Friday, December 08, 2006

Hello from Thailand!!!

Beth and I arrived in Bangkok mid-afternoon on November 27. We took a cab across the city to the bus station and caught a bus to Kanchanaburi province, about three hours west of Bangkok.

Bangkok is an enormous city, by far the largest in Thailand – about 8 million people. The new Suvarnabhumi airport there replaces Bangkok International and is the largest in Asia, receiving jets that carry up to 550 passengers each. We spent as little time in the city as possible – basically two cab rides back and forth between transportation depots. Bangkok is insanely busy, crowded, noisy, polluted. Maybe some of the tourist areas are nice; I have no desire to ever go back there.

We stayed the night in the provincial hub of Kanchanaburi (city), and the next morning caught a bus to Erawan National park. This steamy tropical mountain-jungle park is known for a series of seven waterfalls and the milky blue water that flows over limestone formations.

We stayed the night in the park in a bamboo house and got up early in the morning to hike along all the falls. The day before the park was like Disneyland with hundreds of Thai and foreign tourists everywhere, crawling over the rocks and swimming in the waterfall pools.

In the early morning before the buses began to arrive we had the whole park to ourselves. We had a refreshing morning swim in the uppermost waterfall pool. A few species of fish live in the pools, and swim up to greet you when you get in the water. They swarm by the dozens and “bite” your legs and arms – it doesn’t hurt but feels kind of weird.

Thai traveling tip #1: Take the nature trails! Even when Erawan Park was crowded with tourists, no one takes the interpretive nature trails. I have no idea why. The trails are so little used that sometimes they just lead off into a patch of bamboo and disappear.

On one of the nature trails we found this strangling fig (ficus) tree. The ficus seeds are deposited in the host tree in bird droppings. Then the fig sends down vine-like roots which eventually strangle the host.

We left Erawan about noon and began the very long journey to Chiang Mai in the north of Thailand. This entailed bus rides from Erawan to Kanchanaburi to the Bangkok bus depot, then the second of our cab rides across the horrendous city (during rush hour!) to the train station. We boarded the train to Chiang Mai about 10 PM, to arrive late the following afternoon.

Sleep came only briefly and fitfully during the night on the train as there were many stops and starts and several attempts to repair our coach’s broken electricity generation system. The morning sun eventually rose to reveal stunning countryside views of expansive rice paddies and quaint villages. Beth and I hung out of the doors of the train as we ascended into the northern mountain provinces. Here the sun was hot but the air drier than the balmy southern regions in and around Bangkok.


Amanda, sister said...

I think the water fall photos look so prestine. I would have loved to have been there.

Josh said...

You are welcome to visit...

Anonymous said...

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cheers, Faith