Back to Bangkok and the River Kwai

After spending a nice day cycling round the ruins at Sukhothai we flew down to Bangkok on Monday 9th May.

We stayed at the rather good Samran Place hotel for $21/night (booked through The hotel is close to a Skytrain station and only a few minutes from the central Siam Square shopping area in Bangkok.

We spent the next few days indulging in a bit of city-shopping, including me purchasing a new Apple Powerbook G4 12 inch I also went down to Panthip Plaza, an IT shopping mall where virtually any software or DVD can be had for very low price. We also found that genuine non-copied DVDs are available for under 200 Baht (70 Bant to the pound) so picked up Farenheit 9/11, Monster, Eternal Sunshine… and Elf (less than 10 quid for the lot!).

After almost two weeks in the city we headed off by bus to Kanchanaburi, to visit the famous River Kwai bridge and the Death Railway.

Bridge over the River KwaiThe hotel we stayed in at Kanchanaburi was supposed to be the best in the actual town, but wasn’t too hot. The breakfast area was crawling with tiny ants, food from room service (a treat!) turned up cold and the hotel was miles from any of the attractions or even decent alternative restaurants. In hindsight we would have been better off staying at one of the backpacker guesthouses closer to the river.

The first day we were there it rained pretty much non-stop, but on Saturday it had cleared up and we visited the Thailand-Burma Railway Centre which had a very interesting and moving display exhibition telling the story of the construction of the Death Railway. More than 16,000 prisoners of war, and in excess of 100,000 Burmese and Malay workers died during the construction of the railway, 38 PoWs for every kilometer of track.

The centre overlooks one of the main war cemeteries in the area, where more than 6,000 PoWs are buried.

After that, we went down to the River Kwai to see the famous bridge. The bridge doesn’t look very impressive but imagining the heat and terrible conditions that the construction workers suffered does give you an impression of what an achievement the bridge and Death Railway were. The bridge and Kanchanaburi generally have become a tourist attraction and the river hosts several loud disco boats which ferry Thais up and down the river under the bridge. What ex-PoW survivors or their relatives make of this I wouldn’t like to think.

On the Sunday we took a train along the railway to Nam Tok. The trip was a bit of a tourist rip-off, with a tour company owning 3 carriages on the train and charging 300 Baht each way for a seat with a thin pad cushion and some “snacks” compared to the standard seat fare of 100 Baht. The non-tourist trains cost only 25 Baht by comparison.

On Monday 23rd May we caught the bus back to Bangkok, and that’s where we are as I write this. We fly to Penang on Thursday evening with Air Asia

The latest photos from Sukhothai, Bangkok and Kanchanaburi have been uploaded for your viewing pleasure.

Chiang Mai & Sukhothai

After a week in Luang Prabang, including a trip to a waterfall and a river trip down the Mekong to the Pak Ou caves, we were scheduled to fly out at 11:10am on Friday.

Arriving at the airport in plenty of time, we found that the flight was delayed and was now scheduled to leave at 6:10pm, so we had seven hours to kill. Only problem was we had spent down to our last dollar and had no money left on us. We went to L’Elephant for lunch as they took credit cards. Great food too. We then went back to Ban Pack Luck, the guesthouse we had moved to on the Monday and they were kind enough to allow us to use our room for the afternoon.

At 4pm we caught the very crowded minivan back to the airport and waited for the plane. It finally landed at Luang Prabang at 6:30pm, and took off with us on board 20 minutes later.

In Chiang Mai, we stayed at the Chiang Mai Gate Hotel, which was very good value ($18/night for aircon, TV, pool etc inc breakfast). We spent a lot of time there looking round shops and the night market, and did a bit of Wat-spotting (temple visiting).

Chiang Mai was really nice, quite busy but not as mad a Bangkok and there were some great shops and market stalls. As in Luang Prabang, the food was pretty good, even at Fatty’s, the market stallwhere we ate on the Sunday night.

We’re now in Sukhothai, further south, having flown in yesterday from Chiang Mai. Only 3 people got off the plane at Sukhothai and we were two of them.

We had a quick look round some of the Old City today and will venture back there again tomorrow, possibly with bicycles to get a better look. It’s very quiet at the Old City, hardly anyone about at all, completely different to Angkor.