29 May 2012

Floating Market
River Kwai
Tiger Temple

Up early this morning.  Anna still didn’t get breakfast!  But we were off to Damnoen Saduak the floating market.  We were a bit worried in the morning as a minivan pulled up and grabbed the people besides us.  Apparently it wasn’t our tour.  About ten minutes later a woman appeared and took our ticket.  We joined a larger group where coloured stickers were being handed out.  These were for coordinating the group, although there wasn’t much coordinating going on.  After about half an hour of chaos, we were loaded onto a lot of minivans and off we went.

It was a long drive out of the city, although the distance was less than 80km.  Our driver had an interesting way of dealing with traffic lights.  He would turn left, immediately do a u-turn and turn left again to go back onto the main road.  In this way we left most of the city behind us and entered the realms of the rice paddy’s and coconut plantations.  Our “tour guide” was on the phone most of the trip, and when we got to the market we were dumped out of the bus to be re-united with all the other colour coded tourists.

Anything for sale at the floating markets

Here we were told that we could hire our own longboat (extra) or walk along the sides of the market for about an hour.  We thought the boat was included in the tour.  As there was the choice of a motorised boat or local boat.  Apparently the motorised boat was for going along the canals after the market.  Stingy as we are, we chose to walk and find breakfast.  Most of the stalls were selling the same tourist orientated tidbits.  A lot of clothing, things made from coconuts (Some of there were really nice) and fans, fruit, food etc.


Stopping for breakfast along the waters edge was nice, as it was cooked for us on a boat.  Although most of the stalls are along side the canal, there were many boats floating on the water selling the same things.  Further along there were stalls only accessible from the water itself, but most of the things on offer there ar the same as elsewhere.  Picking up some fruit we then sat on a half a bridge.  These occasionally stick out over the water, but only go half way.  They are used by people on the boats to get in and out if needed.  It was funny watching old women jumping over the rails, and working their way down poles to the boats.  I will post photos when I get a program to shrink them!

Boating along the canals

Back at the meeting point, we boarded our motorised boat.  These are different to the Lao boats.  They still have the long egg beaters sticking out the back,but have a jet engine attached to it.  Considering how fast they can go, its a bit of overkill.  The cruise was nice, and in full tourist season the markets are massive.  Houses built out over the water, with mailboxes at your landing.  Boat sheds at the sides and old rusty corrugated iron shoring up the sides of the buildings.  Still, you don’t need much for a house, other than four walls, a roof and a boat landing.  As long as its watertight.  Electricity cables strung along overhead, and you can guess about the sewerage.

Waterfront living

On our return to shore, there was more chaos, as some people were going back to Bangkok, others like us were going to the river Kwai and god knew about the rest.  So back in another minivan after moving our bags around and we were off to lunch.
Lunch wasn’t a bad affair with a selection of four dishes arrayed around the long tables.  Fairly sterile, and would have been better at a market stall.  However the tours get their cut for us eating there.  Again chaos for the minivans, and off to Kwai.

Brige over river Kwai

This was a real dissapointment for me.  We had 40min there.  20 for the museum and 20 for the bridge.  We couldn’t even get to the cemetary.  Tours 😦  We decided on the bridge first, as I didn’t want to miss it.  The bridge got bombed just a few times, and the two central sections have been rebuilt since the war with Japanese repartiation money and help?!?  So had to get a photo, and walk along it.  It was a bit disconcerting to see a small brightly painted train engine next to it to ferry tourists from one side to the other.  Alas, tourism kills the very thing people go to see.

Dissapointing museum

The museum was appaling.  A joke in every sence.  We had to pay admission (again not included in the “Tour” and they were very sympathetic to the Japanses, considering the Japanses killed over 80,000 Thais, Burmese, and Malaysians as well  as the P.O.W.’s.  The time that the POW’s were brought onto the bridge was to wave welcome to the allied bombers flying overhead.  An after thought was that it may have been to stop the bombing, and the allies were in the wrong to bomb the bridge with their own men on it.  (The awful arithmetic as someone has called it)

Back to the chaos of minibus hell.  Although we lost more people back to Bangkok, so it was a bit easier.  Onto the Tiger Temple. We had been told to do the day thing there, as you could do a lot more with the tigers without the tourists.  We didn’t listen did we?

