Kanchanaburi and the River Kwai
Today was an exhausting day starting the moment we woke up. We rushed to pack and leave the hotel in record speed with the looming feeling we might forget something. Luckily we didn’t leave anything behind, except our energy. Our three hour drive to Kanchanaburi was smooth but neither of us were able to recover from our lost sleep the night before. Thankfully our spirits quickly lifted as we entered the driveway of The Royal River Kwai Spa and Resort and we caught a glimpse of the picturesque location.
The Resort was located directly on the River Kwai with thick lush gardens filled with tropical flowers.
We checked into our room and decided to go ask for advice on what we should do for the rest of the day.
We were hoping for someone to sit down with us and recommend a few things to do in the evening before our tour the next day. Should we go Downtown? Book an evening River Tour? Or go to the Tiger Temple? We weren’t sure.
I think it was our lack of sleep that automatically frayed our nerves with the front-desk staff. I guess I should blame it on our fantastic experience in Ayutthaya that we were expecting similarly helpful staff as we came into the new city. Instead, we felt like we were at a “typical” hands-off resort where personal attention is only during the first 5 minutes you check in. On top of that, the staff were suppose to be English-speaking – but it was minimal at best. Don’t get me wrong, I know you shouldn’t expect people to speak *your* language when you travel, but the advertised “English-friendly” staff was one of the reasons we choose the particular location.
After struggling through a conversation about what to do (or shall I say- what was *available*) we were told the only choice that afternoon was to visit the Tiger Temple. Maybe not my first choice, but we were told that it was run by monks and they took good care of the cats. The lady at the front desk wrote on a piece of paper that it would cost 800 baht and we thought the price was ok. We settled on the Tiger Temple and rushed to eat lunch before the tuk-tuk picked us up.
A long rural road led us to the Tiger Temple entrance where tickets to enter cost 600 baht each ($20 dollars).
The Temple was an expansive open area with a range of tigers varying in age from new born, to cub, to full grown cats. Monks were in charge of the care of the animals and their residence was on the premises just steps away from the Tigers.
There was a ton of helpful staff (all in yellow shirts) in the area called “Tiger Canyon” and the tigers were well trained to take photos with the “guests.”
We couldn’t stay long enough to see the tigers during “play-time” but the videos showing what to expect were pretty darn cute. They had cat toys similar to the ones we play with our cats back home, just super sized.
Our driver was waiting for us in the truck version of a tuk-tuk and he took us back to the Resort 15 minutes away.
When we got out of the tuk-tuk, I pulled out the 200 baht to pay him and he looked at us like we were crazy. He said in broken English “you pay 800!” Jordon and I looked at each another like no way. Keep in mind we had taken a 2 hour trip for 60 baht each between two major cities only a few days earlier. We had ridden in a tuk-tuk clear across Bangkok for under 200 baht and we thought that was expensive.
We proceeded to walk to the front desk to clear up the confusion and explained the situation to the (same) lady at the front desk (whose English was the poorest by far). She looked at me and said “I wrote on paper price, you pay 800.”
My jaw dropped. We had not expected to be jipped by the staff. I grabbed the tour book kept on the counter and pointed to the Tiger Temple tour where it had written 150 baht for the ride over to the Temple. She simply shook her head “no” at me and said “This is different. I told you.” At this point Jordon just pulled out the money while I silently fumed. We paid the driver and walked away from the counter both trying to mask our obvious frustration.
After venting for a few minutes amongst ourselves we vowed not to let this incident color the fantastic trip or the positive experiences we had with the local people so far. She was just one person and that’s how we would keep it in our minds.
River Kwai at Sunset
We walked down to the Rivers edge with a few drinks in hand and began to relax as the sun began to set. We chatted, laughed, and enjoyed the beautiful evening together while the stresses of the day faded away.
We ate a delicious dinner at a the hotel restaurant located along the River Kwai and the staff were helpful and attentive.
Even with the mishaps of the day we both went to bed happy and ready for our upcoming adventures in Kanchanaburi.