Early morning this morning, too early by far: our travel alarm (very useful thanks Dayna) exploded in an electronic tintinbulation at 6:02am precisely, shattering our slumber into little shards of activity. We showered (well, Dee showered — I had one last night instead, always be prepared. And prepared to be smelly), dressed and rushed down for a quick hotel breakfast by 6:30am (eggs, toast, apple juice and, why not, a spicy lasagne!). By 7am we were in the foyer, and soon enough a minivan arrived to take us on the second-ever “organised tour” we’ve ever been on.
The bus took us on a short tour of the hotels and hostels in Bangkok, picking up people, dropping them off and at one point just driving around the block a couple of times — looking for a carpark, maybe? We were issued little coloured stickers, ticked off a list, and eventually were on our way our of the city and towards the infamous River Kwai. It was a couple of hours, and the bus driver was crazy: there are two lanes painted on most roads, but in practise it’s three, with the “center lane” (drive along the line) for rushed overtaking and swerving around slower traffic. Yeah, glad we’re not driving ourselves.
River Kwai (and the requisite cemetary/monument to the commonwealth P.O.W.s who died building the bridge) was unfortunately a bit boring, but brief; our next trip took us into the hills to ride elephants! We both felt bad putting our feet on his back (and I thought we were about to fall off any second) but we walked around and took photos and even “shook hands” (er, trunks? Trunks and hands?). When the ride was over we had no problem tipping the driver (really the elephant) and buying a round of delicious bananas for the pachyderms. They eat right out of your hands!
From here, a tuk-tuk took (heh) us to a spot on a nearby river — I don’t know which one — and we ate Thai food on a little floating bamboo pontoon; we tucked in with relish (excitement, not actual relish) as, after all, breakfast was many hours earlier. Sated, comfortably full, we donned life-jackets and were towed upstream by a long-boat, then floated quietly back down to our dock. It would’ve been more relaxing, maybe, if we hadn’t floated past a “karaoke pontoon”. Or if the patrons had had better voices, I suppose.
A new minubus took us to some waterfalls and a picnic area, literally swarming with Thai kids and their families. It was a nice place for a day out, I guess, but we only had twenty minutes (and no swimmers) so wandered for a while then grabbed some barbeque chicken sticks (we always call them “goat sticks”, in memory of a Nepalese restaurant we visited in Richmond many moons ago — the nickname is both easier to remember/pronounce than the Nepalese, and satisfyingly juvenile if you say it fast). Back on the bus!
The final stop was the highlight — although the elephants were pretty amazing — as we saw, sat, patted and walked with tigers in the “Tiger Temple”. The photos tell the story better than I can.
Now we’re back on a (totally new) bus, headed back to Bangkok. Tomorrow we’re planning on hitting the shopping malls, then finding a new/better hotel for our final night in town — on Tuesday we’re taking a train, then a ferry, to the island of Koh Samui. Once there we’ve got eight nights at a little resort-type place — perfect to unwind and spend the rest of our 15-day Thai VISA. Fingers are well and truly crossed that, unlike the White Orchid, the resort lives up to the pretty little photos of the place.