Backpacking, a long train, a small road surrounded by beautiful mountains, Mon wooden bridge, way of life of local people, these are images implanted in my travel plan.
Now, I'm with 8 other friends. We have no backpack and are not on a train but sitting comfortably in a cool AC van. Since our means of transportation has changed completely, it gives some of us not so reasonable excuse to withdraw from the trip.
Many people believe that the story on the way can be changed by means of travel, I disagree. Each trip can create a unique story for us to remember. Even a small step in each day has taken us crossing different thing, it is also true that our feeling changes countless times a day.
Just within a moment of breathing in and out.
Itt's pickup truck moves out of Phuket when the lights on the road served as the sun. We stop to find a place to add air to the tires at 10 p.m. Meanwhile, Blueboy, Tai, and me are laying down on the back of a truck with cool wind touching our faces and moves pass light poles one after the other. I seriously wanted to put out all the lights and let the stars on the sky work out its magic as a glittering mosquito net for us.
We reach Bongbok's house at about midnight. We move our luggage and change the car. We cannot see stars from the van. The cold wind from the engine is nothing compared to the cold wind we felt while on a truck. Our travel story hasn't change, but it's about to start a new episode.
Egg noodle from Phetchaburi is a delicious breakfast. I remember Nueng eats more eggs than everyone else. Many of us also order a dish of a la carte before having egg noodle. It's not that egg noodle is not delicious, but we must make sure that our stomach is properly filled.
Early morning starts to get lively. Beautiful sunshine, clear sky, and nice weather give us a good vibe to start a new day. The two sides starts to look different than what we normally see in our home. Golden rice field contrasts with blue sky and from time to time we would see straw being run over by a harvester into a long line. The color is ranged from dry to dark brown, making it a rectangle placed around the paddy field.
What excited us the most is hundred of dark brown ducks running here and there. We can't help but immediately stop the car and keep pressing shutter at them.
Wat Tham Sua and Wat Khao Noi, two temples standing on the same mountain, are our first official tourist spots. The pagodas, both Thai and Chinese styles, stand beautifully. If you like to exercise, you could walk up by stairs but if you prefer something more convenient, you can also take a cable car up.
After that, we go to Kanchanaburi downtown. We stop, go for a walk, and take pictures at the historic railway bridge. Here, I also lose a pair of my good shoes to the River Kwai.
When it's noon, Nueng, our manager of the trip takes us to King Naresuan movie shooting studio just to give us the feeling of how it's like.
Oh well, here a bit, there a bit on our travel route, when it combined, it is enough to drag our lunch to 3 p.m. Hunger plus deliciousness of the food makes the food disappears in the blink of an eye. It is so quick that the trip manager didn't realize that the dish he ordered has been served and gone already.
We reach Sangkhlaburi the same time the sun finishes the work. The Mon Bridge and evening light becomes just a picture in a memory. No one can capture it with a memory card of a camera except Neng, who is so determined to not go to hotel before twilight.
Sangkhlaburi is still quiet just like my last visit. The water seems to even drier. Villagers said the rain was just started to fall for the first week. The water that I see now is already increasing a lot in comparison to when the rain has yet fallen. The story I just heard allow me to see some worrying changes.
Even though it is yet a winter, the soft wind, a cold beer, and a nice conversation among friends making our first night here filled with stories and remarkable atmosphere.
Alarm clock wakes me up at 5.30 a.m. I quickly get up, wash my face and brush my teeth. Like usual, I'm a step behind Nueng. We are all separated to take our own photos except for Blueboy and Krit who are too attached to their bed and will meet with us at breakfast.
The sky is not clear and the sun doesn't show up as promised. Way of people's lives here start to move slowly on a long wooden bridge connecting Thai and Mon people. Just a simple smile, a sincere greeting, it's so powerful that it could create certain friendship between strangers.
We are cameramen and villagers are models. For me, I didn't want them to be what I wanted but I'm happier to shoot as just the way they are.
The bridge is still wooden like usual even though it has been through several repairs. This time, though, I feel some changes are forming. Something like an alien is invading the world. Green light poles are on the bridge, garbage is seen more than before along the canal, the water is not as clear, and some red clay pile up at the foot of the bridge. The villagers say that the municipality is going to build a park at the head of the bridge.
My conversation with the villagers is over. But many stories are still circling in the head. For me, this world has two parts. One is trying to conserve the old and traditional way while the other tries to seek prosperity instead of what they think is backward. Our country, Thailand, is a bit unlucky to define herself to the latter group.
To make a comparison, it would be no different from those who walk on this bridge. One person has walked to the end of the bridge and decided to walk back the same way for some reason. Meanwhile, the other person tried to accelerate himself in every way to catch up with another person to reach the bridge on the other side. He is doing so just because the other person is leading the way and thus considered better. He didn't get to ask the reason why that person decided to walk back the same route when reaching the end of the bridge.
Late morning, we stop to pay respect to the Buddhakaya pagoda. For the half afternoon, Itt, Tai, and me spending our time in the village. We take photos, talk to villages, and just keep on walking, to quite far area yet slowly. We rest anytime we are tired. Villagers still give us warm welcome like usual. Kids still greet us and some were trained to be young tour guides. Some of them offer to give us a story telling of the Mon Bridge history while some offer a boat ride service. I still feel good every time I got offered due to the child courtesy that didn't make us feel like being forced like tourist places. Many times, I reject. It's not that I'm mean but I'd like them to learn to be disappointed too, otherwise, they would just see tourists as a money making machine.
Giving out first without expecting anything and we will get something back, that is what I believe. Oh well, this could be just an excuse of an unkind man who wishes to make him look good.
The simplicity here makes our life easier, slower and much joyful and not feeling tired. I guess this is the reason many urban folks choose to come here in the winter. May be life is just that, the answer to the end of our life is just sufficiency.
On the way back, we take the Death Railway train, the beauty along the way is not as its name suggest. The sound of the train is still as loud as ever when its wheel hitting a curving steel track. Then, food sellers come up to sell their food at every stop. All of these things help create a more complete story of our journey.
We choose to have an urban life by stopping at Hua Hin for our last night. We spend time relaxing and finding ideas in the Cicada Market. Many things are not different from the general market, but what makes it different is the creativity. It is actively flourishing around this small garden. I could collect some and lose some but surely I was inspired.
A picture of backpacking, long train, and a travel that sleep wherever it's dark is about to be replaced by the travel story that is about to end.
Blueboy, Tai, and me lay down on a back of a truck just like when we came. Stars are still filled the sky but the wind is colder.
I believe like many people do that some stories along the way would change according to our means of travel.
The change of the mode of transportation doesn't change my determination to travel.
Some people argue that they didn't like this means of travel. I know it's not the reason, but excuse.