The first few days in Bangkok had been a bit cloudy but the sky was clear and blue the morning we left.
We were taking the train from Thonburi station - the taxi driver mistakenly took us to another station which was on a road whose name sounds exactly like Thonburi, but we made it eventually. We got there early so took a wander through the markets with our backpacks, passing the usual fruit sellers, barbeque stalls selling various bits of meat and fish on sticks, boys sorting through big piles of red chillies. We found a nice cafe on the other side of the market and managed to order by means of pointing at pictures. Dgym recognised the word for chicken on the menu and I was very proud of him.
The food was lovely, as were the drinks, including a very cold mango ice drink which kept giving me brainfreeze. I commented on this and one of the waitresses seemed to have both heard me and understood the word "brainfreeze" as she offered to take the drink away and make it a little more temperate.
We travelled third class, that being the only option - the train was a little shabby but comfortable and reasonably cool once it got going. There was an unexpected half hour stop - we don't have very good maps on us so we didn't really know where we were. It turned out we were waiting for an oncoming train to free up the line. In England a delay like that would result in at least a lot of tutting, if not a full-on passenger revolt, but nobody seemed too bothered by the wait, and neither were we.
We arrived in Kanchanaburi at dusk, the sun a big orange over the end of the main street down which we walked, dodging tuk tuks and street stalls in search of accommodation. We knew where we wanted to stay - Dgym's sister had stayed on a river rafthouse called Sam's several years ago, and had recommended it to us. There was a lot of sweaty walking and asking of directions before we found it down a dark little lane, thankfully away from the hectic main street.
Kanchanaburi is mostly famous for the Bridge over the River Kwai, built in WWII by prisoners of war and now surrounded by souvenir shops, markets and hordes of visitors. The town itself is very touristy and considerably Anglicised. The main street is lined with places offering fish and chips, steak and kidney pie, cocktails, "Typical Thai Food (Red and Green Curry)" and one bar offers the opportunity to "Get shit-faced on a shoestring". Erm, no thanks. Considerably more usefully, it has English language bookshops and plenty of guest houses and restaurants which are slightly more Thai.
Staying on the river is mostly pleasant. We have air conditioning, electricity, comfy seats and the wifi isn't too far away. The place rocks ever so slightly when a boat passes. Small pale lizards run around on the walls. The outside becomes thick with mosquitoes and other insects after dark so we have to slip through the door very quickly. Friday night was quite noisy, probably because it was Constitution day, another big holiday in the Thai calendar. Music carried on until the small hours and we were woken up at some point by our drunken neighbours arriving back, squealing and laughing and pushing each other around, rocking the whole raft. I do hope they felt the effects the next morning.
We took the bus to Erawan national park, which featured a long rocky walk uphill past several beautiful waterfalls and a few slightly grumpy-looking monkeys stealing any food they could get hold of. We saw a huge lizard at one of the waterfalls - it was a couple of feet long and scampered off into the trees as I approached. I also noticed quite a big spider in a web a few feet above Dgym's head. We saw several funnel-shaped webs close to the ground, leading into deeper burrows but I'm not sure what kind of spiders were in there.
On our way back down the waterfall trail we stopped for a swim. Well, I did anyway while Dgym had a sit and a read. I started to lower myself into one of the pools and was so concerned about the fact that the edge was slippery and steep that I completely forgot what I'd been told about the nibbly fish which took me by surprise. It was a funny sensation but not at all painful and I had a proper swim after getting used to it.
I finished my book, part one of Al Humphreys' account of cycling around the world, which was excellent, very interesting and one of the most honest accounts I've read of what cycle touring's like. Unfortunately it left me wanting part two, not ideal - you don't generally get books on demand when travelling, you take what you find. Volume two would have to wait and instead I paid a visit to one of the second hand book shops. It was probably the most disorganised bookshop I'd ever seen - some were grouped by author, but generally there appeared to be no logic in the arrangement, something that became quite clear when I discovered a novel by Katie Price aka Jordan, nestled beside a fat volume by Dickens. I'm pretty sure there are laws against that in the UK.