10 August 2014

  • Technical data:
    • We launched our kayaks on the second day from the Rainbow Arokayal Resort in Hua Sai and ended the day at the Suntara Wellness Resort in Chachoengsao.
    • The weather was partly sunny and cloudy. Maximum temperature was around 29 C (Humidex: 31 C) with a SW wind of 8 Km/Hr. Humidity was 62 % (Source: VTBS).
    • Technical data of the trip was as follows: Total Distance: 38.78 Km; Moving Average: 7.2 Km/Hr; Overall Average: 6.6 Km/Hr; Maximum Speed: 10 Km/Hr; Moving time: 5 Hr 24 Min; Stopped Time: 28 Min; Total Time: 5 Hr 52 Min.
  • Number of participants: 2 (Sean & Pat)

The sun rose slowly above Hua Sai and the Bang Pakong River. We woke up well rested after a good night’s sleep ready for the next leg, packed our gear and vacated our rooms and went to the restaurant beside the river for breakfast. After a healthy "holistic" meal and the regulation 2 cups of coffee (for Sean at least!), we prepared our gear and kayaks at the riverside with some of the resort staff gathered to watch. As we busied ourselves with preparation, a Ruea Khem (lit. needle boat, a kind of wooden Siamese kayak) approached quietly from up the river, as it drew closer we realized that it was a monk who was passing to gather alms in his bowl. The staff of the hotel gathered on the edge of one of the floating pavilions to welcome him and offered him food. After he had left, the staff watched intently as we maneuvered our kayaks down the stairs and negotiated getting into them in the strongly flowing river. We said farewell and left the resort around 08h00 in the direction of Chachoengsao. The conditions were perfect; the air was clean and comfortable, there was not a breath of wind and the river was like a mirror, broken only by our paddle strokes and the wake of our kayaks as well as a stream of water hyacinth flowing down the middle of the river. As with the first day we had good flow and moved forward quickly, the river banks were crowded with the ever green Nipa palms and coconut trees reached for the heavens. As we eased into our pace we passed the beautiful red Wat Khlong Khuan, at the first bend and saw the Monk we had seen earlier arrive and disembark from his boat, life was good!

We passed the second bend of the day and in the distance saw Wat Bang Thalat as well as the first bridge of the day; these were both towered over by the Ganesha statue we had visited the previous afternoon. We passed under the bridge, careful to avoid the lines of the fisherman from above, then stopped for our first break on the hour in the shade of the Nipa palms with the Ganesha statue visible on the opposite bank.

After a few minutes of rest and rehydration, we continued our journey and soon arrived at a shortcut in an oxbow of the Bang Pakong River. We could not understand why this 900 meters long shortcut was made, as it created serious erosion on the eastern bank of the cutout canal where the protective concrete walls along the bank were perforated by the pressure of the water. Having said that though, we relished the sleigh ride as the water rushed through the cutting driving us through at 10km/h until we finally reached the end with Wat Khung Krang on the inside bank. Here however we encountered turbulence with many whirlpools as the two water streams merged back together. We continued on as the mid-morning sun broke through the clouds and it started to heat up necessitating the use of more protective gear. We passed Wat Sam Rom and at 10h20 we beached our kayaks in the shade of a stretch of Nipa palms for a second break, relaxing peacefully with only the sound of the gong at the Chinese temple at Sao Cha Ngok further down the river, breaking the silence. While munching on his energy bar, Pat looked up and saw a globular fruit cluster of a Nipa palm hanging within hand reach. He had seen them growing in pots beside the river at the last resort, and being the keen green finger, he decided to harvest it in the hope of geminating some seeds at his home. The cluster at first proved difficult to rip off from its stalk, but with a firm grip perfected from year of arm wrestling, he soon had it off and safely stowed at the back of his kayak where it would complete the rest of the journey.

With the gardening duties complete, we again set off and around the next bend, at 11h00 and after 20 kilometers of paddling, we reached the Bang Pakong Dam. The dam was completed in 1998, but operations were halted shortly thereafter. This was due to the fact that the closure of the dam in the dry season resulted in a number of negative impacts: downstream the water level at high tide was increased resulting in saline water intrusion inland, flooding, and landslides while upstream water stagnated and pollution quickly rose. To this day the issue still remains unresolved. As we passed through the openings in the dam, we gazed up in awe at the massive water gates which were a few meters thick and had holes underneath to allow equalization of the water pressure, in all the dam spans 200 meter with 5 large water gates.

We headed on further down the river, on some of the banks there were some very nice resorts which we made note of for future reference. In addition as we proceeded we continually heard the sound of fireworks along the banks, apparently a celebration of Thai’s of Chinese decent to remember their ancestors. At 12h00 we passed the southern point (Laem Tai) entering Chachoengsao, a city built mainly on the right bank of the river. We took a break on the opposite mud bank in front of the old City Hall using our paddles to secure our kayaks in the mud against the strong river flow.. Originally Chachoengsao was established in 1549 during the reign of King Chakkraphat (r. 1548-1569) as a town for the purpose of troop mobilization and an area used to gather provisions prior to battle. The city was known before as “Paet Rio” (eight stripes), as legend has it that the place once teemed with giant snake-head fish, which required up to 8 cuts on the sides in making sun-dried fish.

After the break we headed off downriver passing numerous riverside restaurants filled with people enjoying lovely Thai food, we had had to make do with dry nuts and water, but that is the life of a kayaker on the river. Leaving the town behind us we paddled about 1km down the river before rounding a bend and seeing the majestic Wat Sothon Wararam Worawihan, which we reached at 13h00.The temple, initially called Wat Hong, was constructed in the Late Ayutthaya period (1629 - 1767 AD). The monastery houses the sacred Buddha image called Phra Phuttha Sothon or Luang Pho Sothon, 1.65 meters wide and 1.48 meters high. Legend goes that the image was found in the Bang Pakong River and could only be pulled out after a shrine for it was set up. The image was covered in plaster to prevent theft during wars, identical to the golden Buddha of Wat Traimit, still today gold leaves are layered on the plastered statue. Wat Sothon has one of the largest marble ordination halls in the world. With the massive landmark behind us we headed in a southerly direction, the thought of our destination a few km away in our minds, however on this stretch heading towards the bridge of road #304 south of Chachoengsao, we again encountered headwinds and choppy waves. Passing the bridge we came across numerous instances of fishermen setting their nets. The method used is to secure 2 poles in the river bed then attach a long net which trails downstream and uses the river flow to catch the fish; we would come across these many times on the rest of the trip and had to navigate carefully as the flow of the river tended to force our kayaks towards then very quickly!

We passed another bend in the river and shortly before 14h00 our destination came into view and soon we reached the landing of the Suntara Wellness Resort. We pulled out our kayaks onto the dry pontoon and secured them safely in the hotel grounds then hurried to the information counter of the resort to check in. As we entered the large hall we were hit by the welcoming wall of cool air-conditioned air! We checked in, went to our rooms and spent the afternoon relaxing and recovering from the day’s trip. In the evening we considered going to the gym for a workout but decided against it! We ended up having our first beer of the trip then trying to order something on the menu that was available before retiring to get some sleep for the next day.

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