Our retirement plan included lots of travel because we have always loved visiting (and revisiting) places that are different to home. We also like to be warm! So far we have safely achieved all the travel we could reasonably have undertaken, especially considering our children decided, at about the same time, to all move to the other side of the world. Some suggested this was to put some distance between us, as if Bristol to London wasn’t far enough, but having spent the summer months in Bondi this year we know there are few nicer places in the world to escape the British winter. This year we had two very special extra reasons to chase them across the globe. Reconnecting with our family and especially our one year-old grandson, and welcoming two new healthy granddaughters to the family and to the world too, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
All good things come to an end and we’d stayed far beyond a normal family visit to Australia. Rather than fly straight home to a grim February in the UK we have stopped-off again to prolong the sunshine and the adventure. In my experience Fate has a nasty habit of throwing a curve ball when one least expects it so we think we should take these added adventures when and whilst we can, even though it delays coming home to friends and family. Stopping off somewhere en-route(ish) from Australia is always an adventure. But who would ever have imagined we’d one day be staying in a tent in the jungle above a bend of the River Kwai, enjoying a beer and a glass of wine at our hotel bar on the cliff overlooking the River, or riding a speeding longtail boat, visiting the famous bridge, meeting elephant, enjoying the local food, chatting with our Burmese guide about his country next door that we visited quite recently ourselves but which is now sadly closed again, laughing with Danes at a campfire buffet under a canopy of stars… we think it’s quite astonishing.
(I should stop there. This is only a postcard. ’Tis indeed more than enough, you cry!)
Our tent is raised above the jungle floor for obvious reasons and this deck also provides a nice sitting area outside our tent. This is a far cry from basic camping. There is no ‘bivvie bag’ into which to stuff one’s sleeping bag, no sleeping bag even, no tent pegs, mallet or trailing guy ropes. Instead we’ve got our own cleaned-every-morning proper bathroom fixed to the rear of the tent, hot running water, a lovely shower, air conditioning, a comfortable bed, a kettle and a fridge stocked with soft drinks, bottled water and beer. Try getting that lot on your trans-Africa bike, Mark!
The ‘camp’ has a massage spa, the bar overlooking the river I noted earlier, a lovely leaf-thatched restaurant where a Thai and international breakfast is served and, our favourite facility, beautiful cool stream-fed pools, perfect to sit in, cool down after a hot day on the river and chat with our fellow, mainly Danish, guests, we know not why. Dinner is a buffet starting at 6:30pm, traditional Thai favourites and international dishes again. We are grouped on tables according to party size so we are seated at a table for two but the large Danish family of eleven are all seated together. The trees are decorated with lights and Chinese New Year lanterns and a camp fire is lit in the middle of our outdoor dining area. The scent of frangipani and the sound of cicadas in the trees adds to the atmosphere. It all oozes romance. I notice these things. A million miles from BS8, I can tell you, although we do wish our friends were making-up a big table with us too.
For some reason that passed me by many months ago we are signed-up to every possible sightseeing trip and activity at the camp. The temperature is heading towards the forties today so we need to be careful because there’s no air-conditioned shopping centre to pop into to cool down. Instead we’re taking a covered long-tail boat downriver. We set off at usual fast pace at 8:30am aiming to be back before the hottest part of the day. We’re going to some caves. Can’t think why but at least it’ll be cool in there. So off we set, lifejackets provided but not obligatory and we use ours as back cushions, we’re long-tail old hands now. We speed along passing two or three very long floating hotels moored to the river bank. One false step off one of these open-fronted hotel room platforms and you’d be in the river, of course, and because the current is very fast I expect the river would quickly carry one away. No UK safety standards here in the jungle. Life is cheap. Watch your children. Or have lots.
After an hour we arrive at a landing stage and our sister craft has already off-loaded our fellow camp guests. We find the landing platform is a lot higher than the one we boarded from and it comes between our boat edge and the roof meaning we have to lie on our tummies and roll out of the boat, helped by a fellow passenger or boatman so we don’t accidentally roll back into the river. Very ungainly but there’s no alternative. If you’re not fit and able this country is not for you. Our guide, Lam, pays our cave entry fee then announces it’s just a 130-step climb to the entrance. It’s already very warm and now we’ve got a climb to make but it’ll be cool in there, we repeat to each other. It’s not. It’s bloody boiling. The stalactites & mites are nice enough but those in Cheddar and Dan-yr-Ogof are better. We all emerge soaked in perspiration. It’s another life lesson. It’s not the destination but the journey that counts.
Again, an album containing some of our photos of Hintock Camp and our trips on the River Kwai is available here if you’re interested: https://photos.app.goo.gl/cs49H6czwYzUyuX59
Wish you were here. Really we do. 🙋🏼♂️🙋♀️