Children of Laos, Burma & Thailand

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Thailand and Laos (and Myanmar if I can manage it)

Hello, Sawatdee kaa and Sabai dee,

My next trip will be Thailand and Laos, and this is all about the before, the trip and the after - similar to my Malaysia/Cambodia blog. I am putting together from start to finish - tickets, do's and don'ts, tours, where to stay, places to see, things to do, as well as useful extras like transport, good places to eat, what to wear, climate, tourist traps, tricks and tips and whatever else I can think of that will be useful.

If you have any tips or advice, please, feel free to leave a comment and add your bit - whatever you think may be helpful or interesting.

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Playlist - My Travel Videos

Saturday, April 23, 2011

56. PLOY Guesthouse

This is where I stayed in Kanchanaburi - PLOY Guesthouse. It is very clean and the staff were very helpful.

Above: My room
I was in Room A 103 - the "A" building is the single storey building with an outdoor shower with private garden. I would sit on the timber seat and have a smoke, in peaceful surroundings.
There was an information sign on the wall near the mirror which I thought rather delightful. It reads -

:DO REMIND The breakfast time is 7:00 - 10:00am After that
we have to apologise that we can't serve because a ton of work to do.
For the bar serves you until 20:30

:Don't Take Bath towel of the room, please take your towel out.
Pool towel is provided 20 BHT per day.

:DO REMEMBER everything in a room have a price DON'T RUIN them.

:DO Check-out before 12:00 or the late is 100 BHT per hour.

:DO fill the drinking water as we provide.

:DON'T smoke in a room.

:DON'T BE HESITATE to ask for something or any question. we appreciate
to serve you but please DO SPEAK EXTRA SLOWLY AND CLEARLY.
As we can speak English just a little bit.

:DO Enjoy kids with our facilities: Lego, Paint, Sand pool for free
of charges except Radio Control Boat is 40 BHT per 10 minutes.

:DO NOTE that most toilets in Thailand mean you will have to squat,
but in PLOY please sit. And DON'T PUT the toilet paper
or sanitary pads in the toilet bowl.

:DO REMOVE FOOTWEAR before getting on the bed.

Above: PLOY gardens
The gardens around the guesthouse. There are quiet spots where you can sit and just chill out. The centre photo shows the pool and the river. The swimming pool...hmm, yes.

Thou Shalt Look Where Thou Put Thy Big Foot!
I decided to take a dip in the pool, not being a swimmer, I gauged the shallow end and went in accordingly. Oh it was so refreshing sitting there, legs floating in the water, water coming up to chest high, arms weightless. Such a cooling place. Finally I decided to get out and have a drink. Now, there was no sign saying, "Caution - Slippery" and as I awkwardly climbed up the ladder and gingerly put my foot down on the ground --- WHOOSH! I slipped, lost my balance and ended up very inelegantly on my rear end. I put my right arm out to break the fall, and landed in a heap. (I'm afraid I wasn't very quiet about it either) - I couldn't move - pain shot up my right arm and my rear end was very sore. Two of the staff (both male) came over (it was so embarrassing - the top of my bathers had slipped down) and as I feverishly tried to pull them up I asked them to pass me my sarong. After several minutes, I slowly, very slowly got up, sat in the cane chair.
Ever been in situations where you wish the floor would open up and swallow you? Well, this was one of those times. That was my first (and last) adventure into a pool. Sigh........

Above: PLOY Guesthouse
Looking down from the entrance to the rooms. Note the thatched roofs

Above: Bedroom
My first experience of Thai beds - the mattresses are not just firm they are hard! And instead of it being on a bed with four legs, it was situated on the floor - the floor where the bed was, was higher then the rest of the floor. Just think of a huge step. Getting on it was fairly easy - it was the getting off that took some doing. I found the best way was to slither down to the end of the bed, dangle my feet over the edge on the right hand side and onto the chair, then put them on the ground! What a sight for sore eyes I must have been.

The little fridge was on the same level as the mattress and the window showed the "garden" outside. To the right of the narrow table and mirror is the bathroom door.

Above: Outdoor garden shower
When you go through the bathroom door, the basin and mirror are to your left, the loo is on the right and the shower faces the garden.
There is another sign, equally quaint and rather humourous which says:

:DON'T FORGET that mosquitoes looking and flying like fighter planes will,
not may, also extend you a warm welcome even during daylight. DO BRING
some anti-mosquito-aircraft necessities along and if don't have them ask us.
Especially please DON'T FORGET to close the door.

:DON'T BE ALARMED if you find pigs trotting by or in front of you,
or big monstrous (perhaps to you) lizards wisping out their forked tongues above
your head, or others.....because this is a REAL NATURF.

:DO CONCERN that the electricity and water is the world's resources,
let's save this energy. Please DO TURN OFF when YOU DON"T NEED IT.

:DO let us know if you back from the National park as always many blood
eater come with you, we could give you a hand to clean stuff.

:DON'T KEEP your valuables in a room. And if you do think
we are decent and honest do keep your valuables in out safe deposit box.

:DO BE ALERT if you take NEW FRIEND in room, please take
care your personal belonging.

:DO hang on the sign "do not disturb" If you don't need us to make up
your room.

:DON'T FORGET to double lock the door by wood club.

Have a nice dream!

Above: Walkway
From my room, I walked this way to get to the restaurant - turn left after the elephants.

Above: Entrance to restaurant
The steps lead to the restaurant - on the right hand side is the bar and the area where the breakfast is cooked.

