Thailand: Hua Hin and Bangkok Round 2!

Our 3 day aquatic excursion took us to the 18th of January and by then it was time to start thinking about heading up to Bangkok to see Cameron and Darren off. Neither had purchased visas restricting their time in Thailand to 30 days and both needed to return to work. After the liveabord we all caught a ride back to Ranong on the Paradise and there we said goodbye to Erin, Cecil and Christina as the 4 of us made our way up to Chumporn. We had decided to take a more indirect route back to Bangkok allowing us time to explore the upper southern gulf. A train took us from Chumporn to Hua Hin where we found a hotel and rented bikes for the next day’s subterranean adventure.

 

The next morning, we got up early and headed south on mopeds to the town of Pranburi. From there we found our way to Sam Roi Yot National park which was home to Thaem Phraya Nakhon cave. We parked the bikes at the beach entrance and proceeded on foot over a small hill and through the woods to the mouth of the cave system. As we proceeded downward, the sounds of the beach and the outside world seemed to fade into nothing and then there was only silence aside from our footsteps. We wound our way past several groups of stalagmites and under a structure called “The Death Bridge”, a large rock protrusion connecting opposite sides of the sinkhole skylight, until we found ourselves standing in a large open roofed cavern. At its center was a structure like a wooden pavilion built several hundred years ago as a meeting place for kings. Inscribed on the walls of the cave were the signatures of 2 of Thailands previous kings, Rama V and Rama VII. Off to the side in a dark corner we found a small Buddhist shrine where Patrick and I traded some loose change for 3 sticks of incense which we then lit and placed in front of the shrine. The sunlight from the open roof allowed a small stand of trees to grow up from the cave floor and illuminated the entire cavern. Luckily, the 4 of us arrived at the perfect time and just as we were leaving, the sun passed directly over the cave ceiling sending shafts of light into the cave. The pictures we had seen previous to our visit were beautiful but didn’t do the site justice when the light, clearly defined by the hole in the Earth’s surface, penetrated the shadowy cavern.

We set out early in the morning for 2 reasons: 1. To make it to the cave in time to catch the sunlight and 2. To allow us enough time to return to Hua Hin in time to snag a ride into Bangkok. After departing Sam Roy Yot National Park, it was a bee line back to Hua Hin and a short walk to the bus station. After a mini-bus ride we found ourselves once again in Bangkok. Upon our arrival, we got a hold of Christina and made our way, bags and all, over to her place where we stayed for the night.

The next morning we set out somewhat early for the town of Kanchanaburi. We hopped on a bus out of Victory Monument and, in a couple of hours, turned up at our destination. From the bus terminal we snagged a Song-taew over to a moped rental shop and the 4 of us (Christina had work) grabbed bikes. To keep things traditional I got stuck with the piece of sh#t moped and we were off like a herd of turtles. It took us a mere 45 minutes to drive 60Km to Erawan National Park where we dismounted and began the hike in to the falls.

Erawan Falls are a widely known and highly frequented attraction for tourists and locals of central Thailand and consist of 7 tiers of water falls, each with its own unique charm. Seeing as it was nearing time for the park to close, we blew our way past the first 6 tiers and found ourselves sweatin’ buckets at tier number 7. Here we threw off our sweaty t-shirts and slunk beneath the waterfall for a natural shower. For the most part, the water flowed over limestone rock and mossy slopes all the way down from tier 7 to tier 1. Tier 7 was monitored by a park ranger who regulated how many people at a time were allowed in the pool. We swam around until we got kicked out but instead of heading to the bottom, we back tracked and hiked up behind a rock feature while the rest of the tourists headed down. From there we followed the water over limestone ledges until we were down at number 6. The limestone was surprisingly grippy which made the traverse between waterfalls simple and we picked our way down until we ran into a pool full of Russians. As we stood on the edge, I heard a noise and looked up. Dangling from the branches 5 feet over our heads was a rather large crab-eating macaque and on further inspection, there was a whole troop of them. After being photographed, one of the macaques decided he was interested in our bags which we had foolishly left at the bottom of the tree. Luckily we made it there first with feet to spare.

