Kanchanaburi


With the second bike finally together, we set out early for Kanchanaburi. Kanchanaburi is just over a hundred kilometers northwest of Bangkok. We chose that destination because we had heard good things about nearby Erawan National Park. Also, we thought it best to stay reasonably close to Bangkok the first few days until we saw how the bike was going to behave, a decision that proved to be a prudent one.

In Kanchanaburi we found a hotel with simple but tastefully designed and decorated rooms right on the river for under thirty dollars. The hotel's quiet restaurant above looked out over the river. The river, Mae Nam Khwae Yai, shown below with one of its many floating restaurants, is probably better known to western readers as The River Kwai.

Having settled in to the relaxing surroundings, we decided to hop on one bike and do a little reconnaissance. We got less then a mile on bike #2 when the rear brake caliber seized up. We kind of forced our way back to the hotel in low gear where we could get some tools and wait for it to cool enough to work on. While I was working to free it up, a Australian who was staying there came out to admire the Africa Twins. When I told him the trouble I was having he said that he road and worked on bikes, and his date, a local girl recommended a local guy we could take it to. It was close by, so I took a chance heading over there on a Sunday evening and found the front door open and that the guy actually lived above the shop. I had already called Yut and described the problem, and he thought it was the master cylinder. The shop man, who spoke really marginal english, told me to leave it and come back in the morning. When we got back in the morning, he said he would try to rebuild the master cylinder, but he pointed out a puddle of clear oil under the bike, and on inspection we could see that we had lost the oil from the rear shock. He said he could send it out to have it rebuilt, and he would have everything done by 5:00 that evening. We decided once again to pile onto bike #1 and head up to the National Park for the day.





Erawan, with its seven distinct tiers of falls, is a popular place to escape the heat. While the lower falls can be quite crowded with local families and kids picnicking and splashing around in the water, the kilometer and a half walk that zig zags across the river as it climbs to the upper falls is quite beautiful. The pools, amazingly clear and full of river fish, are excellent for swimming, as can be seen by the forest nymph and river troll below. The only thing to be careful for is monkeys that may come down and try to steal your backpack if you aren't watchful.



       On the way down from the falls we heard a sound in the jungle that we thought was more monkeys, but the movement was uncharacteristically on the ground. On closer investigation we came upon this guy, who we at first thought was a Komodo dragon. This bad boy, who was six to seven feet long, is actually a monitor lizard, and they are known to raid garbage cans in parks and sometimes around temple complexes. Imagine opening the lid to toss your gum wrapper and coming upon this dude.
      When we got back to town it was already 4:00 so we headed by the mechanic to check on the progress. the bike that he said would be ready by 5:00 was all apart and he hadn't even begun to put it back together. He did have the rebuilt shock back, and he began to install it. He hadn't done anything at all about the brake we had originally brought the bike in for. He said he thought the problem was the brake caliper, and he had one on a bike about fifteen years older than ours that he was willing to sell me for a hundred dollars. He also pointed out that the chain had some bad kinks in it and quite a bit of rust on the inner side that faced toward the wheel. He said that that size chain was unavailable in Kanchanaburi, but he could order one from Bangkok to be in in a couple of days. I thought I would be better off to call Yut. Yut agreed to get me an o-ring chain and a brake caliper and run them out to us after he closed that night. He called back later to say he was having problems finding a caliper, but had just located one and he would pick it up and be out in the morning. He also told us not to pay this other mechanic, and that he would pay for everything. Looking back, and despite all of the problems we faced with this bike, Yut's handling of the situation was totally honorable, and I would not hesitate to recommend him.
       Yut arrived the next morning as planned, but the other mechanic had told him the bike needed a 120 link chain when it actually takes a 122. We were able to take a link off of the old chain, but that left us needing two connecting links and the new chain only came with one. Yut had given us some connecting links in the spares that he provided for us, but it turned out they were for a non o-ring chain and were a little narrow. Grinding the shoulder off on the end links allowed us to get the chain on, but it was a fix I was not happy with. Yut agreed to find us some extra new links, and to mail them to us in Pai along with a spare fuel shut off valve that had a little drip. We figured we would be in Pai in less than a week. It didn't work out that way

By the time Yut and the other mechanic had the bike finished it was too late to get on the road that day. We decided to check out The Bridge on the River Kwai. Far from the romanticized version from the film, the bridge is actually built from steel. The original wooden structure was a temporary one built in February of 43 and was replaced the next month by the steel one. The arched sections are original, and the center sections were bombed in 1945. The Japanese used material brought from Java. Many wrongly think that the bridge was in Burma. The route, known as "The Death  Railway" does go into Burma through the "Three Pagodas Pass", once used by invading warlords. The Japanese plan was to use it as a supply route for an attack on India.

The Death Train still plies this route daily, and as you will notice in the photos above and below it is a very popular spot with Asian Tourists.


On a web site named sapoyrana we could not leave Kanchanaburi without including this guy. Each of the ground floor rooms at our hotel had an attached walled garden with a large atrium like window that looked out onto it. The bathroom and shower were also outside in this walled in area. This fellow was lucky that I wake up bright and alert. He could have been pissed off.