Recent trips

Things have been kind of low key and boring since I started a job here in Chonburi. That's fine with me, a boring job is preferable to the job search process. This school gives good paid holidays, and I've been trying to make the most of them. Here's some trips I've managed on holidays while I've had this job, thought it would be best to write about them before I forget.

A few months ago we took a little trip out to Kanchanaburi, site of the Death Railway popularized by the movie Bridge Over The River Kwai. It's popular with Thai people and farangs alike due to the beauty of the countryside. I bought a 2 or 3 night stay at a place called Monsane Resort when we went to a travel fair early this year at the Queen Sirikit Convention Center in Bangkok. It seemed like a good deal at the time, though I found out later it didn't get such good reviews. It was OK, the room was small but the breakfasts were OK. We spent the days out traveling around anyway and only slept there pretty much, which is the way it should be. Next time I'll just go there and find some place down on the river. I think you can find some pretty cheap places, and actually on the water.

This was the entrance road to the hotel, a gravel
quarry. Not really very good beginning. Oh well,
the reservations were bought and paid for.

A lot of time we spent driving. It's kind of spread out, and the maps were not the best. My GPS pissed me off, don't know what's up with it, wasn't very reliable. Could be we were too far out in the sticks or something. There were couple of sites we never could find, another museum and a place called Hellfire Pass.

The "Death Railway". I'm not really sure what
is the real thing and what is reconstructed.

We found the places close to town easily enough. It's a big province and we hardly tried to see it all. Here's a map which shows that Kanchanaburi is about the first thing you get to from Bangkok. Erawan Waterfalls, where the water exits Sri Nakarin (I'm assuming Si means Lake in Thai) is the furthest north we ventured. But even at about 70 km from Kanchanaburi City it's still not in the middle of the province. I understand there is public transportation to most of the popular places, but you really need a car if you want to explore the area.

Speaking of which, I got a chance to drive around a deserted patch of roadway last week. You know they drive on the left here? It was my first time. I thought I was doing quite well indeed. I think I even said, "Piece of cake!" Then I tried to pull over to park and drove right up onto the curb. It was humbling. I'm considering buying a car, but I'll have to go through an actual driving course. They tell me that's not required here to get a Thai driver's license, only have to pay the fee and watch a 90 or so minute video. If that's true, it explains a lot.

This was the same spot, just turned 90 degrees to the
left to have a look down the river. 

This was a very nice looking area where we stopped
to have lunch. Nice and comfortable, under what I assume
is the remainder of the Death Railway.
Some beautiful views from our restaurant

This was on a visit to Erawan Falls, about 35 KM north of the town. It seems I remember there being 9 levels. I think this was level 5. Wow, so many people, couldn't even find a place to sit down, so we kept climbing.

We stopped at this one which I think was level 7. The ones
lower than this were inundated by bikini and Speedo clad Russians,
and we had gotten a little tired of climbing by this point anyway.

It was lovely, with schools of little fish that would chew on you if
you stood still. I hear some people pay to have this done
on their feet. We both found it excruciating, just on the feet. If
you actually get in the water and hold still they are nibbling everywhere. 

Very nice, but extremely slippery. You really have to watch it.
Yes, yes, I bought another pair of swim trunks already.

The waterfall had created cascading pools, and each of them had dozens of the little fish.
I would have liked to laze about in them, but I couldn't take the nibbling.

The train pulled in as we were walking off the bridge.
Didn't buy a ticket to go on it.

We went to one of the museums which included a display of weapons and unexploded ordnance.
There were quite a few photos of the period, and many paintings done by the prisoners themselves
vividly documenting atrocities. They were quite graphic, and I don't include any here. I knew
thousands of allied prisoners were killed in the years of Japanese occupation, but I was
surprised to learn of the slaughter of far more local Thais and Burmese
than allied prisoners. You don't hear about that much. 

I had to include this unfortunate display, which was not a joke. It's an under-funded
attempt by the museum staff to indicate what loading of the prisoners onto
Death Railway boxcars might have looked like. The result looks like a set
from an episode of Robot Chicken. Somebody needs to donate a
few thousand bucks so they can make some decent exhibits.
We ended the day with a visit to the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery of the
allied prisoners and Bridge over the River Kwai. It was peaceful and moving.

We had coffee at Obama's Coffee shop in downtown Kanchanaburi. Nice Houdini-like picture of him
conjuring treats for you. There was a poster of Adolph Hitler inside too, weird. Good coffee and service.

Kanchanaburi was nice. I'd go again, but would probably try to find a cheaper place.


