Queen Sirikit’s Birthday Weekend – Saturday

A week and a half or more has passed since the Queen’s birthday weekend, and some of you may have read about my very recent trip to the Oriental Hotel… however I need to rewind the time and fill in the gaps I left, for not only did I visit some truly beautiful places that need to be mentioned, but I met 3 people who made my first week in Thailand, and you need to meet them too.

If you recall, we left our new group of  friends at the 10 Baht bar with a promise to meet around 10am at the bus stop to head out to Erawan. Can I just say that for some reason, everytime I hear the name Erawan, I think of the novel by Samuel Butler, Erewhon, which is an anagram of ‘Nowhere’ and thus for some reason the waterfall took on this unearthly, mystical status for me. I feel like the beginning of every post in this blog is going to be the same – I slept in. So from now on just assume I slept in, and if I made it up on time, i’ll spell that out for you IN CAPITALS!

Anyway, we got on a bus at the local station to go to the Erawan national park. I won’t go into details about the bus ride – there was a little kerfuffle when a monk boarded the bus and the only spare seat was next to a girl. So I prodded Horst into exchanging seats.

We arrived at the waterfalls just over an hour before the last bus back to Kanchanaburi (K), so we hurried up the rocky, wooded path to try and get into the water as soon as possible. On the way in, we bumped into Sara, the German girl I mentioned. They were leaving to go to an elephant safari, but we arranged to meet up some time in Bangkok. Since neither the overnight trip nor the waterfall had been planned (remember we were supposed to be seeing the tigers), neither of us had swimming costumes with us! Initially I had planned to swim in my underwear, un-matching though it may be, however the waterfalls were packed with farangs, elderly Thai  matrons and little children, and I decided that it would be more decent to swim in my clothes. I wouldn’t be alone. The water was the same silty, unclear blue as the glacial lakes in Canada – though at least 15 degrees warmer! It looked as if the clouds had descended from the heavens and chosen to take up residence in the crystalline waters instead of the skies. As a result, the feeling of the water on your skin was unusual – silky almost, like when you touch fabric softener.

We started off at the 3rd of 7 tiers, perhaps the most beautiful of them all – we were pressed for time. When Horst and I got lost in Siam Square we went to a foot spa to have our dead skin eaten by tiny doctor fish, well that was a waste of money! The waterfalls were filled with skin eating fish, except these monsters were 3 times the size so the ‘nibbles’ were more like painful bites! Only those who really really desired to swim in the waterfalls bejeweled depths made it past the killer fish. Once you swam into the middle of the pool it was fine, they lurked only at the edge, awaiting easy prey.

So there I lay, floating on my back, watching the sun streaming through the fronds of cascading water, the tree canopy fluttering on the periphery of my vision in a comforting manner. I think that must have been the first time the thought of moving out to this part of the world for an extended period crossed my mind. I mean, why would I ever want to leave?

We made our way up through the tiers, stopping to swim, take photos and enjoy the views. At one point we found ourselves right on top of one of the falls. I tested the strength of the flow and was surprised to find it relatively weak, so stepped out onto the ledge, letting the water flow swiftly over my feet, disappearing inches in front of my toes, plummeting down. I knew I was perfectly safe, but the tiniest rush of adrenalin coursed through my body and for an instant I considered how much fun it would be to dive off the top. Horst was shouting out from the side, sure that I was seconds away from falling to my death, so I rejoined him and after quite a while, persuaded him to step out onto the precipice. He stayed long enough for one photo then hared back, much to my amusement.

Since it was just the two of us, and we didn’t have anywhere to leave our valuables (there were no lockers), we took it in turns to swim while the other person took photos while waiting. At some point, while behind the veil of water and out of sight, Horst befriended 3 guys from London – Kingston to be precise. He must have told them of our predicament in getting back to K and Bangkok and they in turn offered us a spot in the tuk tuk they had arranged to pick them up! This was a very welcome development as it granted us a further hour to splash around in the water.

