Mar 3, 2011

A Tale of Two Days: Kanchanaburi

It was just one of those days where pretty much the only thing that went right was breakfast; after that it was pretty much a disaster! We had great plans and good intentions, but it just wasn’t meant to be.  We did however all survive it in one piece and in surprisingly good spirits with no injuries so all in all, it could have been worse!  

After breakfast we set out on foot
to look for a tuk tuk to take us the few kilometres from our guest house on the river in Kanchanaburi to the local bus station.  While in Bangkok we heard of a floating market located near Ratchaburi and was told that it was near Kanchanaburi.  We were further (mis)informed that 1) the market was open all day until 4pm and 2) it would take us approximately 1-1.5hrs to travel there from Kanchanaburi by local bus.  
On the bus

Scooter with a side car
Our first hurdle of the day was finding a tuk tuk at all.  After waiting many minutes we were finally able to flag down a scooter with an attached side car to take us.  When we arrived at the bus station, we found our bus without any problem and it departed soon after we boarded; we felt relieved that we were finally on our way.  It was 10:30am so we looked forward to having lunch at our destination soon.  Big mistake!  We failed to bring any food along with us on our trip and when we finally arrived at our destination 3hrs later at 1:30pm, we were famished.  To make matters worse, we soon realised that we were dropped off by our bus driver at a tourist boat pier which merely wanted to hussle us into paying for over-priced boats to explore the market and there were no other facilities such as eateries in sight.  Luckily we quickly learned that the main pier was .5km down the road, so off we went.  In the heat of the day we flagged down a scooter taxi that did 2 trips to get the 4 of us to the pier.  Once there we sought out food.  It was now near 2pm.  Little did we know at that point that by the time we finished our meal, the market was pretty much done for the day and no more boats were setting out.  So much for being open until 4pm!  So by 2:40pm we were back on our way to Kanchanaburi again.
Traders at the end of the day at the Floating Market

We arrived back 2.5hrs later, picked up our bicycles from the guest house and set out down the road toward the famous bridge ‘Over River Kwai’ to console ourselves with a all-you-can-eat seafood hot pot buffet at 100 THB/$3.30USD p/p and possibly some birthday cake afterwards.  It was looking good. We arrived at the restaurant around 6pm, got our table, a starting selection of raw seafood and meat to start cooking in the pot of boiling water at our table which was al fresco as was 60% of the restaurant.  We were just starting to eat when HURDLE #2 started to appear:  dark clouds were beginning to surround us.  Not long after we started eating our yummy food, we felt the first raindrops.  Everyone grabbed their plates and headed for the tables under the giant tents/marquees.  They even moved our pot of boiling water for us to our new table.  We thought we’d be fine and continued to eat.  Wrong again!  The storm started around 6:30pm, with thunder and lightning and gusts of wind.  Boiling water heated with hot coals in gusty wind is not a good combination.  Worse yet, the power went out on the whole street.  Luckily Yasmine had her torch with her and we continued to eat and cook by flashlight.  But even this could not be a match to the ever-increasing wind which at this point was threatening the integrity of the huge tents which we were currently sheltered under.  After a bit of swaying, we all abandoned the tents and our food and huddled in the semi-darkness dark under the adjoining tin lean-two.  The rain continued to blow in from the open sides, and the ground started to get flooded with murky water.  Along with most other of the patrons, we tried to wait the storm out, at least being able to distract ourselves with some of the food that we could still get to, such as ice cream cones and sliced fruit!  While the girls were frightened by the thunder and lightning, they were quite good sports about the whole situation, although the ice cream cones may have helped!
At the beginning of our dinner

Harbouring out the storm

Flooded out

Where we were sitting originally

Two hours later, the rain started to subside and the lights came back on.  It was now 8:30pm.  We grabbed our bicycles, the girls and our belongings and made our way back in the rain along the wet and flooded roads to our guest house.  ¾ of the way back, the rain stopped completely.

