This morning we (myself and 13 other ETAs) were on a mission… to get the Rainforest Resort near Wangthong. I love place names in Thailand, almost every address has some kind of underwear of phallic word in it (or both!)
We took a Tuk Tuk (sorry) or two to the bus station and managed to hop onto the correct bus, which left almost immediately. The first stop was the old bus station, which is a bit of a way out of town, and at this point one of the ETAs realised that he had left all of his money in a drawer in the hostel. What a bunch we are. He jumped off the bus and re-appeared at the resort a couple of hours later. As a single farang walking down the road in Wang Sai Phun I tend to get noticed, but can you imagine the fuss it caused when 14 of us got on one single decker bus! Amusingly the monk sitting in front of me knew about some of the ETAs who worked nearby, they have ears all over the place or so I have heard.
The first portion of the bus journey only cost 15 Baht (about 30 pence). It turned out that all 14 of us had got our final destination wrong and had to go about 11km further, which cost us an extra 18 Baht: still not bad. The bus stopped abruptly outside the place and we pottered in. On arrival we were given luke warm purple juice which I found delicious until the after taste kicked in and after allocating people to huts we went to lunch. The restaurant section is almost like being in quite a spectacular tree house. The view from it was just lush green rainforest, what you might expect, but it was so calming. I hadn’t had such a delicious or filling lunch in a long time/ since I arrived and was very grateful for it. My favourite bits were probably the deep fried kale with pear sauce. Aroy.
One of the main foci of the trips was the white water rafting. This place is number three in the whole of Thailand for it and the trip (that takes about 3 hours in total) covers level one to level five, if that means anything to any of you. We had quite an extensive session before we were allowed to go into the water, which was first delivered in Thai and then translated into English, thank goodness. Our team was split across two boats, and on each boat there were two trained professionals. We definitely relied on them for steering, safety and sanity! The first bit of white water we went through was thrilling and as we glided over the rocks we found ourselves what felt like midair and then suddenly gravitated back to the water, which splashed madly into the boat around us.
When we were on a plain of calm water we were allowed to swim. Many of us took up this opportunity and jumped gleefully into the brown river water. Swimming away from the boat with my life jacket on I was able to get some distance from everybody else and to take in the views of the leafy dark green surroundings, the mountains and the wildlife. Total calm would describe how I felt when floating on my back down the river Khek, the current gently enticing me further and further down the river, but never too far away from the gang.
Reaching the end of our rafting trip we jumped overboard, onto dry land and immediately set off on a short but reasonably treacherous wade to an unknown location (to me at least). I followed blindly. En route we passed a rotting dog with holes in it where maggots feasted on the flesh. It smelt vile, truly. Continuing on we had to navigate over rocks, avoiding the green, slippy grime, through rapids and deep water too. The view and the sensation at the end of it was one of total relaxation and satisfaction. The sun was shining and its beams lit each and every drop of water that bounced excitedly off the ledge where the magic happens. The waterfall was enormous with multiple layers, rocks sticking out, spanning the whole way across the wide river. It was picturesque and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who wished I had a camera with me. Large violet dragonflies added to the scenery flying low and plentiful in the surrounds.
In the evening, after six consecutive showers were taking in my hut, we had a fairly spicy dinner and then headed riverwards. Right by the waters edge there are a few simple and serene huts where visitors can sit and socialise, and that is exactly what we did. Most of the party managed to squeeze themselves onto the deck to enjoy the warm darkness with drinks and friends, as well as copious species of animals including what seemed to be a chameleon. It is quite special that although most of the ETAs only really met for the first time last month it feels like we have a bond, and as if we have been friends for a long time. We have at least one thing that unifies us all, this British Council Scheme and lots of things that make us separate, unique and interesting to each other.
The bed was softer than concrete (I exaggerate, but my mattress is extremely hard) and I’ll admit to enjoying the luxury of a shower, and even better… a hot one! What a way to end a good night.