The tuk tuk however was nowhere to be seen at the agreed hour. Desperately we traipsed around the parking lot, trying to beg anyone to give us a lift back to K, and at long last we found a driver with space for the 5 of us. We battled our way back through the torrential monsoon rain, cold and tired. Horst and I faced the rather miserable prospect of spending another night in K as we had by then missed the last bus back to Bangkok. The honeymoon period was over and we were both a little sick of each others company. He had plans to leave to the islands in the South that night and I was more than happy to bid him farewell. It’s curious how you can get along so well with someone, but try and spend 24 hours non-stop together and it’s a wonder that no one was hurt. However, our 3 new friends once again saved the day by taking us with them to their hostel to find out if there was any space left on the mini bus back to Bangkok.

It was a squeeze. The journey back to the big Mango was long and too uncomfortable in the back to allow us to get our much needed sleep. However, it was an opportunity to get to know one of our 3 saviours – Sam. Nearing the end of his gap year, he hadn’t yet embarked on the university experience which made me feel rather old. In fact, I kept referencing that fact so often that they took to calling me grandma. I think one of the things that immediately caught my curiosity is that Sam worked part time at a big stately house in Richmond during wedding parties. I have never been to a wedding. Ever. It’s one of those things that I dream about – all the beautiful dresses, the deliciously large cake and the general air of celebration. Sam on the other hand hated weddings. I guess I can understand where he was coming from – I hate doughnuts for the same reasons. Anyway we chatted quietly all the way back to Bangkok, happily dispelling their presumption that Horst and I were a couple. When the minibus dropped us off, they invited me to join them for drinks in a couple of hours in Khao San Road. I eagerly accepted, despite my intense desire to pass out for hours. I said goodbye to Horst (he would be back in Bangkok soon enough) and headed home for a MUCH needed shower. One of the things I have learned in Thailand, is that you must never say no (well, with reason…) Now that Horst had left, I didn’t really know anyone else, so I grabbed the opportunity to not only make some new friends but to also finally visit the notorious Khao San Rd!

At this point, I have inserted a photo of Leo – mainly because he’s so beautiful, but also partly because the name Khao San Rd inevitably reminded me of that sinister film, The Beach. The name dragged with it an air of danger, drugs and false paradise. Now, it is my home from home, and like most locals, I both love and hate it.  I took a taxi to their hostel in Rambutri, the Green House. It had a delightful little terrace with a canopy of green hanging overhead and colourful lanterns all around. I would later find out that half the bars on Khao San are similarly decorated, but at that point my eyes were alight with excitement. First they took me to their favourite reggae bar down a little ‘crack’ alley between Rambutri and Khao San. If you have never seen Thai Rastafarians, this is the place to go. The Sak Yant tattoos decorating the bar staffs torsos went strangely well with the waist long dreadlocks, that had been wrapped around their heads. Everyone was very friendly and all the drinks come served with beautiful orchids, which was the start of our competition of the night – who could keep on to their orchid the longest – loser had to buy everyone a round. I started off with cocktails – a Long Island Ice tea and a Blue Hawaiian but drinking with men means they will invariably want to up the stakes at some point. So we moved onto the famous Thai ‘buckets’. If you don’t know what that is, I will leave it to you imagination.

I had a wonderful night to which I could apply a lot of the lyrics from Katy Perry’s song – Last Friday Night – but I think that these sum it up best: ‘Is this a hickey or a bruise? Pictures of last night ended up online, I’m screwed, Oh well. It’s a blacked out blur but i’m pretty sure it ruled. Damn’ 

Actually I am a little disappointed that there were no pink flamingos involved. Then again, we can’t all party like Katy Perry!

If I have any advice for a girl traveling alone, it’s to latch on to three guys, who are friends. They may have their little inside jokes, but you will soon pick up on them and the dynamic cannot be beaten. Joey, Sam and Jay. Each entertained me in different ways – Jay was by far the funniest and most insane. The typical English rugby boy, so sure (or unsure?) of his sexuality that he could get away scott free with some of the gayest things I have seen (the tiny shorts) and heard. If I wanted to be sure of an amazing party – I would pick Jay. Joey on the other hand was quieter, he reminded me of a lion cub that you just wanted to stroke and cuddle. Sam, who I already mentioned, was the responsible adult of the trio and the easiest to get along with. If I had to pick someone to get stuck in an elevator with for 24 hours it would be Sam. Anyway, I loved them – I can’t remember the last time I had had so much fun and they put me at ease with Bangkok and Thailand with tales of their adventures.

When I left them for the night (at maybe 3am?) they promised to call me the next day with plans of things to do!

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