Sunrise on the River Kwai


By the time I arrive in Bangkok and go through customs, I am well and truly sick. Not diarrhea travel sick; sore throat, hacking cough, aches and congestion sick. While I am super happy to have experienced Japan, the noise, the crush of people, the cities, and the lack of sleep, has finally claimed its due. I find a quiet spot under an escalator on the basement floor of the Bangkok airport and lay down until morning. New plan – get out of the city asap! Laying there, reading my rough travellers guide, I like the sound of the Nita Rafthouse. It’s on the River Kwai and well off the beaten track. So I set my sights across Thailand’s central plains to the riverside town of Kanchanaburi, 121 kilometres northwest of Bangkok and home to the notorious 1957 movie, “The Bridge on the River Kwai”. Getting there is another matter.

To keep me going, I negotiate with myself that this will be the last of enduring city transport for a long while, I take the city train when it opens at 6 am to the subway and the subway to the main train terminal, where I find out that the only train of the day to Kanchanaburi leaves from a small outlying terminal in half an hour. There isn’t time to make it, I am told. I rush outside, quickly haggle a fare with a taxi driver, impress upon him the need for speed, and off we go. When we hit rush hour traffic, I want to say, “there’s an extra 20 in it for you if you get me there on time” just for the fun of actually saying that. But I don’t; he won’t understand and even if he does, there is nothing he can do about the grid lock. The Kanchanaburi train departure time comes and goes, and still, we sit in traffic. I feel deflated and start thinking about a plan B. Then the driver indicates that the terminal is just down the road and I can run. Maybe the train is running late I think, (it isn’t Japan after all). He lets me out and I run like a mentally-challenged, three-legged cheetah, coughing and rasping all the way. In my mind, Nita Rafthouse has become my lifeline. I finally reach the ticket counter, and miraculously, the train is still there, right in front of me, blowing it’s whistle to go.  I quickly buy a ticket, race down the platform as the train starts to move at a snails pace, I cross the tracks and step up onto the slowly departing train. When I collapse on the cracked, vinyl seat, sucking glorious hot, muggy air into my burning lungs, I can’t believe my luck. Everything is working out just fine. Then my seat breaks! It cracks me up.

I buy a package of grapefruit on the bus from a lady with a basket selling food. It is sweet and I savour every juicy cell of it.

Five hours later I get off the train in Kanchanaburi and start walking down the dusty road. A boy on a scooter stops and offers me a lift for 40 baht (about $1.50). I hop on and ten minutes after that, I am at Nita Rafthouse. By hook or by crook, I have arrived.

I walk down to the Rafthouse. The lobby slash restaurant slash office is in the open air wth comfortable couches and low tables. The roof is covered by bamboo and tin. The shower and toilet are separate and basic but adequately service the few people here. The man who works here  gives me a book and tells me to write down whatever I take out of the cooler to  drink, and what I want to eat, and it will be made for me. It is my book for the duration of my stay and it will be totalled up when I leave. He puts it on the desk. The menu has everything on it – I write down Pad Thai for 50 baht (about $2). It makes the Pad Thai I have eaten at home taste like cardboard.

My small, simple, bamboo-woven room costs 150 baht per night (about $6) and  is a paradise to me. I look out on the river through my screened window. I hear  all manner of birds and insects cawing and chirping, and the occasional splash of a fish. Somewhere, very soft flute music is playing. A fan circulates the warm, humid air. I lay on the mat covering the low wooden platform that is my bed, lulled by the raft’s gentle, almost imperceptible, sway. I decide I’m going to stay awhile. In no time at all, I am fast asleep in my bamboo womb, and for the first time in my entire life, I sleep for 12 hours. Before light, I get up and go outside to watch the sunrise on the River Kwai, and I start to write.

20 responses »

  1. What a beautiful place. Now that you’ve slept, I hope you recover quickly from what sounds like the flu (everyone at home is getting it). Enjoy the solitude.

    • Hi sherry, I am certainly better than I was. I’m in transit again heading even more remote. Kanchanaburi was amazing in my little bamboo room. I am now heading to more remote and Myanmar. Xo

    • Hi Nancy, it was really gorgeous. I am feeling better after a restful stay. I am in transit again en route to Myanmar. I’m not 100% yet but think that may take awhile. I will rest again when I get to Mai sot. Was also at ayutthaya and the ruins were amazing. Xoxoxo

  2. Arlene, please take care of yourself. Your setting looks otherworldly and I hope you feel much better very soon. What a far cry from all that we consider ‘civilization’. I can almost taste that Pad Thai and all the other delicacies which await you. Kxx

    • Hi Karen, I am feeling better. Not 100% but definitely better than I was. Kanchanaburi on the river was definitely lovely and restful. Am in transit again and will keep you posted. I am loving Thailand xo

  3. You better be careful they will think you brought the snow with you 😀 Sucks that your sick but looks like a lovely place to recover. Sending lots of healing love and light to you Arlene. Rest and be well ❤️❤️❤️

    • Hi Nancy , I am feeling better than I was for sure. Not 100% but it was a great rest. I interspersed it with some beautiful waterfalls which I will tell you about. Healing light and love received my lovely. ❤️xo

  4. Breathtaking…Just finally getting g caught up here. It’s been a challenging week for me here but mom’s place at residence is now empty, as am I. However reading these passages filled me up. Thanks xo.

    • It is so so hard to lose your mom no matter what age you are. I can’t tell you how often I have thought about you Helen on his trip. And especially emptying out her place. – you are going through a lot. I’m honoured that the blogs are helping in some small way. Lots of hugs and love, Arlene xo

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