30 August 2014

  • Technical data:
    • We launched our kayaks on the second day from the Tha Bot Water Regulator in Nong Saeng and ended the day at the Doem Bang Villa in Doem Bang.
    • The weather was partly overcast, partly cloudy. Maximum temperature was around 30 C (Humidex: 39 C) with a WSW wind of 12-26 Km/Hr. Humidity was 62-70 % (Source: VTBD). 
    • Technical data of the trip was as follows: Total Distance: 29.65 Km; Moving Average: 5.8 Km/Hr; Overall Average: 4.9 Km/Hr; Maximum Speed: 6.9 Km/Hr; Moving time: 5 Hr 8 Min; Stopped Time: 54 Min; Total Time: 6 Hr 2 Min.
  • Number of participants: 2 (Sean & Pat)

We left Ayutthaya at 0620 Hr, the sky was overcast and there were still remains of the rain that had fallen the night before; at least it meant a cool start. We set off in the direction of Pa Mok looking at about a 2 hr trip to the start of the second leg of the Thai Chin river trip. Sean looked for the shortest route on Google maps but the driver chose to take a more scenic route, however in the end the time worked out about the same with the added bonus that we could stop at a 7-11 for much needed coffee. We continued our drive through the rice fields north of Suphan Buri, with mountains visible to the west, and finally arrived at Wat Tha Bot (the Monastery of the Landing of the Ordination Hall) near the water regulator of the same name at 0845 Hr, an area we had last been a year before when we did the first leg of the river.

To our dismay, the landing of Wat Tha Bot was totally blocked by water hyacinth, called "Phak Top Jawa" in Thai. The story goes that it was brought to Thailand from Java, Indonesia in 1901 by one of King Chulalongkorn’s consorts, who was struck by the beauty of its flowers, and put in garden ponds as a decorative. From the pond the weed founds it way to canal and rivers and now is a serious problem. Despite their best efforts, the government still battles to control the growth of the weed which needs a combined approach of mechanical removal, biological and chemical extermination; not an easy task given the extent of the problem. We looked up and down the river but there were no options, we decided to unload our kayaks and mentally prepared ourselves to fight our way through the 50m of weed to the open river. However as we were preparing our kayaks a local gentleman on a motorcycle stopped and indicated that there was a better launching site only 100m further down the river, we gladly accepted his advice and loaded our kayaks onto the pickup and drove to the location indicated. Upon arrival we were greeted by the local people, most notably a man in a red football shirt who indicated a small launch area next to a house with a few boats parked alongside. 

 We unloaded our kayaks and without too much trouble were in the water by 0905 Hr, after a couple of pictures for the record we started off on the trip. The Tha Chin River opened before us as in an embrace; the river was enveloped on both sides with a wall of natural green vegetation and as we proceeded we were passed and greeted by numerous fisherman in their boats returning from the mornings efforts; it was a totally different experience to the Bang Pakong river we had navigated only a few weeks before, the river was narrower and the surroundings a lot more intimate; we also noticed that we were making a good speed of 5-6 km/h, things were good. However, just short of the first hour of the trip we were woken from the dream world when we came across a raft of water hyacinth blocking the floating bridge at Wat Khlong Kasem. We were forced to make an exit at a small wooden landing and had to pull the kayaks up a 2-meters nearly vertical muddy river bank. Once we had the kayaks safely on the temple grounds we scouted ahead for a place to launch, under the watchful eye of the pack of local temple dogs. There looked to be a suitable place to re-launch below the cemetery, however it was too far to carry the kayaks and we eventually decided to lower them into the water along the bridge and use the bridge pontoons to step-off and after some gymnastics, we were back on the water. As we had completed an hour of the trip already, we decided to take a break next to the river bank, below the cemetery.