The rest of the hike down was broken up into a series of sprints punctuated by brief dips in the different waterfall pools. By the time we made it to the parking lot, it was getting late and nobody felt like mopeding in the dark so all we could do was pin it to win it. After an exhilarating but somewhat freaky ride back, we made it to the bus terminal and caught a ride back into Bangkok.

The next few days were spent hanging with Christina and the bros in Bangkok. We passed the time with several trips to Krispy Kreme, oh god the peanut butter, as well as a trip to the IMAX for The Hobbit in 3D. We also made several trips to Crystal Spa for some much needed Thai massage. I enjoy spending time in Bangkok, it’s definitely a city I wouldn’t mind living in for a while. Aside from Christina’s ballin apartment, the food is amazing and available almost everywhere at a price next to nothing.

No trip to Bangkok would be complete without an evening trip to Khao San road… That night is still a little hazy. We started off in a pub and ordered ourselves a few towers of Chang. The tower itself was more of a novelty in that 1. You’re drinking one of the cheapest of Thai Beers and 2. You’re actually taking pressure off of the waiters because you just refill yourself from your own meter tall, cylindrical beer dispenser. When we had finished with that particular pub, we made our way out into the crowded street and walked until we found a good old fashioned bucket stand. As the man behind the stand was mixing what must have been a 13oz mix drink in a children’s sand bucket, we noticed a couple of locals performing breakdancing in the street right behind us. Once we had buckets in hand we all sat down to watch. These guys were pretty impressive and we decided to stay and watch for a while.

I don’t specifically go out looking to learn lessons about travel, they just sometimes happen and after a few minutes of watching the breakdancing in the street, I ventured down an alley in search of a washroom. I didn’t make it 50 feet before I was stopped by the Thai Police… these guys were searching for any reason, any reason at all to nail me for something but, after 5 minutes of questions and the subsequent pat down, they were unable to uncover anything unsavoury. You would think they would have something better to do than bother tourists. I know they’ve got to make a living somehow but does scaring the people who want to spend money in their country really seem like a good idea? Anyway, after a few buckets we decided to call it quits and head back to Christina’s. The night turned out to be quite the show in downtown Bangkok and I’m sure none of us will be forgetting it anytime soon.

After Darren and Cameron boarded their respective flights out of Bangkok, Patrick and I were busy prepping for the next adventure, Indonesia. We still had a couple of days left before we were due in Medan so I decided to get myself a suit. Prior to this, the only experience I had with this sort of thing was the tuxedo I rented for prom… On the whole, the experience was actually kind of fun. Picking all the materials and showing up for fittings was a good time in itself, not to mention the price for a tailored suit back home is ridiculous while here a few hundred dollars goes a long way. To be honest, I didn’t know a single thing about picking out a suit so it was actually Christina who was making most of the hard decisions.

With a few days to spare while the suit was being made, Patrick and I attended a few of Christina’s yoga classes. These were a fun way to get some well needed exercise and the fact that the studios are heated simply added to the feeling of getting your ass kicked. With my various back injuries from skiing, I can definitely see a bit more yoga in the future being quite beneficial.

The same day my suit was finished was also the day Patrick and I had booked our flights to Medan, Indonesia. After a brief bit of admiring myself in the mirror, it was a rush back to Christina’s and a hasty bit of packing to make our flight. Seeing as it was an international flight, we jumped in a cab bound for Suvarnabhumi International Airport. Upon our arrival however, we looked up and down the check-in counters and a feeling of dread crept over us, of the 2 airports in Bangkok, it was actually Don Muang, the one across town, that played host to our Air Asia flight. Too late to berate ourselves for not double checking, we raced out of departures, flagged down a cab and after we told him our situation, we were off. The subsequent ride was a definite nail biter and no one spoke the whole way there, it was just too typical of a situation for Patrick and I. We arrived with 45 minutes before take-off and rushed to the check-in counter. We were in luck! The ticket counter for our flight was mere moments from closing but we made it and a feeling of relief washed over me, we made it! It was by no means our actions that got us there on time, I owe it all to the cab driver, that guy hauled!

As we sat in the plane preparing for a new country and a new language to try, I began to regret the fact that I didn’t push Darren to extend his trip. Our travelling circus is going to miss those goofy brothers.

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