15 October 2015

Raft Over the River Kwai

Hello from Kanchanaburi, Thailand!  I'm staying here for two nights to visit an elephant sanctuary and to squeeze in some WWII history. As you may know better than I, this area of the river Kwai (pronounced like "square" without the "s", actually with a different name but renamed after the book came out) witnessed a lot of brutality from Japanese soldiers toward Allied POWs and others. I am hoping to go to a museum on the subject on Saturday, which would make me much more informed, but I did manage to run from my guesthouse at sunset to see the bridge. It was very difficult to feel the solemnity of the bridge, which cost hundreds of thousands of lives to build (to my knowledge). The area was jam-packed with Chinese tourists and souvenir shops, but I'm hoping to go back in the morning to avoid this. 

By the way, when I said "guesthouse", you should know to what I was referring. I did not mean a fancy resort like the one I'd just left. The room where I'm staying is called a "raft room", which means it's a thatched duplex cabin literally on a raft on the river.  Strangely, it has wifi. It's got a completely gorgeous view of the sunset, and I'm sure that this is one stay I won't be forgetting anytime soon.  I didn't comprehend this fully until a speedboat went past and we bobbed quite a lot. I hear karaoke boats frequent this area, and although it would be hilarious to spy on one, I am hoping for a good night's sleep tonight. 

Why am I interested in a good night's sleep, you ask?  Well, apart from obvious reasons (I AM SEEING ELEPHANTS TOMORROW), I had a little awakening experience last night. I'd had a gorgeous day. Swimming on Ko Samet was everything I could hope or dream. I would sink into the water and feel like life just couldn't get any better.  On my last evening, it started lightly raining, making the water sound like someone was sprinkling huge amounts of glitter onto its surface.  A Thai tween and her mom Sam near me, laughing, and the girl decided instantly that we were friends and kept looking at me and grinning hugely.  It was great.  

Then it was night, and I lay in my gorgeous resort room, basking unconsciously in the A/C, when I was awakened at 4:30 a.m. by a rustling noise. Not a big deal, I decided. The A/C was on, after all. The rustling got louder. It was definitely coming from the plastic bag where I'd put the takeout container that had contained my dinner, and it wasn't the vent. I lay frozen. It got even louder. I decided that from the noise level, a rat must have gotten into my room. I lay in the dark in shock, considering my options. The hotel didn't open its front desk until 7:00, and I had no broom-like apparatus. I decided there was nothing for it but to stay safe in my bed and ignore the noise until the rat went on its way. 

This is where I tell you that I'm pooping fiery water these days. I know, I'm sorry, but I just think you should know. It paints a more complete picture of travel. Now that we've gotten that out (ha), I can tell you that I was forced to sneak past the bag three times, that I did not in fact go back to sleep, and that in the end I blasted ABBA and the (accused) rat stayed hidden and quiet in the bag while I packed and left. I told the guy at the desk in an undertone when I left, and he nodded nonchalantly and checked my room number. I got much the same reaction last month when I changed hostels in Tokyo after a bedbug sighting, but I know that they ran around cleaning in a frenzy when I hauled my stuff out. I suspect it was the same in this case. I didn't want some poor hotel maid to pick up the bag and get the surprise of her life!

That is, if there was a rat at all. Who knows?  I am taking malaria pills and traveling alone. Anything can happen. Let's just hope that somehow this raft is more isolated (large splashes from outside) than the resort!  At any rate, tomorrow, elephants!

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