We’re sad to say goodbye to Thailand, but definitely excited to move on to Vietnam. We’ve loved our time here, but it feels like the real adventure lies ahead of us. We also have to say goodbye to Zach and Yata and strike out on our own. But before we begin those new experiences, I figured I should share a little of what we’ve been up to since Koh Tao…
We returned to Bangkok August 18th and jumped right into exploring the city. We decided to do everything on our own (aka no tour groups) and subsequently got a little mixed up on our starting location. For those of you doing this in the future, start at the Grand Palace. Apparently you can buy this super ticket to all the sites – we didn’t have it and ended up paying for everything individually (still not expensive).
We began our sight seeing with the Ananta Samakhon Throne Hall…or at least we tried to. We wandered around the entire complex, looking for an entrance, and when we finally did make our way inside, we got hustled. Well, not literally, but we clearly weren’t paying attention, and ended up buying tickets to Vinanmek (the world’s largest golden teakwood mansion – pretty specific, right?).
Well, we shuffled through that pretty quickly before making our way to the Throne Hall, which was another 150 baht on top of the 100 we paid for the teakwood mansion (only the Throne Hall was definitely worth it!). The Ananta Samakhon Throne Hall was incredibly well done – remote controls with English descriptions, well lit, spacious – and the pieces inside were extraordinary. Especially the Wood-Carved Screen with Scenes from “Sangthong” and “Himavan Forest.”
The following day we decided on an overnight trip to Kanchanaburi. Luckily, we were able to leave our big duffels with the hotel, since we’d be returning the next day, and we made our way to the train station feeling lighter than air.
We arrived at the train station over an hour early just because we weren’t sure what to expect – that proved wildly unnecessary, as we got our tickets in minutes and then found ourselves waiting around. That said, just hanging out there was a wonderful experience. I love Bangkok, but it’s pretty filled with tourist (especially in August) and it was nice to get away from it all. By the time the train left the station, there were maybe 10 other foreigners on it, but everyone else was local.
The train ride might possibly be my favourite part about Kanchanaburi – it was so relaxing. All the windows rolled down, fans on, so the temp was wonderful and the scenery could be viewed with full enjoyment. Definitely a change from the over-crowded minibuses with closed windows in Ethiopia!
We pulled into the Kanchanaburi station around 10:30 and made our way to the Thailand-Burma Railway Centre – just a three-minute walk away. The center was built by the Dutch and gives an incredible amount of information about the railway and the POWs who were forced to work on it. The images, replicas, and memorabilia really made the tragedy sink in and we were glad to have gone through the center before making our way to the actual bridge.
The center also let us know that we had missed Collin Firth and Nicole Kidman by a mere two years (haha), as they were in town in 2012 filming The Railway Man – we made a side note to watch the film when we got back to Bangkok.
After a quick rest and dropping our stuff off at the hotel – essentially a floating dock with rooms (on the River Kwai) – we began our walk to the bridge. It took about 20 minutes, but was a great way to see the city…and pick a place for dinner! When we arrived at the Death Railway Bridge (Bridge on the River Kwai), we were taken aback by how powerful it felt, but also disappointed with the number of tourists we saw (mostly older men and families). But the crowds thinned out as we walked across the bridge and by the time we got across, there was only one other couple in sight. Making us believe early evening is the best time to go, but maybe that day was just a fluke.
Staring across the bridge we had just crossed and thinking about what it took to build it and how many died unnecessarily was difficult. But it was also incredible to think of those who had survived and how strong they were. We did in fact watch The Railway Man when we returned to Bangkok – it’s based on a book written by Eric Lomax about his time (and torture) working on that bridge. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the subject, the acting was superb.
And then it was on to dinner and back to the hotel – VN Guesthouse – a place I can’t really recommend. The staff was pretty much nonexistent, which was fine since we didn’t need assistance, but it would have been nice to have sheets or an outlet – and I didn’t even complain about the ants in the bathroom! Oh well, I guess that’s what you get at supreme budget. At 275 baht a night ($8.60), what do you expect?
The following day we hopped back on the train and returned to Bangkok. We spent most of the time relaxing, but we did go to the Bangkok National Museum with Yata and Zach. Chandler thought we could check it out in an hour or two, but four-ish hours later and we were finally making our way out – having seen most, but not all of it. The museum was absolutely ridiculous…it was like they had taken everything they had ever found (from Thailand, as well as all of its surrounding countries) and put it on display. We’re still looking forward to going to the Grand Palace when we return to Thailand in November, but are a little afraid it will be equally overwhelming!
Chandler and I also spent a morning wandering around Banglamphu. We went to Wat Saket (the Golden Mount) and Sao Ching Cha (the Giant Swing). The Golden Mount had a lovely garden growing all around it, and when we made it to the top, it afforded stunning views of Bangkok.
We still have so much more left to do in Bangkok (and Northern Thailand, obviously!), but that won’t come until after Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. So for now, it’s time for a new language, new scenery, new currency, new food, and new experiences!