Ban Kung Maenam Home Stay, from a boat on the Mae Kong river
It was early afternoon by the time we reached our destination of Amphawa, the reasonably quiet town that straddles some of the final stretch of the Mae Klong river before it empties into the Gulf of Thailand. Since he'd wanted to surprise me my friend hadn't told me much about where we were going for this getaway, but now that we were within a few kilometers he wanted help watching for signs to help direct him, so he tipped his cards a bit.
With almost all of the signs in Thai I wasn't all that much help at first, but he wrote the Thai name of the place on my notepad while we were stopped for a cart loaded with coconut hulls to move off of the roadway ahead of us, so I could at least try to match the Thai word (and I did). When he pointed to a sign ahead instructing us to turn left he cried "Aha!", and four or five turns further into the dense green trees and growth there was a small sign identifying the Ban Kung Maenam Home Stay, and in we went along the dirt driveway. There was covered parking beneath a green overhang, and my friend pulled in and shut off the engine.
Opening the passenger door I was stuck again by the tranquility of the Thai countryside; the sound of the door itself opening being the loudest sound within earshot. By comparison the door noise was a shout above the whisper of the trees moving in the breeze, and I stepped out and just stood for a moment, listening. Trees moving, yes; joined by the odd insect buzzing around, a distant machine of some sort, the occasional dog bark nearby and some talking and some sort of scraping sound coming from the direction I guessed was our guest house.
Leaving our stuff in the car for the moment we walked over a small galvanized pipe bridge with a plank walkway that spanned a small khlong that meandered through the shrubbery, fruit trees and palms. As we neared the resort itself I could see workers constructing a small addition to it; the foundation and most of the walls in place. They were adding cinder blocks onto a wall in progress, and the scraping sounds I'd heard were the metal trowels on the blocks as they removed the excess cement and smoothed the seams. Being on task they didn't notice us walking by, and we went into what I'd supposed was the reception area but was, in fact, the owner's home.
A woman welcomed us and spoke to my friend in Thai. The reservation was under his name and yes, our bungalows were ready. We were given our keys and then walked along the wooden plank walkways that stood a couple of meters - six feet or so - above the water level of the river, with quite an expanse of steep, soft mud between walkway level and the water. "Ah, low tide?" I asked, and yes, it was. The level moved not only with the waters flowing from the North but also with the tide in the gulf, some three miles (6Km) downstream.
Some of the bungalows, seen from the resort's pier. My bungalow was at the far end.
The walkways creaked slightly as you moved along them; trees and shrubbery sticking up above anywhere it had a chance to poke through. Small creatures went about their lives along the river bank, like the small crabs below, who were rarely more than a blink away from their burrows.
Rather like a mother who will eat the overdone portions and leave the best for her family, my friend is somewhat of a mother hen; a quality I usually find endearing. He'd handed me a key as we walked along, knowing full well it was the nicer of the two bungalows - at the end, and sticking out over the river with the best views. His was next door to mine, and still had a nice view of the river, of course... but I was over the water, most of the time. Lovely while I was there, but during the extremely rainy season it might get a little close for comfort.
My bungalow - the stuff a wool-gatherer's dreams are made of.
The room was clean and tidy, but very very basic by Western standards. There was a bed, a small vanity and a hong nam that wasn't much larger than needed to be able to open the door into it. The room had places in it near the ceiling where geckos could come through and call to each other with their distinctive "chik-chik-chik" cry, waiting out of sight but nearby, hoping for a mosquito or other bug to come within their reach. The windows didn't have screens on them, but the sheer curtains served as a mosquito barrier, and I didn't leave them open at night.
I've stayed in rooms 50 floors up in my lifetime, but the views from my windows here are the ones I remember best. The one below is from one side, showing the bathroom window, the one below that is from the other window, looking upriver, and the last one is across the river.
While my friend napped in his bungalow I rested a bit in mine and read a little until the light began to turn that beautiful golden orange as the sun dipped below the tree line across the river. I got up, took my bottle of water and sat in one of the wooden chairs on my deck while the sun set.
My friend joined me as I was sitting there, and I thanked him, both for picking this spot and the chance to relax and unwind after a trip that had been rather hectic up until that point. "Just what the doctor ordered," I said - using a phrase I wasn't sure he knew, but he did. "Of course," he said "I am a doctor!" I laughed, swatting at a gnat that had been circling around me. We sat in the comfortable silence friends develop over the years and watched the sun set.
When the mosquitoes came around to defend their turf we left for dinner and a first walk around in town. More on that - and the resort - in the next post.