Archive | December, 2011

12th December – Still at Erawan

12 Dec

The weather is still cool and so we decided to stay around the camper and do a bit of car maintenance. Marjool worked on some of the business admin including the vat returns. While we were there an English teacher called John dropped by on his way home and said that he would like to use the website as material to help train the other teachers in the school English. He has picked travel as the background topic, so it may work! Good luck John!

Work done we decided it was time for a swim. Getting through the fish at the edge of the pool is strange. They bump against you and the very small ones nibble skin. No wonder nobody stays in ages!

 

 

 

 

 

There are not so many places in the world where you can swim through warm water to a waterfall and then climb in behind the falling water. It is an amazing place.

We also wanted to have the fish nibble the dead skin off our feet …. it took some time before you could let it happen. The nibbling really tickles and hurts slightly. After a while it feels good in a slightly painful sort of way …..!! When you are swimming, if you don’t keep moving the nipping starts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Still loving it here, maybe just one more day!

11th December – Erawan Falls

12 Dec

The campsite here is great, and because it is the equivalent of a bank holiday weekend it is busier than any other camping area we have been to so far. Normally we like quiet but this makes a nice change, and we know come Monday afternoon everyone will be off again. Camping is just starting to take off in Thailand and the way it works here is that you roll up to the campsite with just your food, and tell the little campsite office what sort of tent you want. These are already erected and are just carried by four people to where you want to camp. Mats, sleeping bags and cooking equipment are all hired for very small fees. As we are in the camper we just pay 30 baht per person per night (60p). There are good showers, toilets and it is only a short walk to the falls and is right next to the river. It has cooled down over the last couple of days and is around 27 C during the day and 15 C at night. We love it but the locals are wrapping up in fleece jackets and complaining about the cold!

The waterfalls are beautiful, almost too perfect to be natural. We walked up to the top level (7) and took a few pictures on the way. It is a steep climb with steps and roots, but well worth the effort.

 

 

 

 

The calcium in the water forms level lips to the pools, making a step like structure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you walk up the trail you see large trees that have escaped the general clearing of the hardwood forests from the 50’s onwards. Locals put their hands together with a short prayer as they pass and the trees are decorated with all sorts of offerings.

 

 

 

The path is closed at 4.00pm to give people time to get down before dark. Firstly because it is steep with lots of trip hazards, but secondly there are lots of snakes in the jungle and they are more active at night.

 

 

 

We are not sure how long we will stay here, but neither of us are keen to move on.

10th December – Erawan Falls

11 Dec

We left Sai Yok National Park first thing in the morning and drove down the 323 south east towards Kanchanaburi stopping on the way at the Hellfire Pass Memorial and Museum. This memorial has been masterminded by the Australians as many perished here during the building of the Thailand – Burma railway during the Second WW. There were also many English and Dutch POW’s who lost their lives.

There is a Museum and visitors area where you can pick up an audio tour and the start of the walking track that follows the route of the so called ‘Death Railway’ for about 3km. It is excellent and well worth a stop. The scenery is stunning, but as you walk along listening to accounts of the prisoners on the audio tape, you can’t help but be deeply moved.

Hellfire pass itself is over 600m long and at its deepest it is 25m. It was all cut and cleared by hand at huge cost in terms of human life.

 

 

We completed the walk to the end of the track and back (about 5km) during the morning. Even then it was very warm by the time we got back. It is not flat as there are a number of gulleys to cross that would have had wooden trestle bridges. Now it is steps down and then up again.

After leaving the site we stopped for lunch at a typical roadside restaurant. The kitchens are very simple but the food is always fine. Here are a couple of examples.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We arrived at Erawan National Park at about 3.00 pm, in time to walk up to the first waterfall and pool. It was very busy as the children are off school for a long weekend.

 

 

 

There are 7 main falls in total, most of which will be much less busy. We will have a look tomorrow.

Last task of the day is to try on our strimming hats that we bought for 50 baht! Pretty scary!

 

 

 

Marjool is slightly concerned about swimming in the pools under the falls as they are full of fish that love to nibble the old dead skin off your feet and legs…… hopefully it is not these.

 

 

 

 

9th December – Sai Yok NP

10 Dec

Spent another day in the park as it seems cooler here and we have a nice shady camping spot. There are lots of short walks around the park which are best done early before it gets too warm. Lots of the trails are through bamboo …. big bamboo!

 

 

 

 

On the way back there are remains of Japanese camps used to hold troops ready for a push into Burma.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the afternoon we watched as groups of tourists were taken up the river on floating pontoons, towed by long tailed boats, so that they could swim down with the current.

 

 

 

 

The tourists were mainly Russians. You can tell because only the Russians walk about along roads and paths to the river with the men wearing speedos and the ladies bikinis and shoes with heels! They are not shy! Its quite a contrast with the modest Thai people who always wear clothes that cover their bodies when they swim.

