For those who say Thailand is just for partying and has no culture, I say they did not look! Getting out to the hotsprings was more of an adventure than I thought it was going to be and I got my first taste of Thai culture. The people are more generous and kind than I could have imagined. Really just mind blowing how kind a stranger can be to someone who does not even speak the language.
I got up early yesterday morning after a laid back night of just reading and going to bed early. I got a motorbike taxi to the bus station and took the local bus up to Hin Dat. The bus just stops wherever you need to get off and so when it dropped me off I thought I was at the correct place because of a sign that said Hin Dat on a side road near the correct Km marker. It was about noon and I began walking down the street, the springs were said to be about one Km down the road. After walking over a mile I was hot, hungry, and was not sure I knew where I was. So, I stopped off at a little group of houses near a farm that had some people eating outside. I asked if I could get some water (with hand gestures of course) and they asked me if I wanted some food. I nodded yes and sat down at the table. They gave me rice, some fried meet (not sure what it was but it was good), and a chicken and bamboo soup (I knew it was a strange starch and they said it was bamboo from China).
I tried my best at attempting a conversation with the guy who sat with me but it was really hard. Through pictures and me pulling out the Thailand guide book (because I knew it had the Thai words for hotspring) I figured out that I walked about 2 Km down the wrong road and that the springs were about 6 Km away from where I was. I asked if the guy would be willing to drive me over there and he said he would. When he dropped me off at the springs I expected to pay for the food, water, and ride, but he wouldn't take the money, bowed to me and drove off. I was just dumbfounded by how nice this guy was to a lost stranger.
I got a room at the springs for 400 bhat, more than I wanted to pay but there was nothing cheaper and it was right there. I walked around a bit trying to find something else but all I found were bungaloes without people (that looked nice so I figured they would be more), and some buddhist shrines. The springs were really nice, big pools that fit a lot of people and were deep. You could see the bubbles from the hot water in the middle of the biggist pool. There were 3 temperatures, two big hot ones at about 106, another shallower pool at about 101, and a pool with monks in it at about 103 (that one had a sign that said "no women"). Then there was the cold river right there, great for the hot/cold therapy. I soaked a bit, read a bit, and then soaked some more. There were lots of farang during the day, mostly eastern europeans that would come in by the bus load. 10-20 would show up soak for an hour and then leave, it was a bit depressing.
The Hindad Hot Springs
I was done soaking at about 4:30 so I decided to walk down the road to a waterfall the guidebook said would be there. That was probably a mistake because I saw that it was 7 Km soon after I started walking. I walked for about 3 Km then hitched a ride on the back of a motorbike. The woman took me into a small village down the road, and off on dirt roads, I kept trying to remember the turnes we made. Then when she dropped me off in the middle of town it was apperant that she was driving me to her neighbors house that had a motorbike taxi. I negotiated a price to go to the water falls and back to the springs, it was a funny negotiation. The taxi guy was nice but it was obvious that he wanted me to eat with someone else he knew, tried to get me to agree for him to show me around, and was basically just trying to get what he could. I was nice and kept saying no and he showed me the falls, and brought me back to the springs for the negotiated price. I can't really blame him, I think he was just more desperate that the farmer earlier or the other Thais I met later.
The waterfalls and the motorbike taxi driver
After I read a little longer I went out to see if I could get some food in the little market sort of area at the springs. I walked over to what I thought was a resturant becuase of all the people outside. What happened next was just another example of kindness beyond belief! The Thai people outside (about 10 people) said hi, envited me to sit down, gave me wiskey and soda, and gave me food. They were a group of locals that came up to the springs to relax (at night there were no farangs, just the locals and me). They had a group meal and just kept putting food in my face, when they saw I like the Tom Yum soup they gave me a big boal of it. They were such nice people, one of them barely spoke english so he was the translator for all of us. They just kept filling my glass with wiskey and soda and were the nicest people. After the food and drinks we all went into the springs together until 10 when it closed. I said I would see them the next morning a 6 when it opened.
I didn't quite get up at 6 and woke up at about 6:45 hearing my name outside from the group of locals. They gave me coffee and tea in the morning and then I went over to soak. Some of them had already soaked and others had not. At about 8 the first bus load of farang showed up, that was a bummer. I found myself much more comfortable with the group of Thais, but they all left the pool very shortly after the farang showed up. I actually liked being with the Thai families a lot better than with all those eastern europeans so I got out pretty soon after as well. Again I was fed breakfast by these extremely nice people. When they were all putting money together to pay for the food I would guess they would not take my money. From the night before I knew they were leaving and they offered me a ride to Kanchanaburi so I packed up my stuff and jumped into the minivan with them all.
They wanted to go up to Thongpan Pum for the market and I was along for the ride. I was happy I got to see the town. It had a very vibrant market and the Thais wanted to buy fish because there is a lake nearby and the fish were big and good. They bought a lot of fish! At the market I actually saw the taxi driver from the day before. He seemed a little annoyed that I was with these other people and had not contacted him, but whatever. He talked to some of the women telling them how he knew me and I bet they told him they were feeding me and driving me free of charge. I bet that annoyed him more.
We stopped at another market half way down to Kanchanaburi and they had me try all kinds of things that I don't even know what it all was. They dropped me off about 4 Km from Kanchanaburi and again would not take my money. I hitched a ride into town and walked back to the Jolly Frog. I've been relaxing all day after my little adventure. My neighbor hooked me up with the train times so I know what to do to start traveling tomorrow towards the meditation thing. I am planning to stop at a city on the way to break the trip up.
Well, I wrote a lot again, but soon there will be 10 days of nothing. One thing I've figured out is I brought way too much stuff. When someone who has been here for a year and a half says you have a lot of stuff, you know you brought too much! I've decided to send some things home soon. Ok, till next time, and just so you all know I do check out the comments and like reading them. Peace to all of you.