Finally I managed to escape Bangkok. Booked a minivan to Kanchanaburi and after two hours I was there. Very good decision, ’cause contrary to Bangkok, Kanchanaburi is a relaxed town located at the river Kwai. Got a nice greeting and a spacy, light room with river view on the raft of VN Guesthouse. Yeah! What a difference. Met a very friendly dutch couple at the restaurant. Thanks Angela and Ronald for the nice and interesting talks every morning and evening while you were staying at VN. Very much appreciated, especially after the an anonymity in Bangkok. And thanks for all your tips about the Kanchanaburi region!
Basically, Kanchanaburi and its surroundings are a big history lesson. Maybe, it was not on the curriculum. Maybe, I was just not listening. Maybe, I forgot. However, I did not know, that there was this big second war theater in Asia during World War II and that Japan was such a big player back then. After invading Thailand they build the Burma Railway between between Ban Pong (Thailand) and Thanbyuzayat (Burma) to support their troops in Burma. 415 km, trough jungle and mountains. It’s also called Death Railway due to the lots of POWs that died while building it. Part of this railway is the famous bridge over the river Kwai, which is located in Kanchanaburi. Aside from a visit to the bridge I went to the Thailand-Burma Railway Centre, the Kanchanaburi war cementary directly opposite, and to the Hellfire Pass Memorial (Thanks Kirsty for motivating me to get up early, so that we’ve been at the memorial site all alone!). All of them shocking examples of the cruelties of war. So sad. That it had to happen. And that mankind is still fighting each other.
Aside from these sad things, the surroundings of Kanchanaburi have a lot of great things to offer, too. For example, the Erawan Waterfall. It is a seven-tiered fall inside a national park with lush green jungle vegetation and monkeys jumping in the trees. I first went up the 1500 meters to the seventh tier, where I took my first refreshing swim in the pool. Which I did again at the third tier on may way down. When in the water, you get a free fish spa. Small fish “attack” your feet and legs to nibble away dead skin. Quite a funny sensation. And the waterfalls are just beautiful. Did I mention already that I love waterfalls ;-) Great day!
However, the highlight during the two weeks here was the time I could spent with elephants. My first contact with these amazing animals was a short trekking and bathing tour in the afternoon. After arriving at the elephant camp Phinit Wang Pho we mounted the seat on the elephants back and off we went through the river and along a small path for a short ride. During the ride we were allowed to sit at the neck of the elephant. Where you are really really close to these wonderful creatures. Being back at the river, the seats were dismounted and we took a bath together with the elephants. You can swim around them, watch them, touch them, climb them. What an incredible enriching experience!
As I enjoyed the two hours soo much, I decided to spent more time with these marvelous creatures. And went for a whole day to the Elephant’s world. Which “is a sanctuary for sick, old, disabled, abused, illegal and street elephants, who will receive the rest and joy that they deserve. They can enjoy themselves in their own natural environment here until their last breath”. What an amazing project! And I was more than lucky, ’cause I have been the only visitor this day. Got the whole world for myself ;-) The awesome day started with watching two elephants doing their mud spa. Aside from throwing a lot of mud on themselves, they have been really nice to each other. Guess they like each other. A lot of fond sniffing and touching each other with the trunk. Really cute.
As mud spas are an exhausting task, I was allowed to feed them bananas afterward. Cool. They are so skilful with their trunks. Amazing. Then I was exhausted and got lunch as well :-) Aside from Agnes, Danny, and Penny I had also company of a little scorpion. After lunch we prepared rice balls for the two old elephants that have no teeth anymore. What a fun building this slushy rice balls bar handed. Apparently some never grow old ;-) Then I had to be quick. ‘Cause if you don’t feed them fast enough, they just snitch the rice balls with their trunks behind your back.
Afterward it was bathing time. I was lucky again. Cause Pizza, the mahout of the smallest elephant John, took him to a bath. Which he normally only does after the visitors are gone as John is still very young and likes to play. And even a small elephant who wants to play can be quite dangerous for a tourist (but for the mahout as well). John hat a lot of fun in the water and it was a pleasure to watch him.
After him, the other elephants were taking a bath, too. And we joined them. As during the first time, a really special experience! Then the mahouts and I (together with Danny and Penny) took the elephants to the forest, where they spend their nights. I was allowed to ride one elephant the whole way. Wohoo! Lesson learned: Elephant skin is far less sensitive to thorns than mine. As ‘my’ elephant just walked through without any notice, they ripped some little bleeding holes in my feet and legs.
Thanks to Agnes, Danny, Penny, all the mahouts (who have been really motivated to give me a great day) and of course to the elephants for this amazing day! I am still impressed by these intelligent, funny, tender and cute creatures.
Aside from these trips, I spent a lot of relaxed time reading a lot of books, two of them very good. Worked a bit, too. We will see if it was worth the effort in the future. Thanks to Kaan, Tin, and Bee (and the rest of the stuff) for your friendliness and the great time I had at the VN Guesthouse.
“Und du gehst Rüssel an Schwanz hinterher…”