 

 

 

On the way back to the camper we passed the stream that feeds the falls. It really is pretty.

 

 

 

Last task was to cool down and wash before bed. The stream is the perfect temperature.

 

 

 

It was a cool night last night and even needed a blanket in the early morning rather than just a silk sleeping bag. Lovely.

8th December – Kanchanaburi and Sai Yok NP

9 Dec

We took a closer look at the  place we had camped last night. It seems to be a family business with a large farm (80 Rai which I think is about 32 acres), with a shop at the front. We saw cabbages, sugar cane and lots of land ready to plant. It was all flat with good rich red soil. It was the owner who invited us to stay the night. He was a very strong and fit looking 84 year old.

 

 

 

 

The shop at the front was interesting and we bought a pile of odds and ends including, three hats with neck protection (great for strimming), two icecreams, two bottles of orange juice, four little rolls of wrapping paper, one roll of cellotape. All for under 5.0 GBP! If you are lucky we might even model the hats for the next journal entry!

 

 

 

 

The lady who ran the shop was also really nice. If you are passing, pop by and visit the shop … you won’t be disappointed!

 

 

 

 

We left the farm and shop and followed the sat nav towards Kanchanaburi. We always have the map to hand, but it takes us along all sorts of interesting little side roads. Not so good if you are in a hurry but great for getting to see the small villages and pineapple farms.

 

 

 

Eventually  we popped out in Kanchanaburi, a place that Graham had been to before when backpacking in 1984! It was all very familiar when we walked over the ‘Bridge over the River Kwai’.

 

 

 

 

The museum that I remembered from before, was still there but was now run down and most of the best items had been moved to the new Museum in the town centre. We went anyway. Among the exhibits were the steam engine that was used by the Japanese to move up and down the line, and the old carriages that were used to hold the prisoners. The conditions in the camps were atrocious and thousands died …. hence the name ‘Death Railway’.

 

 

 

 

There are some lovely national parks around the area which we intend to visit. First on the list is Sai Yok National Park. On the way there we saw another great overland car,  just waiting for a big trip. Just needs a bit of TLC and a new engine!

 

 

 

On the way up to the National Park we passed Hellfire Pass. We will try to go there on the way back down.

Camping was great at the national park. A place right next to a lovely stream that feeds the waterfall and again nobody here except us. The jungle leaves are so big that when they fall on your car in the night, they wake you up!

 

 

 

Walking down to the falls on the river before dark, we decided that it was a good choice for a couple of nights. Lots of short walks, shade and a nice stream to wash in.

 

 

 

When the long tailed boats went by we remembered how loud they are, especially in the confines of the river gorge. Great fun!

 

7th December – Kanchanaburi via Dan Makham Tia

9 Dec

 

Having spent the last couple of weeks by the sea, we were ready to head inland on our way to Kanchanaburi. We took the 4 north past Phetcha Buri and turned off on the 3206 towards Ban Kha. This is very close to the Myanmar border and very rural. I’ts amazing how quickly you lose farang  faces as you leave the tourist spots and head into the countryside. Again it reminds us how lucky we are to have our own transport. The view you get of a country is totally different if you just move from tourist spot to tourist spot by plane or coach.

The landscape quickly changed to hills and small mountains as we headed further west. Almost as soon as we drove up the first hill since leaving the mountains in Laos we saw our first Thai monkey. There was a whole troop eating fruit that had been dumped on the side of the road.

 

 

 

 

A little bit further along the road we stopped to take a picture of an unusual house. It had been built using wood from old hardwood trees. The branches were not machined, except for a little bit of rounding using a grinder. While we were looking the owner, who was an interior designer from Bangkok came over and invited us in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To get to the upper areas there was a fantastic set of stairs made from hardwood slices of timber and branches.

 

 

 

The internal features were just as interesting, although I am sure that building regulations in the UK would not allow the same creativity!

 

 

 

The bath was made out of a very old hardwood tree stump, upturned and hollowed out. A set of steps led up to the bath.

 

 

 

 

 

The second bathroom was equally unusual with a bath carved from solid rock. It had taken 48 days to form.

 

 

 

Outside there was a nice hardwood deck, all freeform shapes, carefully fitted to cover the area. Planks would have been too easy!

 

 

Having turned down the offer of a free night sleeping in the house, but accepting two papaya fruit and three pineapples, we continued our way up the road. We would have stayed but felt that we needed to get a bit further today. It was an interesting stop!

Further up the road were stalls selling fresh pineapple for as little as 6p each. Most were 10p.

 

 

 

 

Prices generally are much lower outside tourist spots. This makes travel by car or camper really cost effective.

Further along the road we came to a small town that had really unusual lamp posts. It was not a tourist spot and so not sure how they managed to justify them in this little place. Nice though!