Above: Breakfast table
The tables are made of a solid piece of beautiful timber, topped with glass. The seating is also made of timber, polished to a sheen with the patina of old wood. This was my table. A free breakfast consisting toast and tea or coffee is included in the room price. The rest is extra. I had scrambled egg, 25 baht, bacon - 30 baht and orange juice 40 baht as well. It was 95 baht well spent.

Above: Antiques and Collectables
There are many beautiful pieces - timber sculptures, antiques and curios. This cabinet holds hookah pipes, lustres and candelabras. Above is an old steamer travelling trunk.

Above: Rooftop Garden
I discovered this delightful rooftop garden setting. Relaxing lounges and pillows, undercover from the blazing sun and tables and chairs - again made from nature - solid timbers and marble tops. The whole is surrounded by shrubbery and trees with a view overlooking the River.

Above: View from restaurant
My favourite view - the River Kwai as seen from my breakfast table.

All in all, I was very happy with my choice of accommodation and would recommend it to anyone visiting Kanchanaburi wanting a quiet, relaxed place where you can chill out and just listen to the birds and the gentle lapping of the river.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

55. Death Railway

Namtok Railway Station to Kanchanaburi

The famous, or rather infamous Death Railway which ran for 415 kms was constructed by POW's and forced Asian labourers in WWII. The working and living conditions of those prisoners was horrific and the brutality of their captors was unmatched. At the end of the war, most of the railway was pulled up and it exists today only from Kanchanaburi to Namtok, a distance of around 50 kms.

Above: Harvesting

The views from the train are breath-taking and beautifully scenic. It is an unforgettablbe journey along the river and mountains.

Above: Tall steeple
About 25 minutes into the journey, I saw this pretty little building (a temple?) on the left-hand side.

Above: Wang Pho station
There were many passengers who alighted at this station, many of them school students.

Above: Thamkra Sae Station
The train goes past Thamkra Sae Station just before crossing the Wampo Viaduct.

Above: Wampo Viaduct
Crossing over the shaky bridge, alongside the River Kwai, or more correctly Khwae Noi, sleepers and pillars creaking, is a thrilling experience. The train slows right down and the views are spectacular. The best way to see the Viaduct is by train.

Wampo Viaduct was built in March/April 1943 and completed in "speedo" time (non-stop work). It was rebuilt and strengthened in the original design during the post war years of WWII.

Here is a real life account of building the viaduct by Leo Rawlings.

Above: The viaduct hugs the cliff
Much of the journey was spent with heads hanging out the window, hands madly trying to catch that perfect photo. At certain times however, you had to quickly pull your head back in - unless you wanted to arrive at the end of the trip headless!

Above: Man sitting on sleeper
It was quite astonishing seeing this chap sitting casually on one of the sleepers. I do hope he managed to get some good photos.

Above: Lookout Tower
This is one of the lookout towers which offer wonderful views across the river.

Above: Gardens
A little further along is this pretty garden or park.

Above: Tha Kilen Station
Although the station is small, it seems to be a popular one for people to hop on and off the train.
From Nam Tok station it is eight stops to Kanchanaburi - Koe Mahamongkol, Wang Pho, Tham Krasae, Thakilen, Baan Kao, Wang Yen, River Kwai Bridge then Kanchanaburi.

Above: Temple
I haven't been able to find out the name of this temple, but it is about 20 minutes before the train crosses over the River Kwai Bridge.

Above: Over the river

Above: Topiary
The topiary seems to have been done by a very clever artist.

Above: Kanchanaburi township
As the train approached the River Kwai Bridge, you could see lots and lots of people all out to see the train come in.

Above: Kanchanaburi Station
The journey over, I walked out through the station where the chap from my guesthouse picked me up.

Above: Death Railway map
This map shows where the train line for the Death Railway (Burma-Thailand Railway) ran.


I rode the train along the Death Railway from Namtok to Kanchanaburi Station over the Bridge on the River Kwai on 9th February, 2011. The scenery is so wonderful, it is easy to forget the horror and suffering endured by the POW's and enforced Asian labourers who built it, but the beauty of the surroundings is their legacy.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

54. Namtok Station

We left Hellfire Pass and made our way to Namtok Railway Station. I wanted to ride the "Death Railway" and the last train left at 3.15pm.

Above: Namtok Station
We arrived with time to spare and my driver walked to the station and stayed with me while I bought my ticket, then checked it to make sure it was the right one.

Above: My Driver
This was my driver for the day, a pleasant fellow whose car had suspension!

Above: Ticket to Kanchanaburi
This is what the train tickets look like. Namtok to Kanchanaburi is 100 baht.

Above: Namtok Station Collage
Click on the photos to enlarge.

Above: Third Class Carriages
Wooden seats with straight backs, they're not really all that bad, and it's nice sitting on the train anyway looking at the passing scenery. Vendors go up and down several times selling drinks and sometimes fruit. The fans on the ceiling at least move the air and it's surprising how pleasant it can be if you're sitting in the "breeze".

Above: Station Master
Station Master getting ready to wave the flag for the train journey.

Above: Ticket Inspector
"Tickets please, tickets please", called the conductor - only in Thai of course. Even though most of us on the train didn't understand Thai, we all knew what he was saying. A happy, jolly fellow, he was quite happy to have his photo taken, something which I'm sure he must be asked many times a day.

Above: Goodbye to Namtok
As the tain pulled out, this was my last view of Namtok. The station itself was quite a pretty place and had I had more time, I'd have pottered around the stall vendors and had a cuppa. There were many people milling about, quite a hive of activity.
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