So what a day—nearly 6hrs on a bus accomplishing nothing, a flooded out/blacked out dinner and not even any cake!  Madeleine said, ‘Poor Mommy—you had such a bad birthday!’.  To which I said, ‘ It could have been worse.  At least we are all safe and together.’  Just one of those days where it just wasn’t meant to be!

Following our disasterous day, we had the day that made up for it—where everything went according to plan AND we got to eat cake!  As it was technically still the same day in some parts of the world, we could still consider it my birthday!

A few days ago while down at the ‘Bridge Over the River Kwai’, we came across an ‘ambassador’ for the Safari Park Open Zoo.  Rather than take them up on their ‘package offer’ of admission and mini bus out to it, we decided this day to try our hand again at going our own via local bus for both the cost saving as well as for the freedom of doing it on our own time.  We were told it would be a 35min ride to cover the 28km distance.  We found the bus easily and were on our way by mid-morning.
Bengal Tiger from the Safari Park

Bengal Tiger

Arriving 45min later (which wasn’t bad), we found ourselves to be the only ones there--what a bonus!  We got the safari bus all to ourselves.  The park was quite vast with big and secure, if somewhat sparse, enclosures for the animals.  There were Bengal tigers, deer, asian black bears, leopards, and giraffe among the ‘big game animals’.  The giraffe were hilarious as they freely stuck their heads in the windows of our bus, looking for the carrots which we had bought for them.  While they were very friendly, the girls were nevertheless a bit stressed about the intruders.  The park was definitely good value at $10USD/300 THB for adults and kids 4+ were $5USD/150THB.
That's its tongue under the carrot!

Following the open range tour, there was an elephant show as well as a crocodile show.  Again, as we were only a few there, we were able to get up close and personal with the animals, including the crocodiles!  The girls even got to hold a leopard cub.

Yes, that's real folks

Baby leopard

We returned to Kanchanaburi without incident and we had a really yummy dinner with probably the best thai curry that we’ve had so far.  Afterwards, we treated ourselves to a couple of slices of cake and the girls and Jim finally got to sing ‘Happy Birthday’.  All in all, it was a much better day.

Kanchanaburi is about a 2.5hr trip northwest of Bangkok near the Myamar border.  Being located next to the river gives Kanchanaburi a unique feel, which is why it’s always been a favourite spot of ours in Thailand.  (Jim and I were here in 2001)  We stayed in lodging that was built on a floating pontoon which bobbed gently up and down especially when passing boats sped by. We’ve enjoyed our time here despite it being incredibly hot and humid.  We’ve sweated buckets and drank heaps of bottled water!  The pace is much slower here which gave us the confidence to hire bicycles to get around on.  Without them, we really would have been beaten by the heat. There is also an abundance of restaurants to choose from all offering very delicious and inexpensive food.  Kanchanaburi also has an infamous past as being the site of a large POW camp in WWII and there is a large war cemetery and numerous museums to document this past.  And of course there’s the bridge made famous by the movie.  If you’ve ever in Thailand, check it out and stay for a few days to really get the feel of it.
Bridge Over River Kwai

River Guest House:  we stayed in a room in the red-roofed building.

On our bikes


  1. Happy Belated Birthday, Jess. At least you will remember it!
    Phil & Ron

  2. Hi friends!!!I like travel stories and articles. Traveling related articles attartc me very much.Very interesting story. Liked it very much. Thanks for writing such a interesting story.Petter Joe

  3. i was wondering if you have been renting bikes with child seats and if you know how much they cost. It looks like your little one is riding on the wheel guard. Did this work okay?

    1. Hi--it's not as bad as it looks--she's not actually riding on the wheel guard! while finding actual child seats on bikes is rare, you can often find a 'padded rack' over the rear tire that is meant for a passenger. there are usually foot pegs on the rear tires too for them. it worked well enough. bike rental was cheap--we got 2 for 50B/day. it's flat there too so riding is easy.