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...and finally, Cyril

overcast 4 °C
View Erawan & Home & Holiday with the Tickners on Sean Griffin's travel map.

When I began this blog some 2 weeks ago in The Maldives, I expected to be writing a couple of paragraphs each day, supplemented with a few photos along the way. Back in the UK and sitting in temperatures some 26 degreed colder than Thailand, this final entry is an opportunity to post a few pictures that didn't make it into the daily entries and to reflect on the holiday as a whole.
What I hadn't planned for was the sense of having to fulfill some kind of unwritten agreement between me and the readers of the blog - as in, I've started, so I must finish. Not that it was a chore, far from it. We had such a tremendous time that it was difficult to know what to include and what to leave out.
So here goes:

There are some weird crisp flavours out there - and as amusing as some of them are, these flavours offer a glimpse into a countries habits. For example, we take prawn cocktail and smokey bacon flavours in our stride, and I remember taking a liking to Tzatziki flavoured crisps in Albania, but what about ham cheese sandwich flavour? Can you really taste the bread here? And, as for seaweed flavoured hoops...no thanks!

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As much as I try, I can never get the knack of taking selfies - although these attempts are not strictly selfies, but more like 'usies'. The first one is from the first trip in the canals for the floating market and the second was taken during the boat part of the bike tour - I can only imagine how many holiday albums include the smiling face of Black, the tour guide :)
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Speaking about the floating market reminded of the sighting of this large monitor lizard sitting by the water side. A chance sighting? No - as we left the scene, there was a queue of boats behind us, the pilots of which were eager to point out to their passengers the wonderful photo opportunity. My guess is the lizard was in on the tour tips...
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This picture was taken just before the lady in the boat gave a right old mouthful when I told her I didn't want a banana! But I guess they get fed up with tourists just looking for a photo opportunity. Truth was that we had just eaten and there were nicer salespeople around if we did, in fact, fancy something else!

A quick word on the long-tail boats: These things can fly! And, each owner seems to be in competition to see which of them can mount the largest pimped engine on the back. These engines are full-on four stroke car/van engines converted to drive a prop shaft that is several meters long. When the guys open them up for real, the boats move at a tremendous pace and the noise can be deafening! I had the misfortune to be sitting in the front of our boat, and caught the full force of the exhaust from the boat immediately ahead of us, as the pilot opened up a bit of speed. I was high for the next few minutes!!

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We saw an elephant whilst visiting the Mon village, the poor thing was chained to a post and had a seat on its back, for the tourists. I was happy to feed bananas (a bunch at a time!), but no way would ride it. I realise this is a source of income for the village and all that, but I would prefer to see such a majestic beast in a more natural environment and at will to wander.

We saw some interesting signs along the way too

IMG_3502.jpg Fortunately we didn't suffer any monkey cases

IMG_3655.jpg We didn't see the man urinating behind, either :)

IMG_3062.jpg After such a wonderful vacation, I believe that my brain is balanced,
so will not re needing help here :)

75B491FED2AC56BCC7B02403B8C4AAC7.jpg, and we loved the thicken soup!

A few random images to finish:
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It remains for me to say a great big 'thanks' to Martyn and Rachel for being such wonderful hosts, and for making our holiday in Thailand an unforgettable experience. Although we managed to see so much, I get the impression that we have only scratched the surface of what Thailand its people have to offer. The only way to find out will be to return....which we certainly plan to do.

And now its time for me to close...If you have been, thanks for following/reading this blog. If anyone out there has the time to comment, it would be great to hear from you.
All that is left for me to say is...if you have enjoyed this half as much as I have, then I will have enjoyed it twice as much as you.

Until next time.
Sean

Posted by Sean Griffin 10:48 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged home Comments (0)

Bridge Day

On the way home...

sunny 32 °C
View Holiday with the Tickners on Sean Griffin's travel map.

Decided to relax on the morning before the drive back to Bangkok, and to make the most of the facilities at the 'Float House'.
What a lovely hotel, in a great setting! Nestling on the banks of the river Khwae, the hotel consists of a number of chalets on floats, all strung together in a line. Each one finished to a high standard inside giving the most relaxing atmosphere. It's great to be rocked to sleep to the gentle waves created by the river's flow.

