The Intrepid Are Rewarded
The morning brought indifference and a lack of motivation. Embarking upon a day of travel requires more than knowledge of bus stops and schedules but an accessible brain ready for the challenge. Energy both physical and mental. A good breakfast helped and I marched out of my room determined and optimistic for fruitful journey. It quickly felt good to be back on my own schedule again. Catching a samlor to the local bus to Erawan National Park, home to the Erawan waterfall, I felt the excitement that lacked the previous day boarding the tour’s minivan. I am not sure why I am so harsh on myself but I feel a sense of shame within a tour group, as if my travel destinations deserve more legwork and more effort than a hearty baht.
The ease of finding the bus was the accomplishment I needed to snap out of my morning lull. There is something about paying 90 baht round-trip on a colorful and excitably rickety bus vs. 1,000+ baht for a sheltered minivan. Add awkward social interaction, time limits, gratuitous stops near vendors and sub-standard veggie far and a tour makes even less sense. I was on my way to Erawan on my own watch. And if I didn’t make it back in time to catch the last bus, the national park had camping facilities.
Quickly after leaving the bus station we picked up a group of young farang backpacker-types. Again I naively imagined the falls to be my own secluded spot to swim so their arrival was a dose of reality. The falls reels ’em in: tourists and Thais. I knew this. They are an obviously popular day trip from Kanchanaburi. (The ease in finding the bus speaks volumes.) Never denying myself the right to dream, and doing so often (especially on buses), the group of the 12+ tourists was my alarm clock. No big deal. Operating in reality is far more practical anyhow.
After 1.5 hours on the minute, we arrived at the park. A park ranger then boarded to collect the “foreigner fee” admission of 200 baht and we were let go. Far more decisive and calculated, I beat the mob to the toilet. (I’ve grown accustom to not having to account for anyone but myself or to be a part of a collective survey of needs: forewarning for when I return 🙂 Hitting the trail, I walked onward at New York City speed, determined to make it to the 7th and top tier of the waterfalls before even stopping at the lower trickles already busy with bathing families.
The trail would bring me 2.2 km up. I quickly broke a sweat of the dripping variety. For the most part, the sun was blocked by the dense forest but the heat was a constant. The pronounced tree roots and variety of well-traveled rocks and step stones made the incline manageable, maybe more so than the occasional wooden ladder I encountered. I was in a rush. The emptiness of the trail and the rate of my passing stray trekkers fueling my fire. The first to admit a downfall or weakness, I knew my legs were not one of them; they are very strong. Welcoming a challenge I revved up the one variable I had control over, my speed. I made it up the trail, in all its steep and rock-jutted glory, in a quick 45 minutes.
To my immeasurable delight, I was all alone. I quickly got into the beautiful aquamarine to savor every moment of my privacy, expecting any moment a parade to rain on my reward. As time passed, nobody came. 30 minutes of me and the waterfall (and the fishies who were trying to bite my legs I seemed), at least. Eventually, a group of Thai men arrived, shocked at my flag waving in the short breezes. And soon thereafter a family arrived. Right about then I headed down the trail satisfied.
I thought I’d snap some pictures of tiers 1-6 on the way down but they hardly seemed worthy after being up top. I did snap a shot of this decorated tree. It had complete outfits on hangers nailed to it. A guide would have contributed at this point for an explanation.
As I headed further down the trail, the looks of awe and respect from those I passed diminished. Tier 7 is a tough hike, I suppose. Many Thais were winded very easily and whining audibly. They looked at me stunned as I passed. Nobody can walk like a New Yorker can! As I exited the trail head, hands full with a bag of sliced watermelon and a bag of sliced pineapple, I realized why a young man snapped my picture a few hours ago when I entered… I was now on a plate! A woman with a terrible job (locating the plate upon a visitor’s exit) screamed for me as I strolled out, cheek full of watermelon. And there I was, looking oh-so Williamsburg. Knowing the fate of traveling with it in my backpack and how it’d look much better on the wall at my folks’, the plate is now en route to Eglon court.
I caught an easy bus back to Kanachanaburi and settled in for the evening after a good meal. Tomorrow I head back to Bangkok and catch another bus to Chanthaburi for more adventures. And because you’re wondering why I haven’t mentioned food in awhile. Here’s my dinner:
Less than 10 days now,