the heat and humidity. The scenery was lush and green, baring in mind it is the wet season, and there was plenty to occupy us for the three hour journey. A Thai gentleman kept walking past us and telling us that it was ‘hot’ and then sat down next to us to say that The Beatles were his favourite band. He then proceeded to sing the opening one line from a large repertoire of their hits… It was actually really sweet, except when we tried to join in and he didn’t understand our English pronunciation, so had no idea what song we were singing… It was slightly embarrassing!!!  Arriving in Kanchanburi, we walked the 10 minutes to our guesthouse and checked in. Payed a little bit extra to sleep in one of their ‘raft’ rooms which meant we were literally sleeping on top of the river Kwai. We also had an awesome view of the river so we spent some time on our veranda enjoying the soothing sound of the water and the gentle rocking of the deck… Until the jet skis and party boat went past!!Headed back into town to grab some water and breakfast supplies from the shop, then to the night market to get some food. An amazing array of sights, sounds and smells, we were absolutely spoilt for choice and were glad we were staying for a couple more nights so we could sample as much as possible!! Had a cheeky chocolate cake as we walked around the markets before getting a fried ham and cheese sandwich to snack on as we purchased our main meal. Bought a sample of Thai dishes to take back to the guesthouse and a slurpee too (I haven’t had one of those in ages!!!). Ate back in our room, enjoying the air conditioning before having a quick shower to rinse of the day’s grime from the train. We then snuggled in bed watching some episodes of ‘Friends’. 

Oh – Happy Wedding Anniversary to Mags & Tom and Cathal & Maur. 

Sunday 11th September 2016