Day 38: We were up and about earlyish to rent bikes to pedal to a big tree. It’s not often that we’d consider a 30km round trip on a bike just to see a tree, but that’s exactly what we did today.
We walked to a bike rental shop down the street. All of the bikes lined up on the pavement were fixies with cute little wire baskets – not ideal for what we needed. We were busy googling on our phones to see if there were other bike rental options in town when the owner said “I have gears bikes!” and dragged us inside a dark shed where he proudly waved to his selection of two dusty mountain bikes. One for ‘big man’, one for ‘not big girl’ apparently.
He spent a bit of time removing thick layers of dust from the bikes with an old rag, put air in the tyres, then pumped the brakes to show they were all working (they weren’t). We paid our money, hopped on the bikes and headed off.
The tree we were pedalling to is called the Giant Rain Tree. It’s a massive Monkey Pod Tree, a native of South America, which is believed to be over 100 years old. The trunk measures an impressive 15 metres in perimeter and the tree is 20 metres in height, with the branches spreading out over 25 metres. One article called it ‘one of Kanchanaburi’s latest attractions’, with its popularity growth apparently fuelled by social media.
The tree has been the subject of some recent controversy due to a raised walkway being built around its base. Presumably it was done to protect the tree and stop the soil and roots around it being compacted, however many are now suggesting the walkway is an unnecessary eyesore which destroys the ‘feeling of nature’.
As we arrived on our bikes, there were no ‘feeling of nature’ about at all – we discovered it was a mini-party town, with loud music and crowds of people scoffing food from market stalls and posing for endless pics on the wooden walkway under the tree. We parked our bikes and walked around for a bit. A highlight of the visit (apart from posing from endless pics of course) was a group of young boys who were doing some sort of aerobics class mixed with martial arts. We assumed it was either fitness or dance at first, but then they started wrestling each other to the ground and getting a bit tough – so perhaps there was a bit more to it.
The scenery on the ride to and from the big tree was phenomenal – fields of sugar cane and other crops, vivid green rice paddies, rice laid out drying in the sun, with very few cars and bikes on the smaller roads we were pedalling along.
But while there was less traffic on the roads, there was a heap of dead snakes – we pedalled over dozens of the things along the way. Being at such close proximity, it’s perhaps better they were dead – still seems a shame that so many get killed though.
Jim jumped off his bike at one point to photograph something and he called Lil over to take a look. And there on the side of the road was a large black scorpion (Lil’s biggest nightmare). As oh-so-practical Jim pointed out: “And that’s why you should always check your shoes before putting them on”.
We pedalled back to Kanchanaburi, dropped off the bikes, and then decided it was time to chuck our walking shoes in the guesthouse washing machine. After some tussling with coins and buttons and nothing useful happening, we had to ask for help – the guesthouse manager came around and after a bit of rough poking and prodding got the machine to do its stuff. Then it was time to head out for dinner.
The eating choices in this town are vast – so many fabulous restaurants. If we stayed here for a month we wouldn’t get bored with the food options. Tonight we chose a small Thai restaurant which was spectacular. Northern Thai spicy beef curry, spicy Thai sausage, green chicken curry, Vietnamese sausage and blue sticky rice (the blue colour comes from butterfly pea flower). All washed down with icy cold Chang beer, which we’ve become quite fond of.
Tomorrow is Jim’s birthday – we have a fun day lined up to celebrate, and a hellishly early start.