Home' Get Up and Go : Winter 2012 Contents 40 GetUp&Go
The Russians are coming...and
the Germans, French, Italians,
Swiss, Chinese, Japanese,
Scandinavians, Kiwis, Australians –
droves of them in bright yellow and
red lifejackets. And they’re all being
swept down Thailand’s swift-flowing
River Kwai waving and screaming like
demented survivors of a shipwreck.
Left to their own happy devices,
they would end up in a couple of days
250km south-east flopping around in
the Gulf of Thailand but, as fortune
favours the brave – and sometimes,
the foolhardy – retrieval boats are
waiting downstream to pluck them
from the water in one of the craziest
river sports in Thailand.
It all started with the advent of
jungle rafting (the floating stationary
kind, moored and lashed to the
riverbank) which in recent years has
taken Thailand by storm.
Not content to spend lazy days
on deck swinging in a hammock,
relaxing at the bar with a gin and
tonic or simply curled up with a good
book, most rafters seem compelled,
instead, to jump overboard.
Despite the hazards of river traffic,
in particular the sleek, high-speed
open-propeller ‘longtails’ that hurtle
up and down the Kwai, this aqua
version of Russian roulette has
become an integral part of a soft
adventure interlude on a jungle raft.
These days, a rafting holiday can
range from dubious free squatter
accommodation on one of the few
abandoned rafts dotted along the
upper reaches of the river, to a
floating five-star four-poster bed
ensuite with spa bath.
We spent two nights on the River
Kwai Jungle Rafts, one of the oldest
(36 years) largest (110 rooms in two
locations) and best of the authentic
river rafts, 10km upstream from
Kanchanaburi, best known as the
place where, in 1942, construction
of the infamous Thailand to Burma
Death Railway began.
In this part of the Kwai, the river
weaves and swirls through sheer
jungle-shrouded limestone cliffs of
the rugged Thanon Thongchai Range
which separates Thailand and Burma.
‘Authentic’, in jungle raft
terminology, means thatched roof,
laced bamboo walls, comfortable
cabins with double beds and
mosquito nets, no electricity,
hurricane lamps, cold showers, one
clothes hanger, hand-flush toilets
(with a water scoop) and a tiny
battery torch attached to a key ring.
The immediate shock of stumbling
from brilliant sunshine into a pitch
black room with shuttered windows
is soon tempered by the knowledge
that a few metres from your tiny back
deck is a real jungle with elephants
that come down each morning to
bathe in the river.
In the evening, the dancing shadows
of oil lamps paint a surreal canvas of
polished timber, masses of low-hanging
orchids and the busy interaction of a
dozen different nationalities.
For around $60 a night including
set breakfast and dinner, it’s a
priceless travel experience.
During the day, apart from the
lure of leaping into the river, perhaps
never to be seen again, there are
many activities to explore and enjoy.
The easiest is a stroll across a
bamboo bridge from the raft to visit
a village of the Mon people, an ethnic
group from Burma whose ancestry
dates back to 550AD.
A popular excursion is an
Aside from the fragrant landscape, serene temple
culture and food tourism, Thailand has a river life to
shake up a lazy holiday. Glyn May took the plunge.
Adrift on the
In Thailand, culture is everywhere, in everything and everyone. From the glistening temples and
magnificent palaces to the people you meet in the streets of its cities and villages. You don’t have to
search for it, you simply experience it. Whether you are planning on visiting some of our ancient
sites, sitting on a beautiful beach or exploring ultra-modern shopping malls, Thailand will offer
a wonderful cultural experience like nowhere else on earth.Whether it is your first trip or you are
a frequent visitor, you are sure to be amazed.
To experience T hailand’s amazing culture is to experience its amazing people.
Tourism Authority of Thailand, Level 20, 56 Pitt St Sydney, NSW 2000, +61 2 9247 7549
THAI_AU CULTURE A4.indd 1
10/01/12 3:15 PM
Links Archive Spring 2012 Autumn 2012 Navigation Previous Page Next Page