12.11.2012 - 13.11.2012 30 °C
On Monday we headed out on an all day tour so the tour company kindly picked us up right at our hotel. We found only one other couple on the van so the 6 of us happily headed off into the Bangkok traffic which is chaotic at best. There are more motor bikes than cars in Bangkok - many ridden by women in little tight skirts and 3 inch heels! Many of the scooters and motorbikes are "step thru" style which make the skirt part do-able. Many of the helmets have a u-shaped opening in the back for the ever-present long ponytails. Massively overloaded bikes and pick-ups were common:
We headed about 100 km south west of Bangkok to the Damnoen Saduak floating market. These markets are unique in that the vendors sit in heavily loaded boats in the canals and sell to people walking by in market structures on the shore. The structures also have vendors who are land based. We were told that you are expected to bargain unless you are in an area clearly marked for no bargaining with price tags and bar codes. You should expect to pay less than half of the initial asked price and if you can add a little humour to the process you will do better. The down-side of the day was that shortly after we left Bangkok it started to rain. The closer we came to our destination, the harder the rain came down. When we got to the market there were very few vendors and the scene looked like this:
As the morning wore on several more vendors appeared.
Vendors sold all manner of produce as in the shot above, and also cooked and sold food as in the scene below
Traffic on the canals was just as chaotic and congested as on the roads with the sturdy little boats the vendors used along with the big engined long-tail boats we used to get to the market area. People drive cars and boats here the way other people walk. No one has the right of way - the first person there just continues on and the rest just work around. Since no one has the right of way, there is not "road rage" - just an alert attention about where you can move next. (We will try to get some videos into later blogs - so far internet connections haven't permitted uploading videos.)
From the market we boarded our van and headed to the River Kwai area. On the way we stopped at an area where local craftsmen did the most amazing carving. The picture below shows a tree trunk which 2 men had spent years carving and still had more to go.
We visited the JEATH War Museum (Japan, England, Austailia/America, Thailand, Holland) and learned some very touching and sad information about the war in the Pacific region. This is a vivid and tragic reminder of man's inhumanity to man.
We stopped at the Kanchanaburi War Cemetary where hundreds of British, Australian and Dutch soldiers were buried.
We then boarded our bus and headed on to our final destination -
The Bridge over the River Kwai
This bridge had been rebuilt after being bombed and has turned into quite a tourist attraction and was a most interesting place to visit. Now we want to see the movie again!
We returned home through the chaotic traffic to have dinner at a local restaurant and get ready for our next day's adventure - a bicycle tour of Bangkok.
We ordered a taxi the next morning for 7:45 - plenty of time to get us to our starting location at 9:30. It was only a 20 minute drive but Bangkok on a weekday morning has more traffic than you can imagine. When the taxi had not arrived by 8:30 we started to get concerned and decided to walk down to a more major road. We couldn' get a taxi for love nor money - every one was filled. Finally at about 9am a local asked us if we wanted a taxi and after a little fruitless bargaining he agreed to take us off the meter in his taxi for 300 bahts - over 3 times the price we had paid to go to the same place two days before - but we were over a barrell (and 300 bahts is just over $10) so off we went to arrive right on time.
Our guide was a super young man named Jackie Chan (yup you heard right!). He walked us over to the bicycle shop about 10 minutes away and fitted us out with bicycles and helmets.
Sue, Roy, Hazel and Jackie at the start of the ride.
We crossed the river to the old side of Bangkok, passed another beautiful shrine
and started along many smaller but congested streets until we turned onto the paved walkways along the canals.
This is some of the housing along the canals. You can see the water line on the houses from the flood last year which devastated this area.
Amidst all this poverty where a significant portion of the population lives in a one room tin-roofed shack, we came upon a scene of real beauty - a lotus in full bloom.
We stopped for a break and watched the river traffic
while we again fed the catfish to make them happy and give us good luck.
Feeding the catfish
We stopped to explore another beautiful Wat (temple)
before heading onto a ferry to cross back to the newer side of Bangkok and return our bikes some 4 hours later. We were very tired and hot but quite proud of ourselves for surviving one of our more exciting escapades.
We were now ready to return to our hotel and start looking for the other members of our group who were due to join us in readiness for our flight to Hanoi the next day.