Driving in Central Thailand (1st Feb to 8th Feb)

Trip Start Jan 01, 2008
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12
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Trip End Dec 29, 2008


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Where I stayed
Inchantree

Flag of Thailand  ,
Friday, February 8, 2008

After traveling through Laos and Cambodia using public transport and tours for travelers, we decided to  be independent for a week and hired a Honda Pick Up truck and drive where-ever the fancy took us. 

On day one, the novelty of having control of times and destinations meant that we got excited and traveled quite some miles, taking in Ayathaya (the old capital of Thailand, where there are many architectural ruins), Lop Buri, and ended up at Kanchanaburi (the location of  The Bridge Over the River Kwai).  We stayed at a lovely place -  very modern - called the Inchantree and had dinner overlooking the River Kwai a short walk away.   

The following morning, the Bridge was teeming with tourists as the town has not much to see, we drove on to a reservoir at Thong Pha Phum, looking to stay in a raft house on the water.    What we found was either very expensive or just too nasty.  (Raft houses being bamboo rafts on which some reed walls and a roof have been erected.  No electricity or bathroom or mosi nets, but lots of bugs and smells.).  So we clocked up a few more miles and stayed in a guest house in a local town and at someones suggestion found a great outdoor restaurant on the banks of a river to have dinner, whilst the monks chanted at the top of the opposite cliff most of the evening, from their temple.  The Wat was lit up like a fairy castle on a hill.  Very beautiful setting and really good food too.

The next day, covering yet more miles, we drove to the National Parks of  Tham Wang Badan and Erawan.    We did some cave climbing (really hard core climbing down in the dark !), with a guide and a broken kerosene lamp.   

We also visited Hell Fire Pass on the way back to Kanchanburi  -  the site of a  Prisoner of War Camp, run by the Japanese and used to build the Death Railway.  It was estimated that 68 men were beaten to death by the Japanese guards in the six weeks it took to build the cutting, although many more died from cholera, dysentery, starvation, and exhaustion.  However many more deaths occurred amongst labourers whom the Japanese enticed to come to help build the line with promises of good jobs. These labourers, mostly Malayans (Chinese, Malays and Tamils from Malaya), suffered mostly the same as the POWs at the hands of the Japanese. The Japanese kept no records of these deaths.  The site serves as a memorial and tells of the many horrors of Japanese behaviour. 

The Konyu cutting was a particularly difficult section of the line to build due to it being the largest rock cutting on the railway, the whole cutting was made with only hand tools through the solid rock.  Hell Fire Pass got its name from the eerie shadows of the prisoners as they worked in the night by firelight.    The railway line here, led down to the Bridge over the River Kwai, not too far away and we spent the night back in Kanchanaburi at a guest house on the River, before setting off to Hua Hin.

Many more miles were clocked up on the way in the general direction of back towards Hua Hin/Bangkok and we saw many usual sights on the road  -  in particular 4 cows in the back of a very small pick up truck (similar to ours).  We also saw whole families on the back on a single motorbike -  5 people, including 2 babies, all without crash helmets or even jackets.       We tried to do some hiking in a very remote National Park, but the maps were in Thai (and not very detailed) and the rangers could not understand any English.  So we drove a bit around in this very Thai  area and then decided to carry with the huge mileage and stay in the holiday resort of Hua Hin. 

Hua Hin was a shock to see so many retired Europeans living there  (and Tescos, Starbucks etc). 

Traveling on, we decided to stop at the Duang Floating Market, which is supposed to be the best in Thailand and a few hours from Bangkok.  We were advised to leave the market area before 8-9am to miss the crowds coming in on the buses, so we booked into a guest house locally for the night before. (Nok Noi/Little Bird)

Got totally muddled with the dates and took the car back a day early and found it was (Chinese) New Year  -   Tet  -  and most hotels were fully booked and much more expensive than normal.  Decided to stay at the Amari for a treat. (and revisited the Hard Rock Cafe).
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