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
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
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