Tuesday, 9 December 2008


We stayed at Kanchanaburi for two weeks, with a two-night visit to Erawan National Park in the middle. We have also published some thoughts on our Guest House, Sugar Cane 2.

We shouldn’t have even been at Kanchanaburi for this period because we had planned to be on Koh Whai for a few weeks after Ayutthaya. We even travelled to Trat, the nearest town to the pier for Koh Whai, but continual winds made the crossing uncertain. We travelled to the pier when we were told the boat was running only to find that strong winds were making the sea too rough for the speedboat. The forecast of a monsoon coming in from Vietnam encouraged us to head to Kanchanaburi early and let the weather calm down on the east coast. Given how much we did in Kanchanaburi and around in terms of cycling and hiking, this was certainly a good move as it would have been much harder for Georgia to be so active later in her pregnancy.

Kanchanaburi is in-effect four separate towns. There is the Thai town itself, typical in being built-up, polluted and noisy. This is where the bus station is found, along with a small night market, day market, the Allied War Cemetery and Thai Burma Railway Centre. The river beside the town forms a town in its own right, comprising restaurants, bars and the pier for the infamous karaoke boats. There is also the JEATH War Museum which is in the grounds of an interesting Buddhist temple. This area was the original backpacker locale a couple decades ago. Further towards the Bridge there is the current foreign tourist strip along a road running between the river and the main road. It is a combination of low-end and mid-range guest houses, mostly set on the river, with numerous roadside bars, restaurants, internet centres, Thai massage parlours, pharmacies, moped and bicycle rentals and bookshops, along with the ubiquitous 7-Eleven, lining the road. This is the place for 50 baht beers and the chance to meet other tourists. When we were there, most bars were sporting perhaps one to three foreigners, most of them sipping their beers in silence. This could be a sign of the worldwide economic downturn and preceded the airport blockade. Many of the tourists on view are male and heavy on skinheads, tattoos and younger female Thai partners. We guess that most of the large numbers of tourists we saw at the Bridge itself eat and drink in their guesthouses or hotels. The fourth town is where we stayed. This was a quieter area of bars and hotels on the same road as the main tourist strip. Everything is more spaced out, creating a semi-rural feel, and frequented by a mix of Thais and foreigners. Here are a series of large open-air bars where beers are more expensive at 100 baht a bottle, but for this you get beautiful wooded gardens, many lit by lanterns in the trees, that are set back from the road, some very tight live house bands, and waitresses on hand to keep your glass filled with that 100 baht beer whenever you’re in danger of reaching the bottom of your glass. Strangely the food on offer is little more expensive than that in the roadside bars further back towards the main town. One bar in particular, called the Resort, was where we found ourselves drinking when we went out at night. The double-priced beers were worth it given that I was usually only having one a night and Georgia wasn’t drinking at all. If you’re on for a few bottles you might prefer the economy of the tourist bars, but for that you have to put up with pollution and a less salubrious environment. We were happy to pay the extra, which would could a whole lot more in the UK for the equivalent level of quality. The Bridge is in easy walking distance from this area which is great because you get to pass some good food vendors on the street, including one of the main purveyors of quail’s egg wantons.

No comments:

Post a Comment