My mind is blown by the supreme machine that is the Thai tourist industry. For varying prices between 2000 Baht ($65) and much less, a visitor to Bangkok can construct any permutation of day excursion… and the result will be giddy happiness and 300 new photos on your camera.
Yesterday, my partner in crime and I opted for the following package, graciously coordinated by our Lub-d hostel tour rep: 1) The Bridge Over the River Kwai, 2) Lunch and bamboo raft down the river, 3) Elephant ride, 4) Waterfall, 5) Tiger Temple. Let’s just say that this was one of the most amazing days of my life. Come join!
1. The minivian picks you up at your hostel, then zooms around Bangkok to pick up the other tour-goers. Each of you gets a combination of colored stickers to identify your package combination. We got purple and gold! You drive through the green hills for two hours until you reach the border with Myanmar.
2. The Bridge over the River Kwai! Perhaps you have seen the movie. Until I read the signs on the walls, however, I did not understand the tragedy of the story. During World War II, Japanese invaders forced tens of thousands of Dutch and American prisoners of war to construct a railway shortcut for war supplies. Over 13,000 POWs died during the effort. After Allied bombing destroyed the bridges, the structures were re-built, along with a museum, and an extremely well-maintained graveyard for those whose lives were stolen.
Here’s a tip: Instead of paying the 40 Baht to enter the museum, read the murals along the walls, and walk all the way across the bridge and back. Careful of the gaping holes, and leap to the the side platform when the train comes whizzing past! Then– find the man with the leopard cub and teenage tiger. Pay the 100 Baht to cuddle the most gorgeous beast in the world and take some photos worth far more than the $3 charge. WOW. (Thanks to my hostel roommate, Kathy, for this suggestion!)
Another tip: Probably best NOT to try “A kind of Chinese dish” or “Pork blood with rices” at the Kwai food stand.
3. River raft lunch! Drive for half an hour down the river, take off your shoes, then rock along on a floating bamboo restaurant whilst nibbling upon Thai curry. Then slip into benches on graceful bamboo rafts and be cradled by the current! Adie got a leech on his foot but rapidly pulled it off. Ooo– down and dirty with the jungle.
4. ELEPHANT RIDE. HOLY HEAVEN. Elephants are HUGE. Stand on its prickly back to get on and watch how its leathery, freckled ear flips and flops! There is a hilariously sassy Thai teenager sitting sloppily on the giant’s head; how he stays perfectly balanced is a wonder. Tromp through the electric green jungle and see the purple mountains in the distance. There are yellow and purple and black butterflies! Watch the elephant in front of you stop to pee for ten minutes (“too much Chang beer,” says your driver), and then watch the animal eat half a tree. Your sassy driver may or may not start sassing the other drivers, calling them “Ladyboys”. Hand your camera to an assistant who will take your photo. Want another fantastic photo op? 20 Baht (75 cents) buys you bananas and mangos to feed that snout. AMAZING.
5. Saiyok Noi Waterfall. It’s just you and the gleeful Thai second graders in their collared purple uniforms, frolicking around the cascading waterfall and blazingly green park! It’s really lovely; walk up to the top of the outlook.
The absolute best part, however, is the sign that says “DON’T CLAMBING UP”… in front of a million wee Thai boys climbing right up that slick waterfall. :) Want a snack? Rows and rows of vendors sell freshly fried banana chips. Your tour guide says: “Meet back here in forty minutes”, and points right to the center of the highway. Opt to wait at the side of the road instead, when the time comes, and get shuffled (coordinated by your sticker color) into a third van with rather abrasive middle-aged Australian ladies who are talking smack about America. Keep your mouth shut so they don’t hear your accent.
Tired? No, actually you’re not, because you are SO EXCITED AND HAPPY. Everything is coordinated and timed so smoothly, and the short drives between stops afford delicious nap breaks.
Now hold on to your hats, kiddies, and make sure you aren’t wearing red, because you know what’s next? That’s right…
6. TIGER TEMPLE!!! You’ll have to scroll to the next post for this one. My heart is racing with joy again just thinking about it…