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After a couple of hours sitting reading on the terrace outside the cabin, what better than to jump into the river for a cool-down?! So, once again wearing life preservers, we jump into the river and are carried at break neck speed in the fast current, to the last of the hotels floating platforms, where one has to quickly get hold of a rope of buoys attached to the platform in order to be able to stop and grab the waiting ladder and climb out of the river. If the rope is missed then theres the risk of being carried down-stream some distance before a long-tail boat could come to the rescue! After 3 such runs, it is time for lunch.
Then we are back on the road for our return drive to Bangkok and on the way we stop off at a Bridge over the River Khwae.

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My use of the indefinite article in the last sentence is intentional:
The Bridge on the River Khwae no longer exists. Actually, it didn't exist in the first place...
When the Burma/Thailand railway was built during WWII, it ran alongside the river rather than crossing it. The bridge from the film made so famous by the David Lean/Alec Guinness movie, was made of wood and was built alongside the iron bridge as an aid to construction and was destroyed once no longer needed.
However, the river over which the bridge was built during the war, was the Mae Klong and not the Kwai (spelling as per the film). You following?
After the film's success, tourists flocked to the area to see the 'bridge' that never was. So, in a glorious example of life imitating art, the Thai authorities renamed a stretch of the Mae Klong, as the river Khwae
The site of 'real' iron and stone bridge, is now a bustling tourist destination with a small market at one end, opposite a small platform that serves as the local station. Restaurants adorn the banks and one is constantly approached with offers of long-tail boat rides along the river. A far cry from the sober, understated memorial at Hellfire pass, but nonetheless an important reminder in its own right of the events in that region during the Japanese occupation.
We arrive in Bangkok with a couple of hours to spare before we make our way to the airport and our flight to Heathrow.
I plan to publish just one more blog entry before I finish...see you then

Posted by Sean Griffin 11:32 Archived in Thailand Tagged river bridge Comments (0)

Thoughtful day

Hellfire Pass and the Mon village

sunny 37 °C
View Holiday with the Tickners on Sean Griffin's travel map.

After our second night at the Resotel, it's time to move to our next stopover, which is just a few bends along the river. Tonight we stay at the Float House on the river Khwae, more of which later.
First we have a drive to the WWII memorial site of Hellfire Pass, a small part of the Burma to Thailand railway, or Death Railway, constructed using the forced labour of allied prisoners of war along with Asian labourers.

The Hellfire Pass memorial museum is on the site where the railway was to pass directly through the mountain, rather than to circumnavigate it. The POW's and labourers only had hand drills, picks and shovels with which to carve a path 500 meters long, working 18 hours per day under the most extreme conditions. Many died through starvation, beatings, disease, accidents and many other causes. The figures become mind-numbing and the walk along the pass is sobering and a reminder of what Man can inflict upon his fellow Man.

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After lunch we return to the river and move further upstream to pay a quick visit to a traditional Mon tribal village. The Mon are originally an ethnic group from Mongolia and are said to be the eldest people to reside in southeast Asia. The village is very basic, with few amenities that we would recognise; electricity only available via a few solar panels and not an iPhone in sight :)

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A brief walk through the village ended at a lovely view-point looking down onto the river. This view-point is adjacent to a small spiritual area, where there are a few Buddhas as well as some particularly non-Buddha like statues. My knowledge of Buddhism doesn't stretch to the full panoply of images or representations but its fair to say that I saw nothing like these images over the past few days. (If anyone out there would care to enlighten me, please feel free!!)

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We had to make our way back to the river bank to grab the bamboo raft to our new hotel for the night, the Float House on the River Khwae. Note: bamboo raft, not long-tail boat. The reason for this is that we were going to float back to the Floating House! So, once we cleared the first bend after the Mon village, wearing our life-preservers, we all jumped into the river and were carried along at a real lick in the very fast current.