 

 

 

In the next town on the 3274, we stopped by a shop and bought ice creams and a couple of other bits and pieces. They asked us if we wanted to camp behind the shop. Really nice people. We spent the evening showing them the website, cooking and chatting (using mainly sign language).

 

 

6th December – Last day in Cha-am area

7 Dec

Today is our last day in this area before we return with our sons later in December. The hotel here is gearing up for Xmas with trees and presents. It’s hard to gear yourself for Xmas when it is 30 deg C during the day.

 

 

 

Again they changed the design of  floating petals in the pot at the front of the hotel reception. So much work and it only lasts a day!

 

 

 

 

Marjool and Frances walked around the gardens while Keith and I lazed about by the pool. We were both planning what we will do when we get home, obviously I have longer to wait. The gardens are really large and is full of trees with sweet smelling waxy flowers, and decorative hedging.

 

 

 

 

 

We said our goodbyes to Keith and Frances (we’ve had great fun) as they fly back tomorrow and will be leaving the hotel early. We have a more relaxed start but will be back on the road tomorrow, heading north west.

 

 

5th December – Cha-am area

7 Dec

After spending a relaxing day at the hotel, swimming and reading, we drove to Cha-am Beach today as Keith and Frances had not been there yet. It was just like a bank holiday at home with all the local Thais making the most of their day off for the Kings birthday. It was a great atmosphere with banana boats whizzing past full of screaming children, people paddling, swimming and generally relaxing by the water. We walked along edge of the beach with our feet in the sea, which was bath warm. No catching of breath as you do at home.

We then walked along looking for a reastaurant. On the way we saw a spirit house, which is normally placed on the site of a new building or development, to house the spirits that already live there. An offering of food or drink is then placed by the house every day to keep the spirits happy. In the countryside it is normally rice and fruit, in the developed areas it is often fizzy drinks and packaged food.

 

 

As we sat in one of the local restaurants, where a main course is still around 80 or 90 Baht, fireworks started to go off on the beach. Not official displays, but just street/beach vendors just selling a few to the visitors. We bought a couple of Chinese lanterns and set them off with a wish.

 

We know that these things are not great for the environment, but just this once! After driving back we watched the final part of the Kings birthday celebrations, the hotel guests and staff held candles while watching a televised ceremony on a big screen by the hotel pool.

The days just rush by when you don’t do much, and today was no exception. Only one day left with Keith and Frances!

4th December – Cha-am and Hua Hin

6 Dec

Drove down to Hua Hin with Keith and Frances to explore and do some shopping. Graham is down to his last two t-shirts as the others have become embarrassingly grubby. Luckily genuine branded t-shirts (real one … same, same) are available for 180 Baht.

We visited two local malls and the big Market Village, which includes a big Tesco Lotus and lots of big brand outlets. We all came out clutching carrier bags, with us wondering how we could fit the extra clothes in Troopy, which is already full!

With the shopping done we wandered down to the beach to see if we had done it justice last time we looked.

After walking through the normal stalls we arrived at a really crowded beach.

On the way back through the stalls, we looked to see if anything tempted us …..

Resisting all the temptations we went back to the car and drove to the hotel again. Just by the reception there are great big stone pots filled with water. In the water there are petals of flowers floating to create different designs. It changes every day.

We swam and then walked to the village to eat, drink and treat ourselves to another massage. It really feels like a holiday now!

Down at the massage parlour, we were treated like regulars …. hmmmm first difficulty making a choice from the menu!

All too soon it was over. Could never really understand why people raved about massage …. now we understood! We said goodbye to the team secretly hoping for one last go before we went home. Costing little more than a pint of beer at home  for over an hour …..

Tomorrow we will take Keith and Francis to Cha-am Beach

3rd December – Down the coast towards Hua Hin

5 Dec

Today we are meeting our friends who have been on a tour of Thailand and are finishing it off with a few days in a beach resort. They invited us to join them. It’s really strange, it’s taken us five months to get here and they’ve flown here in just one day!

During the afternoon we caught up with all their news and had a swim. Later on we walked into the village and checked all the menus before picking a restaurant for dinner.

 

 

 

After the meal we all decided to go to the massage place opposite and have a foot massage.

 

 

 

It is really relaxing and costs about 200 Baht for an hour. The first part is the cleaning of the feet in a bowl of warm water and soap. Even this is really nice. Then oil is applied to the feet in preparation for the massage. Part of the massage involves the use of a wooden stick with turned slots along its length. It is slid in between the toes, one at a time. During this process, Keith discovered that he had really ticklish feet.

 

 

 

Shame we can’t put video in yet as once the stick was inserted, Keith was beside himself with the pleasurable torture!

 

 

 

 

Graham also enjoyed the attention to his feet …. an hour seems like a long time, but it goes all too soon.

 

 

 

The massage was finished off with a shoulder massage. We all agreed that is was a really nice experience and agreed to do it again soon ….. maybe even tomorrow!!