A sole passenger in a mini-van to Kanchanaburi
Visiting the Erawan Falls is the last destination of my Thailand journey. At the tourist office, it appears that I am the only one who wants to travel from Ayutthaya to Kanchanaburi by mini-van today. I am on my guard, the driver hardly speaks English, so I regularly look at the road signs, but everything turns out to be correct. I arrive in the city after precisely two hours.
Worn out room with a discount
The mini-van driver drops me off at an affiliated guesthouse, hoping to catch some commission for that, but I have set my mind on another place to stay, which is located next door. Fan rooms here cost little, but I find them rather desolate. I like the air-conditioned rooms better, so I take one of them, even though it is a bit worn out. Because I immediately book four nights, I get a nice discount.
Tours on offer but easy to visit on your own
During check-in, three youngsters hand out leaflets for excursions in the area. I kindly say that I will go through them all, but I actually know that everything I want to see here is entirely possible to visit on my own. The chances are small that I will book any tour with them.
Crossing the Death Railway Bridge over the Kwai river
I eat a nice tuna baguette before I leave for the famous Death Railway Bridge over the river Kwai (or: Kwae in phonetic Thai); it is a 2-kilometer walk from where I am staying. Once there, the place is stacked with Japanese and Taiwanese. You can freely cross the bridge on foot via a narrow aisle between the rail tracks. Quite tricky with all those oncoming traffic. I wonder if anybody ever fell into the water. While I am still on the trails, a (tourist) train passes by, at walking pace, a necessity with all those pedestrians on the bridge. Some people only make room at the last moment.
A simple meal and an early sleep
I do not spend too much time at the bridge and return to my guesthouse to take a shower. Later on, I decide to eat in the hostel tonight. I enjoy my sour coconut soup and rice with vegetables. After dinner, I soon retire to my terrace as I want to wake up in time tomorrow to go visit the Erawan Falls.
To the Erawan Falls by local transport
The next morning after having a mini-breakfast, I walk to the main road where I have to catch bus 8170 to get to the Erawan Falls. Within 10 minutes, a bus driver signals me to enter the bus. Apparently, they are already used to tourists circulating around on the road for this trip. This is another example of how easily you can travel around Thailand. It is a rickety, almost worn out bus that will eventually take one hour and 45 minutes to reach the waterfalls, a distance of 60 kilometers. But that is alright, I am no longer in a hurry.
Willingness and hesitation to communicate in English
A Thai girl moves a bit aside so that I can take a seat next to her. She tries to make contact by offering me some food, I suspect fishballs. First, she asks me if I speak Thai, she can only talk a little bit of English. She is carrying some kind of schoolbook, so I ask her if she is a student. She confirms, and clearly wants to tell more, but does not find the English words. Unfortunately, that ends our little conversation. A friend of mine already told me that many Thai people would like to talk to foreigners, but that they have so much fear about speaking incorrect English, which makes them hesitate.
Erawan National Park has seven levels of waterfalls
The bus ride to the Erawan Falls takes another half an hour. At the entrance, the driver informs us that buses to return to Kanchanaburi leave 1, 2 and 4 PM. Erawan National Park itself is known as one of the most visited and most beautiful nature parks with waterfalls in Thailand. There are seven levels; the highest fall is 1200 meters higher than the first. At weekends, it seems the Thai themselves like to come over for a picnic, especially at level two. More up, you may not take any food or drink with you except drinking water; the park staff strictly checks this to prevent pollution of the area.
Some effort to reach the highest level of the Erawan Falls
Steadily I walk from one level to the other. The Erawan Falls are a beautiful environment, and the different waterfalls all lend themselves to photogenic pictures. The last three levels are a bit harder to reach; to reach the final point, you have to climb a lot of rocks. You have to be careful not to skid. Although the climb makes me sweat, luckily there is a lot of shade here due to the thick vegetation. I persist and reach the highest waterfall. Even here at the highest level, some tourists are still swimming. This is not my cup of tea, so after a break, enjoying the surroundings, I return downhill. I am hungry, and my knees are nodding.
A tham bun ceremony at the guesthouse
Once back at the starting point, I take a few soft drinks and eat a piece of cake. As it is a quarter past two, I have to wait half an hour before the bus leaves for Kanchanaburi. The welcoming at the bar of the guesthouse is somewhat anonymous; at first, I take this rather personally, but there seems to be some kind of party going on here for the Thai. This morning Buddha statues were placed in the courtyard, an annual tham bun, a merit-making ceremony to enforce happiness and prosperity. An entire delegation of Thai people – probably family and friends – has come over to eat and especially drink. Understandably the attention of the owner and the staff mainly goes towards these guests. I take a shower and return later for a hearty meal.
Drunk with the Thai
Around 10 o’clock I hear guitar music echoing at the bar. I go over to check it out; I order a bottle of Chang beer, and I am invited to sit among the – exclusively – Thai company. Most of them have become drunk; they have been drinking whiskey, rum, and beer from 6 o’clock this evening. The guitar is passed on, and the people present fully surrender to sing, one more false than the other. Only three can speak a bit of English, but the drinking overcomes the hesitation. I learn the Thai word for drunk, maw. In the end, I get tempted to drink a glass of Thai rum; it tasted slightly sweet. After the second glass, I am also maw and decide to go to sleep. Keeping a little sense in mind is wise, even though I am already in my guesthouse.