Journey into the Jungle, Let its Rhythms Float your Cares Away
The dock along the River Kwai, photo by John Geary
The dock along the River Kwai, photo by John Geary
Floating along the River Kwai through the steamy jungle, photo by John Geary
Watching a traditional performance on one of the stops, photo by John Geary
Mention the “River Kwai” and the 1957 movie about the building of the infamous river during World War II usually springs to mind immediately.
Travellers to Thailand can certainly visit attractions based on that true story. But many other adventures await you, provided you don’t mind stepping off the beaten path just a bit.
Take for example, the River Kwai Jungle Rafts Lodge: it offers river adventures, forest adventures, cultural events and its own jungle spa treatments.
As for the “raft” part of the lodge…
The entire structure is built on floating pontoons. While it is tied to the shore, it’s not on the shore. That does make for rustic accommodations: no electricity, no air-conditioning and light provided by kerosene lamps. But it is a wonderful, restful place.
I arrived in a torrential downpour, via motorized dugout canoe. Hey, if you’re traveling through a rainforest, you better be prepared for some rain, right? The canopy kept my camera gear dry, so I was happy.
So, aside from the fact it floats, what’s so special about this jungle lodge – or any jungle lodge, for that matter?
It’s hard to explain, if you have never been in the jungle or don’t feel a tug from its mysterious environs. For me, part of its pull is the combination of sounds and scents, the feel that there’s so much life within it.
As a kid growing up, I loved watching movies involving jungle adventures. As a kid who is still growing up, I enjoy real-life jungle adventures, like the ones this lodge serves up.
While there is no air-conditioning, the river seems to help keep things cool at night.
There’s also an outdoor “Jungle Bar” you can sidle up to and order a cold Singha or Chang beer to keep cool. A cold beer always goes down easy after a jungle adventure.
Paddling enthusiasts can explore the river up or downstream, with canoes and kayaks from the lodge. While paddling, you can also fish, maybe even catch something for dinner.
The lodge also houses a stable of elephants so you can explore the surrounding jungle on an elephant trek.
Bird watchers can enjoy their favourite pastime on the water or the land.
After a day’s adventure, the lodge’s jungle spa can help relax you.
Prior to zooming upstream in my canoe, I’d spent the day visiting a war memorial museum and riding across the River Kwai on a tourist train, so I opted to relax with a massage.
At this “jungle spa” you can get Thai massage, foot reflexology, or my personal favourite, aromatherapy massage.
This particular massage experience differed from others, though: the massage tables are not in separate rooms, they are side by side with no walls anywhere. Some gauze-like curtains provide the only privacy, and people outside the curtains can still see and hear through them.
While Thai massage is done fully clothed, on a floor mat, aromatherapy massage usually requires most, if not all of your clothes, to be removed.
“Hmmm…mmm…” I’m thinking. “I wonder how this will work?”
Then my therapist, a really nice Burmese lady, told me to take off my shirt.
Okay, no problem…so far.
Then she told me to remove my pants … as I start taking them off hesitantly, she senses my discomfort, takes a quick look, and says, “Oh, good, you have underwear on.”
Yeah. Good, indeed. I sure wasn’t about to get down to my birthday suit without a completely private room.
Once that was settled, I climbed up onto the table, and enjoyed a nice relaxing 60-minute massage … except for the mosquitoes. Where’s that Tiger Balm when I need it? (In Thailand, Tiger Balm is a cure all for everything. Muscle aches? Slap on the Balm. Mosquito bites? Rub some TB on them. I even had a guide put it on a scalp cut I got when I banged my head in a temple.)
The massage helped me leave the spa and head for dinner in ultra-relaxed mode.
After a wondrous dinner consisting of various Thai dishes – chicken, fish, prawns, rice –
I wandered along the boardwalk to an amphitheatre to watch members of the Mon tribe of Burma entertain us with various cultural dances.
A nightcap at the jungle bar followed, and then it was off to slumber, lying alone in my bed in the dark, hearing night birds calling to each other in the depths of the forest. As I drifted off, I heard something large crashing through the underbrush on the other side of the river. A wild boar perhaps, or maybe a deer.
It seemed like mere minutes before I heard the trumpeting of elephants along the shore, jungle alarm clocks announcing the start of another day in paradise.
Yes, I definitely have jungle fever … I can hear that jungle rhythm…
IF YOU GO:
The lodge is located in Thailand’s Kanchanaburi province.
For information about other tourist sites in the area, contact Tourism Thailand.
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