Ok, have to back-date this a little bit...on the 5th Nov we transferred to a hotel called the New World Lodge which was about 5 min walk from where we first stayed in Bangkok. Wasn't as luxurious but still pretty nice, only downer was that Jill was put in a twin room with a random as there were 12 people taking part in the Intrepid tour. But Abby (from Glasgow) turned out to be lovely & has become a good mate so was all good in the end.
We attended our welcome meeting on the sunday eve & at first, struggled to catch most of what Sila - our Thai tour guide was saying! Got quite excited though when we went through the full itinerary of places & activities we would cover over the 15 day tour & we all looked as apprehensive as each other about the 3 day jungle trek. After the meeting, headed out to meet Mark & the other lads to watch the footy in Gullivers on Khao San (a self-proclaimed 'travellers tavern') that was heaving with Thais dancing like nutters on the pool tables to Spice Girls & cheesy R'n'B while the Brits sat inches from the tv screens, glued to the footy or rugby! Jill got to see the Hammers winning goal so she was chuffed. Dan & Charlie showed us some pics they'd taken while they'd been on a similar jungle trek to us - the most enormous spiders I'd ever seen, with bodies the size of small footballs. I very nearly cried at the thought of trekking through the jungle to spend the night with them!
Left Bangkok midday on the 6th & took a 2 hr bus ride to Kanchanaburi (West of Bangkok). Managed to leave my fairly-new Reebok Road Plus trainers on the bus - which I was very cheesed off about as I didn't fancy attempting the jungle trek in flip-flops! As soon as we arrived in Kanchanaburi & transferred to Sam's Guesthouse on the River Kwai, we all noticed the pleasant change in pace, atmosphere & temperature once you escape the built-up city.
That afternoon we took rickshaws to see some sights. First stop was the JEATH War Museum - aptly named as an abbreviation of the 6 countries involved in the war (Japan, England, America & Australia, Thailand & Holland) & to replace the word 'death' (too horrific). This small museum documents the tragic ordeal of the thousands of Allied POWs, captured by the Japanese & forced to build a bridge ('Bridge Over the River Kwai' or now referred to as the 'Death Railway') from Thailand to Burma (Myanmar). We read stories & newspaper cuttings about the POWs who died along the way - through starvation, severe illness & torture. Also saw sketches drawn by some of the survivors & was reduced to tears a couple of times.
Went to visit the War Cemetery after the museum, which was even more emotional - reading the heart-wrenching messages on the headstones. So many of the soldiers tragically died aged as young as eighteen. Finally, our rickshaws took us to where a section of the 'Death Railway' bridge still remains for tourists to walk over.
Went for a lovely dinner as a group that night & then a few drinks at a little bar where we had a little hut section to ourselves & enjoyed beers sat on cushions on the floor. Oh yes - might be an idea to introduce the tour group so certain names/photos over the next few entries make sense!
Abby & Lisa (Glasgow, sisters. Lisa is also Lee's girlfriend & lives in London with him), Lee (London)
Natalia & Carly (Kent, best friends)
Vicki & Brendan (Australia, a couple)
Sila (Thailand, group leader)
On the 7th Nov, we got up early & took a 1.5 hour ride on an open bus to Erawan National Park & waterfalls. This stunning park has 7 tiers to climb, which took us about 2.5 hours, which we barely even noticed thanks to the breathtaking views along the way & the swims we got to have in the waterfalls. We also amused ourselves by climbing up the huge rocks to use them as waterslides into the falls below (don't worry Mum - not dangerous as it sounds!)
Back at Sam's Guesthouse, I had a pleasant surprise waiting. One of our rickshaw drivers from the day before had tracked down my trainers at the bus station & returned them to me! Went to check out a night market that evening & bought some more jewellery before going for a few drinks, where we met 2 crazy boys from Dorset who were absolutely wrecked on some strange Thai rice whiskey that they were drinking out of a bucket. They made the evening most entertaining!