Driving down the winding rural track, my anticipation was building. I was about to spend the night stranded on a river with no electricity – No lights, no plug sockets, no nothing. Even the walls and roofs weren’t solid, meaning we truly would get to be at one with nature.
It’s so peaceful out here in the early hours, so I took the opportunity to write in my journal from the comfort of a woven hammock before everyone else was up and about and we could continue our adventure. You really can see the beauty in the nature as you lie back and simply watch the world go by without the temptation of a small screen, especially when the temperature is still so pleasant. The ebbs and flows of the river create ambient background noise, accompanied by crickets and birdsong. Everything else, however, is in silence.
Looking out, all you can see is the gushing water meandering through walls of trees and other foliage, the same water we were able to dive into upon arrival and ride freely until we reached the end of the pier with a desperate thrashing motion whilst trying to swim back to land against the current. There are no other signs of civilisation around, aside from a peculiar plank of wood brandishing the words “to Mon Village” in the dining area of the River Kwai Jungle Rafts, leading up to a narrow track up the riverbank.
Mon Village is in itself very small and very basic, but that’s just part of its charm, and the fact that a whole community of Burmese people is actually living here is amazing.
We watch for a while as the residents prepare for their prayers and rituals, while two small children run around us excitedly, before ringing the bells and kneeling by a shrine to pray. A humbling thing to see indeed, what a different lifestyle these people are leading. And yet, they all still seem so much happier than most English people I come across back home. It just goes to show how money and materialism don’t necessarily lead to boundless happiness like we’re led to assume in the West. Travel’s pretty amazing like that. Your eyes can be opened to so much wonder and possibility and understanding if you make the effort to look hard enough.
Looking back at Bangkok now, with the grandeur of The Grand Palace and the madness of our scavenger hunt challenge, it’s almost crazy to think we’re still in the same region. But then on the other hand, it’s always great to get to see the best of both worlds, wouldn’t you agree?
If I had to recommend any hotel anywhere in the world, The River Kwai Jungle Rafts would definitely be one of them.