Saturday, November 9, 2013

11. Hua Hin-Kanchanaburi-Nakhon Suwan

495 km

First leg of today's trip
Second leg

I decided that it was time to get out of Hua Hin, a coastal town which yesterday had already experienced some difficult weather. Typhoon "Haiyan" who devastated a large town in the Philippines with hundreds feared dead, is now heading towards Vietnam; Hua Hin would be directly in the trajectory of the storm.

Despite the dark heavy clouds, the rain, and the girls at the reception who felt somewhat sorry for me that I decided to leave in this weather, I got going. Some parts of Highway 4 going northbound were still flooded, leaving only one lane, or less, open for traffic. It wasn't also any fun to ride through a construction side without tarmac where the typically reddish sand had turned into some form of mean liquid soap; I know how it feels to ride on this stuff from my off-road trip in Cambodia two years ago.

But luckily everything went well, and what I expected would happen was true, that north, and away from the coast, the wet weather would eventually stop.

One still has to deal with the increasing traffic, since any highway in the vicinity of, say, a 150 km radius around Bangkok is just very heavily traveled. I also haven't passed that many of such huge, double-decker air-con busses in my lifetime. Where are they heading? I don't know.

My first stop for the day was the very busy city of Kanchanaburi, known for it's "Bridge over the river Kwae", immortalized in director David Lean's 1957 British-American movie of the same name, with Jim Holden, Alec Guinness and Jack Hawkins (the movie was filmed in Ceylon/Sri Lanka, not here.) But this bridge is the real deal. Hundreds of American and British prisoners of war, held captive by the Japanese forces, were killed building the bridge and the rail line (The Burma Railway) in the Second World war. There has been always a plan to construct a rail link between Thailand, Myanmar (Burma) and China prior, it became reality with the labor of the war prisoners. Today much of the railway is taken back by the jungle, although I saw a train crossing the bridge.

The bridge, the river and the overall setting are actually quiet nice, despite the tourists it is a worthwhile destination.

One can expect that there will be tourists at a landmark such as this one. Most visitors are from China, and many Thai tourists can be seen as well. But it is not so detrimental to the experience as one would guess considering the international fame of the movie.

British-American war cemetery near the bridge.

The "Death Railway Museum: Thailand-Burma Railway"

Near the bridge and the river I met for the first time on this trip a nice group of three BMW R1200 GS Adventure riders (the same bike as mine) from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, which is located around 1,800 km from here, plus ferry. Unfortunately they came from where I am heading to (Mae Hong Son), and were on their way back home. But we had a nice chat and compared notes on the bikes, the route, and the equipment. They must also have studied the TOURATECH catalog quiet extensively, judging from all the gear they added to their BMW's!

I don't know why these pictures were rotated. Computers!

Malaysia license plate, I have never seen one before.
It looks French, the "75" standing for the capital, Paris.

One of their R1200's, front, mine in the back.

Leaving Kanchanaburi behind, the ride goes along the rice paddies of a large agricultural zone northbound. The highway is excellent, the ride is very enjoyable, also due to the light traffic. The landscape is very flat, not "flat without anything else" such as in Central Illinois, but flat with a nice medium height mountain sprinkled in every 50 km, or so. Very attractive. Late afternoon I arrive at the bustling regional center of Nakhon Sawan, directly on the Chao Praya river (yes, this is the river which flows through Bangkok into the Gulf of Siam). The city is home to the largest fresh water swamp in Thailand, many temples and natural sites.

Here no Western tourists can be seen, all signs are pretty much in Thai, and I have to rely on the GPS to get to a recommended restaurant, attractively located and overlooking the river.

S&V Restaurant, Kosi Road, Nakhon Sawan.

Chinese Temple and community center nearby.

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