Wicked!!!

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After hotel check-in we settled down for well-deserved pre dinner drinks on the terrace of one of our rooms...which, by the way, are bloody fabulous. I'll explain more in the next episode

Posted by Sean Griffin 06:37 Archived in Thailand Tagged pass hellfire Comments (0)

Waterfall Day

Erawan National Park

sunny 38 °C
View Erawan & Holiday with the Tickners on Sean Griffin's travel map.

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The morning reveals our hotel more fully to be a well thought out, environmentally sympathetic design. The residents’ rooms are dotted around a large site butting the river, all separated by walk-ways and abundance of trees and shrubs. The main reception and first floor restaurant are open plan and look out over the river.
It’s another hot day (forecast to be the hottest so far) and as we set of on one of the ubiquitous long-tail boats back to the pier, I can’t help but think that a few beers in a cool box wouldn’t be a bad idea…a kind of fridge on the river Kwae.

Today we are to visit the Erawan national park, about an hour’s drive from the pier and the main attraction of the park is the Erawan Falls, which is a series of waterfalls named after the Erawan, the three-headed white elephant of Hindu mythology. The myth relates to a god known as Airavata or Airawana in Sanskrit, as Erawana in Bali and as Airapot, Airawat or Erawan in Thai.
All of these names refer to the action of rain clouds and lightning that results in rain, sent down by the god Indra as he rides the elephant god Erawan across the heavens.

There are seven levels to the falls and the walk to the top is progressively more difficult, not only due to the terrain, but also to the hot and humid conditions. The first few levels are a pleasant walk that becomes a clamber towards the end. However, the effort is well worth while and we are rewarded with some wonderful views.
One thing that strikes you about this park, is the number of people swimming in each of the levels, old and young alike and there is a kind of shared experience with everyone there.

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So, after a sweltering walk in the park, its back to the pier and a long-tail boat ride to the hotel. Once on the river all of those fly type bitey insecty thingies are out for dinner. I managed to get at one of the critters....so, there's at least one less midge on the river Kwae
I know...sorry

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Posted by Sean Griffin 03:49 Archived in Thailand Tagged waterfalls Comments (0)

Friday

Travel day

sunny 30 °C
View Holiday with the Tickners on Sean Griffin's travel map.

Although I thought that Friday would be a ‘down’ day – here goes: The four of us set off for a 4-hour drive west, towards the Thai/Myanmar border and the river Khwae Ya.
With Bangkok far behind us, the road infrastructure is still pretty impressive; very few potholes and uneven surfaces along with evidence of new roads under construction at seemingly regular intervals. Something often seen along the roads here are the ornate administrative boundary markers (see picture), very elaborate and leaves no doubt that one is either entering or leaving a jurisdiction.

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The house build style slowly changes the further west we drive and the soil begins to display a red hue and is apparently laterite, rich in iron and aluminium.

As we approach the Tenasserim Hills which, at this point, form the border between Thailand and Mayanmar, there is a great sunset and eventually reach our end point…a car park on the river Khwae Ya.. The sun has set and we are in a kind of half twilight – not enough light for a photograph, but just enough light by which to see, which is good, because transport to the hotel is via one of the long-tail speed-boats. The sight of the sheer cliffs either side of the river is a tantalising taste of hopefully what to expect over the coming two days.
The hotel (Resotel) on first impression, has the sort of feel one might expect from a safari resort. Difficult to see much as it is completely dark by the time we reach our room, somewhere on the site close to river. Once we have unpacked, we make our way for dinner at the main hotel building.
Dinner was accompanied by the obligatory guitarist/crooner who entertained diners with a host of songs in English, or something that resembled English anyway. Don’t get me wrong here, there’s no way I could sing any songs in Thai, and this guy had loads of diners up dancing through the night. At times, he seemed to channel Elvis, as he mumbled his way through some of the ‘King’s’ classics, but our favourite for the night was Roy Orbison’s classic ‘Itchy Woman’.

Posted by Sean Griffin 18:43 Archived in Thailand Tagged boat hotel river Comments (0)

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