After resting and refueling we continued, however less than an hour later we were again confronted by a floating bridge near Wat Buppharam. Here the issue not water hyacinth, but the fact that the bridge was too low. Sean initially tried to slip under the metal bridge, but gave up as it was too low for his Spiderman antics. Patrick, being the old fox a bit more temperate and used to take it the easy way, pushed his kayak through at the western end of the bridge; Sean followed soon and received the help of a local. The one, who initiated these floating bridges, must not have had a bright mind as it restricts the use of the river by boats and creates an obstruction for the water weeds floating down the current.

We continued the journey and shortly arrived and passed under the bridge at Han Kha and its Wat Krissana, a small hamlet trying to protect itself from the erosive force of the river by building a long concrete wall along the river bank. On a pontoon beside the river we suddenly heard someone shouting and a guy waving his arms frantically in an attempt to get our attention. However we were into our paddling rhythm and had to make up for lost time so were not very keen to stop our paddling for one or another joker along the river and continued our way. However a few hundred meters further on, we saw someone running down a stairway to the river, again shouting and waving to us, this time we heard him as he shouted ‘I need to talk to you!”. This time we decided to slow to see what he wanted. As we came closer we saw his face and recognized him as the man in the red shirt who we had talked to when we launched our kayaks that morning. His name was Khun Tawat and he informed us that he would like to have a copy of the picture we took of ourselves that morning for him to insert into an application to the higher authorities for an appropriate boat landing in his sub-district. It looked like we were part of the crime scene. Khun Tawat gave us his phone number and Sean sent him some pictures the same evening.

Moving on, close to 1000 Hr we passed the virtual border between Chai Nat and Suphan Buri provinces. The Tha Chin River is very winding and after every bend a new landscape unfurled before our eyes. It is said that once the Chao Phraya River used this river bed at a time that the Gulf stretched out much more inland. With the retraction of the sea and through the centuries, the River of Kings has gradually shifted eastwards. After a while we passed the confluence of Khlong Tham Khe close to 1400 Hr and were now on our final leg.

Shortly after 1500 Hr Doem Bang Villa, our arrival point and accommodation for the night, came into sight. We had an easy exit at the broad stairs of the resort, and quickly de-rigged our kayaks. We had a plan to visit at the Bung Chawak Aquarium, but time was running out so we hurried to the reception to get the keys for our rooms. While waiting we ordered a Doem Bang coffee to celebrate our arrival, the coffee offered by the owner of the resort. Shortly we received our keys; Sean the Lemon House and Patrick the Tamarind Thai House. We quickly took a shower, changed clothes and had a protein shake in order to recover from the kayak trip. The owner kindly offered us the use of two bicycles for free, one was even his personal "Land Rover" bike. We did our farewells and were soon on the road to Bung Chawak. The owner said the aquarium was only 3-4 Km from the resort, but after 4 Km we found a new board indicating that it was an extra distance of 4.1 Km. We ended up riding along the whole east side of the lake as the aquarium was situated at its far north end. Finally we arrived at destination and after buying tickets, we enjoyed the aquatic panorama of the place. After the fish it was crocodile time and we walked through crocodile world, ending up with an ice cream.

We then headed off home but on the way Sean realized that he had left his Oakley sunglasses behind, a real emergency given he had to paddle 6-7 hours in the hot sun the next day! We quickly turned back and peddled back to the shop where we had bought the Magnums (with Belgian chocolate) and as we arrived two security guards waved at us. Patrick gestured we were looking for Sean's sunglasses and one of the guards handed them straight over to Sean. Gratefully Sean offered a tip however, the guard politely refused. He then asked where we were staying indicated a shorter route for us to head back on; the glasses recovered, we jumped back on our bikes and took the said direction, finding our Doem Bang Villa indeed only 4 Kms further. We had clocked more than 18 km of bike riding on Sports Tracker; an unexpected bonus exercise for the day. Upon arrival we headed to the restaurant beside the river and had dinner; feasting on the deep fried locally caught small prawns and other specialties suggested by the owner.  Over a beer we reviewed the day’s trip as well as prepared mentally for the next, then it was off to our brightly painted houses to get some rest and sleep to prepare us for leg 3 the next day. 

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