Somebody I know hates Songkran because of all the drunk driving, partying and water throwing, so she wanted to get out of the country. I was kind of curious about the festival, have certainly heard a lot about it, but maybe next year. I've never been to Malaysia either. This somebody and me took the cheapest vacation we could find and went to spend four days in Kuala Lumpur. She loves to travel and often keeps her eye on the Air Asia website, and has come away with some spectacular deals. Latest one has been round trip flights for two to Chiang Rai this coming October. She snagged a special on there for 600 baht, and that includes taxes and fees! 

The monorail in KL. Not very long, or fast.

The twin towers during the day...
What a weird sensation to visit a place that looks pretty much like Thailand in most ways. I could not tell much difference in the Malaysian people from the Thai people most of the time just by looking at them, but here's the thing: everyone and I mean everyone speaks English in Kuala Lumpur. They are way, way ahead of Thailand in the adoption of English. Why is that? In any case, it was convenient.

...and at night.

It was hot when we went. We went all over the city to try to see many of the main attractions but several were closed for renovations of some kind or other when we got there. We took all the modes of transportation that are available in the city, including the monorail. It was all pretty well-done, similar to Bangkok, but it needs to be drawn together into one system, with one fare.

It's been a couple months now, and memories are already fading. I should learn by now to write these things down before too long.

I remember a Mexican food restaurant that we found while searching for the main drag, where all the tourists go. We were really hot and tired after walking around looking for somewhere to have dinner, so stopped at some little bar where we could relax and have a beer to cool off. Taking that opportunity to check the GPS led us to what appeared to be the main drag of tourist places. There were many, many places that looked enticing but we settled on the Mexican place, don't know why. Went upstairs and caught a  breeze to watch the street below and have a drink. It was nice.

View from the roof of the Mexican restaurant watching all the tourists walking by below

She drank all of that beer and wouldn't give me any.

So I got one of my own.

We did so much walking. It was during a time that my knee and hip were giving me problems, but I powered through it and I think the activity was good for me as I didn't feel any worse as the days wore on. Very hot until we went to Genting Highlands. This place was really something. It wasn't my idea to go there. A completely manufactured fairy-tale land way up in the mountains. Some reviews said it was like a cross between a shabby Disneyland and Las Vegas without the alcohol. I don't like either of those places, and we'd had enough of it after only a few hours.

A pretty well done model of the entire area. It's all self-contained and
 like they plopped it all right down on a mountain top.  

I think the best part of it was the spectacular trip up the mountains and back down in the cable car. We got really lucky in the queue to go back--I spotted a short line, headed for it, Jeab showed the guy our ticket stub that proved we would miss our bus if we didn't catch it, and we were on the next car out. It happened really fast. Otherwise would have had to wait hours like the thousand other people queued up.

Leaving the facility, view from behind as we head up the mountains

Somebody's not afraid of heights

It was a little scary. Do I look scared?
During our time in Kuala Lumpur we tried to do a walking tour to see some notable sights. Merdeka (Independence) Square had some nice little shaded spots that allowed a welcome break. 

Merdeka Square

One of the shady spots around the square. I could almost hear the oud playing.

A very large mosque that we visited required Jeab to put on
an ill-fitting covering, head to toe. She was not pleased. They
were available for women to check out and return when you leave.

It was big.

And very pretty on the inside.

I think they said this was secretary of state. It was yet another
large building we saw while walking around. The parts I liked the
best about this trip was spending time with my partner having
something good to eat and drink. 

The last day (I think) we went to see a fabulous gold Buddha. That was worth the long walk up the stairs, and the caves at the top were a bonus.

That was a lot of stairs, and really steep. The big Buddha was to the left.

This cave was huge. After getting up to the top of the
stairs, got to go down some more to the floor of the big cave, and
then across the cave floor and up the steps at the far
end to another area with shrines and monkeys. Lots of monkeys.

Part of one of the shrines at the far cave

A very small shrine carved into the rock at the far end of the
cave at the top of the steps. Nothing stopping anyone from walking
on up there and getting your picture taken amongst the dieties

Anywhere with shade was a good place to be. One day we went looking for, eventually found and went walking around a big market for a few hours. Seems we saw the same stuff here that you see in Bangkok everywhere. I wonder if everything is made in some vast factory in China. I bought some key rings as souvenirs.

Street market in downtown KL somewhere.

It just now occurs to me, this pic is in almost the same spot the above pic
is. That hawkers association sign above tipped me off. We must have walked
in a big circle, or come back the same way.

Street market as the sun began to go down and lights came on. 

First World Hotel in Genting Highlands, the biggest hotel in KL.
Found myself wishing I had a wall map like that.

Well, that's it for today, this post is already too big as it is. Actually, there's more little trips so I need to follow up on this one. I'll try not to go so long before posting next time.