Always an Adventure – Thailand Part 9

Yesterday was relatively low key, Christine had some errands to run and I was desperately crazing cheese and gross American foods so we split up. I wound up hanging out at Pizza Hut eating mediocre pizza and drinking unlimited free refills of Pepsi and Christine wound up meeting me there. Word of Saturday’s violence in Bangkok started to trickle in and people started to be a bit concerned. The prime minister was on TV issuing a statement but people’s opinions are mixed. The situation actually seems to get more tense by the day, both sides want something without a compromise, it would appear the only way it’s going to end is with further bloodshed. Thankfully in Nakhon Sawan it was of little local concern.

After pizza Christine took me out to the park on her motorcycle. We relaxed for a bit and she taught me how to drive it, I found it to be surprisingly simple and very fun. I’m definitely going to look into it further when I return to the states. After that we went and relaxed by the pond, we bought a bag of rice balls and fed the GIANT fish who live in the pond, watching and laughing as the jumped and splashed over each other for each piece.

After that we went to a small bar simply named “Cups” to meet her friends Jon and Tom. It was Jon’s last night in town for a while so we kicked back and had a few beers. A few locals that the group knew joined us and we discussed the political situation in more depth and the general consensus seemed to be that both sides of the argument have a ton of merit but are equally wrong in their actions. Unfortunately there isn’t a third active side, the average Thai citizen would rather just ignore it and live their lives. Jon and Christine pumped me for information about the recently passed American health care reform bill, they both are deeply concerned that they may be expected to purchase American health care while living abroad or face steep fines. I admitted that I honestly don’t know how it will affect them if at all.

After hearing about my first drive of a cycle Jon offered to let me try out his. While Christine has a cute little Honda Wave, Jon has something a little more akin to a Harley. Christine had a good laugh when Jon made me get off the cycle when I asked what a “clutch” was and he refused to let me try again. Apparently I’m a freak because I never learned to drive a manual transmission car. How was I to know?

Anyway from there we called it an early night so I could wake early in the morning for Bangkok to fly to Kuala Lumpur and then Tokyo.

We got up the next morning, I showered, packed up and Christine gave me directions to get back to Bangkok, what to say to Taxi drivers etc. News reports on BBC International seemed to convey even more tension in Bangkok, making me glad I was heading down to the city early for my 4pm flight.

We said our goodbyes and soon from there I caught a motorbike to a bus station, only problem… Wrong one. The language barrier soon became unsurmountable as I tried over and over to explain to my driver where we were supposed to go, eventually I was forced to give up and call for Christine’s assistance, she came and met me at the station as she also had to head south, we luckily found one bus that was going to hit both of our stops and caught it together. It was a 3 hour ride down to Rangsit and traffic was heavy, as we got closer to Bangkok you could see military road blocks where they were randomly pulling people out of cars for interrogation. Not a pleasant sight. Christine got out at Ahuttaya to pick up her Kindle which she had left in the hostel a few days before and I had another 30 min until I arrived at Rangsit. From there I caught a Taxi and head back to Bangkok airport completely avoiding the downtown area and boarding my flight out of the country.

I had a great stay in Thailand but now I’m on to my next adventure: 27 hours in Tokyo! Dear readers my agenda is pretty open. Ever been to Tokyo? Hit me up on Twitter and let me know what I should do.

Elephants, Dragons and Bats (oh my) – Thailand Part 5

Kanchanaburi on Flickr

What a day.

We woke up this morning and had breakfast on the river before catching a ride to the elephant ranch. We sat in the back of a truck for the half hour ride through the countryside, the weather was beautiful, it was really nice to have the wind in our faces and to just enjoy the ride. When we got there we bought a bag of bananas and hopped onto an elephant and rode through the hills. The wrangler handed Christine an absurdly pink umbrella to block out the sun as we rode. He lead us down a path to the river where we dismounted and Christine begrudgingly returned the umbrella. We each got another elephant to ride in the river. The wrangler provided us with some dish soap and a scrub brush to bathe the elephants. They are such amazing creatures, we sat around their necks and as they dunked themselves under water. They pushed their ears back to hold your legs onto them. So considerate!

That whole adventure cost around $25, which was money well spent. From there we headed back to the hostel, showered and rested a bit. While hanging out we saw a giant monitor lizard swimming through the river right in front of our place that Christine will not stop going on about and demanded I fit into this entry. To be fair, he was pretty cool (editor’s note: that monitor lizard – aka dragon – is the embodiment of awesome!) (writer’s note: Christine is never going to be asked to edit my entires again).

After that we rented a motorbike and took off on the open road, eventually finding our way to the “Death Train” and the “Bridge Over the River Kwai”. I bought a much needed pair of sunglasses and we proceeded to get lost until we found a passage over the river we could take on the bike (the “bridge over the river Kwai” is train or foot only, no vehicles allowed).

We spent some time getting lost, asking directions and having a good laugh before we stumbled onto a bridge and eventually made our way to the Khao Pun Caves and the Buddhist temple built in and around them. It was quite possibly the most peaceful experience I’ve had here, which is saying a lot. The caverns went deep under ground and we stumbled onto a massive amount of bats lurking up above us and proceeded very carefully as to not disturb them. Despite our efforts, one or two still took flight here and there, giving us a mild spook.

The place was filled with a crazy amount of Buddha statues stashed throughout the caverns and many of the passages got absurdly tight and short causing my lanky self to have to duck often. We were both very thankful for not being much larger in size. It reminded me of the scenes from “In Bruges” where Colin Farrell’s character is heckling the fat American family, telling them they won’t be able to climb to the top of the bell-tower. Luckily we’re not that large.

The caverns were beautiful beyond what I can describe and it was nice to find some naturally cool air here (it’s been in the 90’s this week). As we were leaving, a monk set himself up in front of a massive Buddha statue and started to pray. It was an extremely moving thing for me to witness but I made a conscious effort not to disturb him. After that we biked back into town for some dinner at the “Tofu Bar Vegetarian Food” restaurant, which thankfully had free WiFi for customers. We watched the sun go down over a few beers, listened to some John Lennon and caught up on the news. I’ve very much enjoyed being cut off from just about everything aside from twitter but it’s good to know what’s going on as well.

Tomorrow we’re heading out to Ayutthaya which is the old capital of Thailand and from there to Nakhon Sawan, a small city where Christine is teaching. As much as I’ve enjoyed the tourist stuff I’m excited at the possibility of getting into a less touristy area and seeing things a little more like a local.

As for tonight, back to the bar we found last night to share a pint with a couple of Belgian girls while listening to our new Thai friend Juan (definitely spelled wrong) play music.

Until tomorrow friends, cheers!