Andrew with a tiger cub

At the Tiger temple our ticket was at least paid for, so in we went.  A bit of a walk to the tiger canyon.  This is dug out of the flat landscape, and is used to enclose the tigers during the day.  We hit the que where everyone was lining up to take their photos with the tigers.  You had your free photo with a tiger, or you could pay 1000 baht ($33) to have a group shot.  Stingy Remember?  We waited and expected one photo with one tiger.  So when my guide grabbed my hand and led me off sans backpack, I wanted a good one.

Anna with tiger

The chains on the tiger are about a foot long, and most of them were lazing about.  I was taken to the tiger, and approaching it from behind, crouched down and started stroking the surprisingly course fur.  It didn’t even blink.  5 or six photos later I was led away, expecting to be taken to the exit, I was surprised to be led to another 3 tigers.  The last one was a porno tiger (Bluey, our dog, used to lie on his back with legs spread, exposing himself to everyone, and the tiger was doing the same thing aka porno dog) so I was disappointed when someone hit the tiger to get it to roll over.  Pity.  Walking away we found the baby tiger and got another photo or two with it.  It was cute, and attacking a large seed pod.

At this time we were told to stay in the enclosure, as they were leading the other tigers back up for the night.  As we had 20min to meet up with the tour group we were a bit worried, as it took a long time before you could even see them approaching.  Only to have one stop in front of us and an annoying English volunteer say we could get another photo if we lined up.  No thanks.

Tiger temple bussiness

Overall the Tiger temple was disappointing. We expected a normal Thai Wat, with the monks walking around with the tigers on a leash. There is a Wat, but it is an ugly one hidden away in a corner. In the whole area we only saw 2 monks, but about 40+ “temple helpers”. The ones in pink t-shirts were the people that worked with the tigers, and the ones in green t-shirts were mostly American volunteers/salespersons trying to talk us into spending money on “special photos” and “special evening show” The park was badly maintained and it looked like they are trying to turn it into a fun park : The bathrooms are shaped liked rock formations etc.. It didn’t sit right with me that at a Buddhist temple everything seemed to be about the money…

Back for more chaos with the minivans.

The trip back to Bangkok was long and boring.  A quick shower or two, and we were at the train station.  The booking agent had said the driver would buy our tickets to Ayutthaya and we had an argument at the tiger temple about this, so we were pleasantly surprised when the driver did get us our 20 baht ticket!

As for the “Tour”  it was a massive disappointment.  A Thai tour is apparently just transport to and from the attractions.  There were no explanations of what we are seeing, no history, and no interaction between tour guides and group other than what bus we had to get into.

Thai trains had a reputation for running on time.  No longer.  The train was delayed for half an hour.  A quick dinner and on the train.  over two hours later we had traveled the 80km to Ayuttaya.

We were supposed to be met there to get taken to Baan Eve, our guest house.  A young teenager came up to us and asked us where we were going, so we said “Baan Eve”  Yes.  “Are you from the hotel?”  Yes.  “OK”  He tried to load both our bags on his moto (motorcycle) and didn’t have much luck.  Hummm,  Off he went to get a friend, and we jumped on the back of these two bikes.  Thinking nothing of it after Vietnam, Lao and Cambodia, where it is commonplace.  They drove us a long way.  A bit weird aS we had been told we could walk there.  They took us to the biggest hotel in town.  Opposite the girly bars.  On being told this was the wrong place they drove all around town looking for it.  We had the map, and name, but I don’t think they could read.  After crossing the same bridge three or four times, they stopped to get directions from a tuktuk. By then we had had enough.

They clearly did not know where they were going, they were getting upset and their driving got very dangerous. We decided to leave and try to find our own way. Now they got upset that we were not willing to pay them 100Bath! We thought it was a free ride, organised by the hotel.. and we are not paying for being dropped somewhere in town, nowhere near our hotel!

The tuktuk driver offered to take us for free, but as he was a friend of our bike riders, we did not want to go with him. 2 minutes after we started walking, a tuktuk came up and he took as straight to Baan Eve. He had been told that there were two pissed off tourists walking around with their bags, which was nice of the other tuktuk driver.

Unfortunately our host was already in bed (by now it was 23.15), but still came up to show us the (very nice) room and give us free waters.. Great to finally be there and relax.



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