Thursday, 8 November 2012

Kanchanaburi to Sangkhlabrui

Kanchanaburi was fab - liked it very much, although the guest house didn't have a cat, there were three on our route into town, for dinner, beer or water. One of them a tiny kitten with an unfeasibly large bell, about the size of it's paw, regularly came trotting over for strokes, as we walked past!
I also started the search for 'The Fish', last time we were in Thailand, I had the best fish ever, deep fried and seeming to have a piece of garlic in place of each scale, it was the best fish ever, un-recreatable back home, and never seen on a menu. In the Thai-French restaurant (speciality crocodile a l'orange) I probably came 80% of the way there.

In an attempt to then burn off some of the fat we hired some bicycles the following day and cycled up to a cave system, Wat Tham Kao Poon, flat all the way until just before the entrance fortunately, whoever said caves are always cool was lying, we came out of there like little blobs of grease, then made the trek to a stupa at the top of the hill - mad dogs and Englishmen or what?!

Corporal Noel Arthur Seymour, 21 Royal Air Force
We cycled back passed the two war cemetery's where, in the one in Kanchanaburi we found the grave of Sarah (who is dealing with all our post - what a star) 's 21 year old great uncle 'Nobby'

We're now in a much more remote place, very near the Burma (Myanmar) border. The Three Pagodas Pass, about 22km to the north is the actual border crossing, but apparently its not worth seeing and is filled with tacky markets. The area is much less developed and jungle abounds, along with its particular noises, especially at night. The locals are ethnic minority groups, mainly Karen and Mon and these people are not really wanted by either Burma or Thailand, so they are very marginalised. On the bus here we were stopped at several military checkpoints to allow an official on board to check for illegal immigrants. We got no more than a glance, but anyone who had the characteristic look of the locals had their papers checked and had to answer several questions. Tensions between Burma and Thailand seem to be relatively high and we are told not to wander anywhere near the border. Its a fairly wiggly border as its quite mountainous, so its not easy to tell, we are therefore staying put and using the time to relax.

The original village of Sangkhlaburi was submerged in 1983 when a dam was built to make a huge reservoir at the confluence of three rivers. The locals were left with no-where to live, until a local monk got some funds together to build the new Sangkhlaburi on the banks of the lake. This is where we are today.
The wooden bridge connecting Sangkhlaburi with a Mon village settlement
 The Three Pagodas Pass is also the place that the course of the Burma-Thailand (Death Railway) crossed into Burma. There's no railway now, of course, it finishes on the Thailand side at Nam Tok, about 200km away, but we believe there is still evidence of where it was, although we haven't seen it yet (too hot to go walking!). A long section of the course is now submerged under the reservoir, making any chance of reconnecting the track a very remote possibility, lots of bridges and tunnels would need to be made to negotiate the terrain round the lake.

We arrived yesterday afternoon after making a telephone reservation at the Burmese Inn, which had variable reviews. It was only 400Baht per night for the room (about £8) and we were shown to a room right on the lakeside with fan cooling only (no air-con). It was a small room with a bathroom of sorts, but it is in need of refurbishment. We had been told we didn't need air-con here as its got a cooler mountain air environment, but daytime is still well into the 30's and night time must be mid 20's. We ate in the restaurant, which was cheap (140Baht for dinner - £3 + 3 beers 180Baht - £3.60) and was quite good. It was open air (with a roof!) and had a really nice jungly feel. The fan in our room operated on 'turbo' only so we felt like we were in a wind tunnel all night with associated fan noise and very hard beds. We didn't get a good nights sleep!

This morning we checked out and have booked in to a very nice air-con room at the Sampreso resort. Its 900Baht (£18), including breakfast, has a swimming pool, we've got a balcony and a great view. Got to be worth the extra! Here's our view:
We have considered staying here another night as its possible to do a jungle trek and bamboo rafting, but its very quiet here, so we're thinking of staying just the one night and then heading back to Kanchanaburi, onto Bangkok and then the night train to Chaing Mai. We'll see how we feel later.

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