Early in the morning I wake up. My tour driver is supposed to grab me at seven fifteen. I assume that getting downstairs by seven will give me time to grab some food before I head off. I assume wrong.
My driver has been waiting, I am told. Perhaps I should have not been informed to be ready for seven fifteen then. In another world I would not have come down until then. Then poor poor people waiting in the van.
We make our way to the floating market. I sleep. When we arrive we are told that for a mere 150B we can take a boat through the market. This only slightly enrages me, as I've paid 1450B for this tour. The two day elephant, rafting, hiking tour with four meals was only 1100B. I am not one for surprise charges, especially when I've spent my last baht, except that which will take me to the airport tomorrow, on this tour already.
I do not float on the market, though we do take a motor boat there, and isn't that something. I walk the edges, and over the bridges, and take pictures, and experience if from the observational post. And that's alright. I can't help but think, “what's the point of all this?” Yes, it's interesting, it's on water, but it's just another market. There's nothing overly special about it. There's no real reason for it to float (other than people can bring their wares in by boat) and it's not an incredibly ancient tradition – only being started in the twentieth century. Perhaps had I visited this location earlier on in my Thailand experience it would have been different – but now? All I can think is, “it's just another market.” I've seen day markets, night markets, weekend markets, sunday markets... They're all the same, they all sell the same stuff, none of it has any charm other than what is obvious. There's little point to experience them all. But then again, there's little reason to come to Thailand if you don't want to shop.
Still – it's interesting. There are boats. Full of tourists. Yay.
Next our tour stops at an Elephant show area. For 600B you can ride an elephant for ten minutes. Really? That's what we're here for? This was not even listed on my program. I have a suspicion that our leader cut our time at the market short to bring us here in hopes of gaining commission. Once more, I'm not a fan of hidden things, or charges, especially when a tour is three times the price it ought to be in the first place.
Next we head to a snake show. Same deal. At both of these locations I find a place to sit and read my book. Kill time.
When we are about to leave the snake show I am told that as I will be headed to the River Kwai I will need to change vans. I meet my new driver, and hop on board with a new group of people. Off we go, two more hours of driving, stopping once for lunch. Which is pretty good. So yay.
When we get to the river, I can hardly wait to burst out of the doors and walk around. This is, at last, something worth seeing – something worth experiencing.
Finally I can walk around and explore and see something for myself. And it is good. I walk over the River Kwai, and try to imagine the history that happened here. I stepped out of the way when the train needed to cross. I experienced the small crossing on which so much laid. And then I went to the war museum. Which was silly. And small. And tiny. You can skip it.
Oh and did I mention there was a cheetah just hanging out on the side of the road? Not terrifying at all. A pet, I'm sure.
On the way back we were jockied into another truck again, and we headed back to Bangkok. This new van took us most of the way, before three of us were tossed into yet another van which took thirty minutes to drive what would have taken me a good ten minutes to walk, reminding me of the old joke, “nobody drivers here – there's too much traffic.”
Still – aside from the heinous beginnings, not an altogether bad last day.