Kanchanaburi and Erawan Falls
10.08.2011 - 10.10.2011 80 °F
Made it back on Tuesday from a home-run trip to Kanchanaburi! This province is a 2-hour bus ride from Bangkok and easily jumped its way up the list to being my FAVORITE spot in Thailand. I drove a motorcycle, swam in a waterfall, and witnessed the most breathtaking sunset. One night in Kanchanaburi and anyone would be hooked. And I spent two nights.
We've been talking about visiting Kanchanaburi for weeks because it's so conveniently close, but lovely Bangkok just kept sucking us in with its charm weekend after weekend! But after having too many talks about our semester moving so very fast, we had to be more proactive about these trips. So, we decided Friday night that we wanted to go, and were on one of the first buses out of Bangkok Saturday morning! Love that easy as pie Thai travel.
My friend Lex and I arrived earlier than the rest of our group, and got started on the historical stuff right away. Kanchanaburi is the scene of the Death Railway--the railroad that was forcibly built by POWs of the Japanese in 1942. The tracks were purposed as an easy-transport route for Japanese supplies between Burma and Thailand, and contracted the work of over 200,000 men during WWII. The JEATH War Museum just around the corner from our guesthouse was filled with amazing exhibits about the prisoners and their struggles, and had even greater representations of the death tolls of the Asian, European, and Australian laborers. We even watched a short movie about the Bridge over the River Kwai, and I feel so much more educated about the event now. Plus, the museum offered free coffee and tea to each visitor which made me even more fond of this place.
Back at the guesthouse, we met up a group of our international friends who had left Bangkok the day before, and chatted about life and the national park they had just visited while the sun went down over the river. After being in Bangkok for extended periods of time, there is nothing better than watching the sunset with crystal clear skies. Gorgeous, just gorgeous! Oh, and the steak that the hotel served up for me while watching that sunset was delicious, just delicious!
The next morning we woke up early to get a good start on our adventure for the day--making the trip to Erawan National Park to see some waterfalls! It had rained that night and drizzled that morning, so we had a bit of a dilemma. We could either make the 1-hour trip in a bus to stay dry, or we could do the more fun (and potentially more stupid) thing and rent motorcycles! Yup, barely even discussed doing the former.
Our group was 2 boys and 4 girls, and the boys chivalrously offered to drive 2 bikes with 2 girls riding on the back. That left one more pair of girls that needed a ride, so I volunteered in a heartbeat! I had never driven a motorcycle before nor had I driven period in Thailand, so things were about to get interesting. And after test driving around the streets in front of the guesthouse and finally remembering that people drive on the left side of the road here...Lex hopped on the back and we were off! I'm sure she was frightened out of her mind to ride with a rookie, but she was a champ and threw a smile on instead! That 1-hour drive from Kanchanaburi to Erawan was breathtakingly beautiful, and I'm thoroughly convinced that it'd be a crime to take it on any vehicle that does not completely expose you to the elements. We passed flowery trees and bridges over rivers, and the scents whipping you right in the face on those motorcycles were key! The drive started out slow and steady, but once I got the hang of the bike and felt more in control, we were passing trucks and zooming around curves like bosses!
It's been raining profusely all around Thailand for weeks, so the park warned us on arrival that we were to be extraordinarily careful hiking up the muddy hills, and that we were not to swim in the falls. Little did they know, our group does not follow direction well. We booked it the path to the first waterfall, stopped for a monkey sighting, trekked to the second, and continued in this fashion all the way to the sixth tier of falls! By this point, it was around 3:00 in the afternoon and since the park closed at 4:00 (apparently a rule they really would enforce) we made an executive decision to not hike to the seventh and last fall, and swim right there in the sixth instead. The waters, although tan from the mud run-off, were so refreshing after the hike! We waded in a quickly realized that in order to avoid the fish that nibbled at us--they were the same kind that you find at Fish Spas all throughout Asia, only much bigger!--we had to keep moving. The flailing around part wasn't too hard considering that swimming upstream to the actual waterfall was like swimming on a tredmil; it was the getting anywhere that proved to be the problem!
We splashed around for some time until we felt the rain start up and knew it was time to head back. Being professional Thais at this point though, we all whipped ponchos out of our backpacks and threw them on in no time for the hike back! Luckily the rain let up by the time we reached the motorcycle parking, and the ride back to Kanchanaburi was just as lovely as the ride there.
Lex and I stayed one night longer than the rest of the group, and had the greatest time singing along to The Eagles at a bar called Blue Jeans, playing some Jenga, and hearing stories from a Thai bartender at a place called Sugar Member. And of course, the night ended with us stopping by 7-11 on the walk home because, well, I can't think of a day in Thailand in which I have not visited one of the thousands of Sewens (the proper way to refer to 7-11s in Thai) at least three times.
Every day I have these "falling in love with Thailand" moments, and they happened at least a dozen times a day in Kanchanaburi. The history, the nature, and the people are amazing and I cannot wait to make it back! Next time, when the waters at Erawan are crystal-clear so that I can see those fish coming up to nibble at me!