Sara's RTW adventure!
Dear all, I've been in Thailand for nearly 2 weeks now but time seems to have flown by... I can't believe I've been away for over a month already! Madness! I arrived in Bangkok on 30th September, and following advice from people I met in Tokyo, headed straight to the backpacker area of the Khao San Road. My guidebook warned me about taxi touts at the airport, and advised me to go to the 'official' taxi rank just outside the arrivals lounge. The cabs are metered, which is supposed to ensure that you don't get ripped off. However, my driver conveniently 'forgot' to turn on the meter..... and so charged me about 200 baht more than it should have cost. So much for the safe option! After being ripped off, I decided to opt for slightly better accomodation, so booked into a hotel style place on the Khao San Road. The hotel itself was nice, but the whole Khao San area is crazy! The street contains a market selling everything you could ever imagine, although the majority is fake clothing/bags/shoes etc. Its packed day and night with tourists jostling from stall to stall, bar to bar, or eating from the street vendors selling pad thai at 20 baht a go (about 30p). It wasn't really for me, but I decided to stay for a while and see what else Bangkok had in store... little did I know that the whole place is full of scamers. The next day I decided to go and visit some of the sights. I couldn't find where I was supposed to go, so a local stopped me and started to talk to me about the area. He advised me to charter a tuk-tuk (another form of taxi) to take me around the different sights, which seemed like a good idea at the time. The tuk-tuk driver took me to a few places I wanted to see, but then decided to take me to a tailors and made me look around, followed by a gem shop. Eventually he dropped me off at my final destination, and got his 40 baht fee for the day. I later found out that this is a well known scam in Bangkok. The tuk-tuk drivers take you to places where they get commission.... sometimes they even lock you in the shop and don't let you leave until you've bought something, othertimes they massively overcharge you or sell you fake goods. Thankfully I didn't buy anything and didn't get locked up, but the whole experience was enough for me to say bye-bye to Bangkok. My next destination was Kanchanaburi, about 2 hours west of Bangkok, close to the Burmese border. I wanted to visit as this is the location of the famous bridge over the river Kwai. We went to the cemetary there and the death museum, and then got to walk along the bridge (the original bridge was bombed at the end of the war, but it was reconstructed soon afterwards as a memorial to the thousands who lost their lives building it). Walking along the bridge was a bit of a near death experience.... the Thai people obviously don't care as much as us Brits when it comes to health and safety! One slip on the wet iron and this blog wouldn't exist, lol. I also rode a WWII train along the 'death railway', which I found out has that name for more than one reason. The train was like a cattle car and rocked from side to side as it went along..... needless to say I was glad to get off it alive (near death experience number 2). After the 'death railway' we decided to put our lives in danger one more time, and visited the Tiger temple nearby. Buddhist monks rehabilitate and breed tigers there, and for 500 baht you can go in and stand next to/pet/handle fully grown ones. The cubs were really cute to play with, and it was amazing to stand next to a fully grown tiger. However, the larger ones were very still. The people working there said that most big cat species sleep through the heat of the day and don't become active until the evening.... but I wasn't convinced. Surely if they were surrounded by people they would react, even if they had been handled from birth? They are wild animals after all. Only in Thailand! After Kanchanaburi I headed north to Chaing Mai, where I booked a 3 day trek through the jungle. I asked the travel agent if the trek would be hard and he said it was easy... "mostly flat".... HE LIED! The trek was exhausting, up and down hills (more like mountains) for 4 hours everyday.... but also fascinating. Our trek leader was really knowledgable about the jungle, stopping to tell us about the various animals and the different plants we could see. On day one I got to ride an elephant, which was brilliant, and on day three we went bamboo rafting downstream.... definately the best experience I've had in Thailand! For the two nights we slept in hilltribe villages.... the jungle became my bedroom and the waterfall my shower! It was a brilliant experience, but 3 days was enough and I was glad to get back to civilisation again (I've never appreciated a hot shower and a proper toilet so much in my life!) That was a couple of days ago. Today I'm heading up to the border town of Chaing Khong with three German girls I met on the trek. We're going to cross the Thai-Laos border and catch a 2 day slow boat to Luang Prabang... which I'm sure will be another experience (although hopefully not a naer-death one). Thanks again for all of your messages.... its great to hear from you all, especially when I'm feeling homesick. Keep 'em coming! This internet place wont let me upload my pictures for some reason, so I'll try again when I'm next online. Missing you all, Love Sara XXX