The staff at the hostel where I am staying are great.
They ask me what I plan to do each day and seek a report when I return each night, and for my last day in Kanchanaburi they wanted to make sure I saw the Erawan Waterfall.
“Get the 8am bus. Don’t go any later than that. It will be too hot.”
There isn’t a bus that goes any earlier which is a shame because 8am already felt a little warm for me.
I headed along the road to the bus station and walked briskly into the station at 7.50am.
Three men, I think were drivers, shouted to ask where I was going.
“Erawan,’ I called back.
“Bus number one. Over there.”
As I turned the corner two more guys called out: “Erawan, Erawan, Erawan. Over there,” and pointed me to the young man driving the bus.
This network of service and direction made my day.
It’s obvious from my appearance that I’m not local. I’ve been repeatedly impressed and humbled by the kindness of people throughout China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia and now Thailand in helping me get to where I need to be.
It would be really easy to ignore the foreigner and leave me to read signs, go to information desks and just find my own way. But, no, people are nice.
Once again, I was on air conditioned transport: the windows were open… but their were also ceiling fans adding extra circulation.
There were about ten people on the bus, seven of us Westerners.
Kanchanaburi really is quiet at present. The hostel where I am staying is in the party end of town but, while the bars are open, I see only two or three people in each on an evening
At my hostel, I’m the only person staying. There are beds for around sixty people.
Coronavirus is having a huge impact on Thailand.
I wrote a couple of days ago about my thinking on whether to continue and I won’t repeat it. However, I have checked (several times a day) the UK Foreign Office travel advice.
Yesterday a statement was issued advising against all non-essential travel but the Foreign Secretary stated that they are not advising British nationals to return home, except in a number of instances.
One of those is Myanmar. The advice was updated this morning. I am/was due to go there on the 23rd May.
Maybe that advice will change in the next two months. Maybe it won’t.
The countries that I’m planning to spend time in before then have not yet closed their borders – especially if you can prove you haven’t been in the UK, Italy, Iran, Korea or China in the previous fourteen days.
A friend, currently in Japan, has just found his next three destinations are off limits, but the UK government hasn’t advised British nationals to leave – at least they hadn’t at the time of writing.
I’m not naming places (other than Myanmar as a concrete example of how my booked plans are affected) because the advice is changing rapidly.
I’m awaiting an answer from my insurance company because until the government say: “Come home,” I’m not sure that my costs will be covered. While the policy says “if you have to cut your trip short” (without a list of caveats or acceptable criteria) I’d like written confirmation that there is no fine print that I missed.
(Even though I read the damn policy with a magnifying glass).
Remember, I’m a pessimist and a cynic.
This is the same version of a more serious (in my view) problem affecting businesses (especially in the entertaining sector) back home because the government is advising people not to go out but not forcing businesses to close down. No government direction, no insurance.
People’s livelihoods are affected by this lack of action.
After thirty minutes, the bus pulled into a petrol station to refuel and the driver collected payment, 50THB.
Erawan Falls are about 45 miles away from Kanchanaburi and the road out to them is through farmland and woodland, largely running parallel to the railway line to Nam Tok.
At this later hour it was clear that even out in the countryside the air quality is poor. Hillsides were hidden by smog.
At a stop for a stone working factory, it became clear that it was only the Westerners on board who were going to the Falls.
I was delighted when I spotted my first yellow diamond ‘elephant crossing’ sign. I’ve seen road signs for monkeys, kiwis and kangaroos but elephants… now, that’s exciting, and this is from someone who was giddy about kangaroos.
I spent the rest of the drive peering through saplings and bamboo in the hope of seeing an elephant.
After an hour and a half we arrived at the Erawan National Park. The entry fee for foreigners is 300THB
Erawan Falls is a series of seven waterfalls culminating in the Erawan Fall itself which apparently looks like the three headed elephant god.
As ever… I couldn’t see it myself.
It’s a 2km trail and I had to take issue with the National Park’s description as being a gentle slope easily accessible for anyone of low to moderate fitness.
Step climbs and rock scrambles especially after passing Waterfall Number 4.
However it’s a beautiful walk and, fortunately,the waterfalls are all marked otherwise you’d discount the many rapids in between them.
There were quite a lot of people there mostly Russians and though I at first thought it was busy, I realised that I was recognising many of the people I had seen in Kanchanaburi over the last few days.
So the area isn’t that busy with tourists.
After reaching Waterfall Number Two there is a drop off point for food and liquids to avoid littering in the National Park. For health reasons, I’m not sure about the liquids ban.
The fine, if you are caught carrying is 1,000THB and there is a checkpoint at Waterfall Number 4 though nobody seemed to concerned about searching bags.
It’s probably the first tourist site I’ve visited where I want temperature screened .
The Falls are popular with families and groups and there are a lot of spaces laid out for picnics. People were still arriving with blankets and baskets of food as I went to catch the bus back to Kanchanaburi.
It was a little more rickety than the one I had arrived in but definitely air conditioned.