Day 115 – Bangkok to Kanchanaburi (124 km)
With the shocks now in our possession, all we needed to do was fit them and we could be on our way. Just after 6:00 dad and I walked down to where we had been storing the bikes and rode them round to the hotel. The actual fitting is quite straightforward, and after a few false starts, we managed to get all three of them on. Shan had decided to just go with her adapted shock system, and so finally by around 10:00, we were ready to go, and waved our final goodbyes to the tourist dregs of Khao San Road. We had decided to drive slightly Northeast first to the River Khwae/Kwai, the setting for the movie “The Bridge of the River Kwai”, but unfortunately, we missed seeing the sign indicating that motorcycles were not allowed on the highway. As we were about to join the main road, we were pulled over by a policeman, and had to spend the next half an hour waiting in the sun, while John tried to establish exactly what we were supposed to do. Eventually we were allowed on our way for the small fee of 500 Baht, making it quite an expensive oversight. After that, though, we moved swiftly through the traffic, but it was difficult to tell when exactly we left Bangkok, as, for the rest of our drive that day, we never left urban settlements on either side of the road.
Sometime around 12:00, we had our next excitement of the day: while pulling up to a traffic light, my clutch cable snapped, leaving me to slowly shudder to a stop. A quick examination showed that it had gone right where it meets the engine. Fortunately, we were fully equipped with a spare cable, and within half an hour, we had the new cable on, and were ready to go.
We really didn’t have far to travel today, and within the next hour, we had arrived in Kanchanaburi, the town where the famous bridge is located. We drove around for about 20 minutes looking for a place to stay, before finally settling on a guest house where the rooms are all individual house boats. Walking through the room, the back door opens onto a small balcony right over the river, and after checking that it was fine to swim, we all jumped in.
And soon found ourselves several metres downstream. The current here is much stronger than it appears, and it took some determined swimming to make it back to the room. Then someone had the bright idea of tying ourselves to the boat using the straps from the bikes, and so we spent the next half an hour awkwardly floating on the river, trying to avoid the water-plants growing on the barrels under the house, and the occasional flotilla of rubbish floating down from other houses upstream. I think it was when we saw that the toilet from the room just upstream emptied right onto the river, a few metres from us, that we decided that we’d had our fill of swimming.
This was one of the most idyllic places we’ve stopped at, and so we spent the next few hours relaxing on the decks, and making forays up to the shop on the road to buy food and drinks. John has a particular interest in War history, and so he went exploring town to find the museum there, and to see the bridge itself. It had been built, and then sabotaged, by prisoners of war during the Second World War, but the facts had been muddied a bit by the movie, which museum officials assured us was highly inaccurate.
As the sun started dipping towards the horizon, the rest of us decided to take a drive down to the bridge and catch the sunset. It is clearly quite a local attraction, as a small market had been set up at one end of the bridge, with no other foreigners in evidence. We watched the sun set from the bridge, and after picking up some fruit from the market, we made our way back home, where we spent the rest of the evening chatting and reading. I had been very keen to visit a National Park about 60 km North of us, and Dad was up for joining me tomorrow morning, while the rest planned to lounge around the place and do some local sightseeing in the town.