Back to the Tiger Temple

Early start. 6:30am and as usual when I know I have to wake at an unusual time, I couldn’t sleep. The first thing I noticed on waking was that I’d pinched someone else’s pillow. Well, there was nobody in the bed next to me when I crashed late on the previous night, so I helped myself to the “spare” as one’s just not enough. Whoops.

A quick shower, and a glance at my email to find a wonderful letter from the Student Loan Service who’ve decided that against all mathematical proof that I am earning above the threshold limit and that I have to start paying them back. They only accept queries by phone and fax so I’m a bit stuffed. My mother’s going to have to call them and try and square it. Or I close my bank account and let them try and find me. My plan’s to pay it off when I sell the house anyway.

I digress.

Hailing a taxi wasn’t exactly difficult, the driver all fine with “Thon Buri – railway” until I had all my bags in the car – and then it was “Where you go?”

Oh dear.

I confess to falling into the bad tourist habit of just saying the same words he didn’t understand slower. Finally he called someone up.”No railway Thon Buri. Where you go?”

“Kanchanaburi.”

He looked puzzled. Then I remembered that the train station had been renamed some years ago. “Bangkok Noi?”

“Ah! Yes!”

Phew.

“Train – 7:45”, I showed him my schedule.

He laughed. Bad sign.

“Bangkok Noi? 8:00. Traffic.”

Argh.

“We try! Highway?”

This meant a higher fare as some sections of the express route are toll roads and the customer pays these if you’re in a taxi. On the other hand, it was my only chance and only about 40Baht in tolls anyway.

“Highway OK!”

The signs warned we were in an 80 limit. I glanced down. 125. Eek. Overtaking, undertaking, flashing cars out of the way. My watch said 7:38 as we crossed a bridge signposted Bangkok Noi. The next sign read “Railway Police 2”. Must be in the right area then.

Then it all ground to a halt. There’s a market right next to the station and traffic was clogged. Fortunately, I think the police on patrol give right of way to taxis when there’s a train waiting.

7:43 – “Bangkok Noi! Railway!”

I paid up, vitually doubling the fare with a tip and dived into the station.

“Kanchanaburi?”

“Yes – 100Baht, please.”

Half the taxi fare. Ticket in hand, I bounded onto the wooden-seated train.

And sat in the station for 15 minutes until it left.

Burger King and Dunkin’ Donuts the Thais may have got from the Americans, but their rail network is historically British.

The train to Kanchanaburi is third class. Wooden seats and aircon consisting of ceiling mounted fans. The seats must be the type your parents always tell you they had at school. As for suspension… I only hope I can read these notes when I type them up! The “drinks trolley” is a young lady with a bucket of ice stuffed with canned drinks. Don’t even think of asking if they have wireless networking or anything.

As with anything else in Thailand, the health and safety would cause one of the red tape brigade back home to have an embolism. I think the basic rule is “if there’s possible danger and you ignore the blindingly obvious then get hurt as a result, it’s you’re own stupid fault.” The joys of a society where the first though when you trip up (or fall out of the open door of a moving train) isn’t one of who to sue first.

Dogs and people can be seen walking along the sleepers on the eastbound track as we pass, some scant feet from our train. “Crossings” consist of some wood or concrete laid around the tracks, some only wide enough for a bike to pass over. As for the stations, the quickest route to the right platform is to walk over the rails. Who needs bridges?

Also, you don’t want to do anything “sit down”-ey on a 3rd class train’s loo. It’s a solid lump of cast metal that, I assume, leads directly to a hole in the bottom of the train. There’s no water in the bottom of the bowl and I didn’t see a flush, though there was one of those ever-present hoses that the Thais seem to use in lieu of toilet brushes.

Eventally, I arrived in Kanchanaburi. Only I didn’t realise I had. There were no signs, and we just parked in between two other trains. I only guessed as more people got off here than anywhere else.

Very briefly, I was aboard the Orient Express. To reach the platform, we had to climb through the train that was nearest – and that was it! It’s quite small, really.

On the other side, one guy tried to charge me 600Baht one way to the temple. I politely refused and said I wanted to catch the bus. Another Thai with a cycle with large back seat then said he’d take me. Very helpful fellow, too.

As we turned left out of the station, I recognised where I was. I tapped him on the shoulder. “War Cemetery? Can we stop?”

We pulled in and he had a break as I took some photos of Dale’s grandad’s grave. Sorry. Dale – I couldn’t get flowers. I’ve actually not seen a flower shop since I got here. I will try before I head back to Bangkok and see what I can do.

Next stop, a bustling bus station. The driver dropped me right at the bus door and took 200Baht (plus 50Baht tip) off me. The bus staff were also friendly and helpful, getting my bags on for me. They also tapped me on the shoulder when I reached the required stop. And all for 25Baht. On the downside, they had a stereo system in the buss to rival any chav’s back home. *thump thump thump*

A 2km dust trail awaited me. I applied sun cream. I strapped on both backpacks and popped my camera over my shoulder. I walked 200 yards and a passing family in an open-backed pickup gave me a lift the rest of the way. Thank you, Denmark!

On arrival, I got a free lunch (which is good as I’d not eaten all day) and got taken straigh up to the Tiger Canyon to work. Taking photos of the tourists, and spending quite some time by the water taking the photos I couldn’t last week. I got some doozies, but enough about them later.

After their “playtime”, I walked one of the younger tigers back to her cage. On a leash. By myself. The rest of the animals were fed and we headed to the office for our own food. There’s a good bunch here – one Aussie, a Kiwi, two Cannucks, a Hollander, a Slovak and three Brits. Dinner finally arrived around 7pm (cow pat guy!) by which time it was pitch dark.

Torches were provided and we made our way through the jungle to our digs. Tonight I am on my own in “male house number 2”. I have 2 candles (one’s almost gone), a mat on a concrete floor, a blanket (the other’s being used as a pillow along with 2 t-shirts) and at least 4 flying things that made it in before I bolted the door.

I also have the laptop on which I’m typing and some battery left. However I do not have any of the photographs I took today. The memory card I bought last week fell over before I could copy them to my laptop. I plugged it in, it listed the files, I asked it to copy, it said it could find no files. All gone.

I am gutted.

Dale, I will definitely get back to the cemetery – it’s right by the station. I suppose I will get more tiger ones – I have a week, after all. Still, it’s annoying to say the least.

Wel, it’s 9pm and I can’t tell if the noises I can hear are inside or outside of this shack. One candle, as I mentioned is about dead. I’m going to read for a bit and try to sleep. I think it’ll take me a week to get used to this. If I last a week. In honesty, I think I may struggle with the accomodation. But I’ll try. I think one of the other lads is moving into this “house” with me tomorrow. Company may help, other than the 6-legged with wings variety.

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