Kayaking on the river Kwai
January 1, 1970
Hello, vast world of readers. My name is Wayne and you get the joy (I hope) of reading my first article. A few years ago I was getting kind of bored of the mundane life of the 9-5 job and went to my travel agent. I told her I want to go on an adventure. I want to be out of my comfort zone and want memories to last a lifetime. She didn’t even hesitate and told me to go to Thailand. So with some extra income in the bank and some holiday time coming up I booked my holiday, and life has never been the same since. My articles will start with my earlier adventures here and through the good and the bad and significant life changes.
Reasons to go
So without further adieu, I bring you the adventure of kayaking on the river Kwai in Kanchanaburi.
A lot of people probably think of the river Kwai and think of the 1957 movie Bridge on the river Kwai or the term death railway as the line is known for. Because I’m not really into war history or the thought of a death railway this was part of my trip I was least excited about. I’m the kind of person who will try new things and wanted lots of experiences so decided if I was going to see this place I might as well see it doing something new and exciting so I decided to go kayaking for the first time.
Death by Kayak?
When I got to the riverside with my tour I saw the enormous kayaks and was a little afraid, but thought well I will have someone with me they can help me through this. We all started partnering up in a mad scramble and I was the odd one out. We still had the leader/guide so maybe this wouldn’t be so bad he could help me and I’d be a master at the end of this. He told me he goes in his own one-person kayak and I was to go in the other solo kayak. ‘Gulp’ Well this was turning out to be a nightmare I saw visions of flipping over and being stuck under the water and drowning or being carried away by the currents and being lost for all eternity. So I hesitantly put on the life jacket and climbed into my kayak holding a small zip lock bag with my camera inside. ( If I was to survive I wanted some good pictures if I was to drown or die stranded in the great unknown I wanted someone to know what I endured) Sitting in the kayak I felt every wave of the water underneath me I felt wobbly and uncertain and felt the huge weight of the double sided paddle in my arms. I was ready to go….i hoped. I sat and listened to the guides instructions
A guide to kayaking
1. Hold the paddle evenly in the middle with your arms slightly apart. ( check. Easy enough.)
2. Sit up straight in the kayak with your legs fully secured outwards to the back and the backs of your feet against the foot supports. ( check, a little wobbly and feel a bit more trapped in the kayak can’t just jump out now)
3. Turn your body at the waist trying to keep your posture. ( check, Quite easy as I can’t move my legs anyways. Hopefully, a little bit of shaking is okay with my posture.)
4. Do long deep strokes with the paddle. (check, feeling the weight of the water a bit against maybe it will be harder with the current.)
5. Get ready for the next stroke. Decide if you’re going forward or turning. If turning, continue stroking on the same side, if going forward stroke on the opposite side. (check. A bit wobbly, but the kayak seems to have quite good balance with my leaning.)
6. Continue the previous steps and try not to lean too much to either side. (check. Almost fell in a couple of times in the beginning but maintaining my balance.)
From beginner to master
Off to a good start with a little bit of friendly paddle splashing, amongst friends I was off, faster than a…..turtle no that was clearly faster than me. What was happening I wasn’t actually making very much progress if anything I actually seemed to be behind where we began. Damn this current was pushing me back and everyone was escaping into the distance. What was I doing wrong I went through the mental checklist of what I needed to do holding paddle, sit up straight with legs fully outward, turn my body and keep my posture, do long deep…..that’s where I was wrong. I was doing small fast strokes because I was nervous. Okay, breath calm I can hopefully catch up to them before I am long forgotten and they’re back on the bus. Left and right left and right. I was moving. I was passing the turtle. I was passing the walking pedestrians. I was passing the cheetah ( no that’s just my imagination running loose) I was going pretty fast. I started noticing that my group was getting closer and closer to me at a rapid speed. Some were going in circles. Some were just barely going faster than the current. ( with 2 people I later found you almost have to be able to read the other people mind to make good progress together) I was feeling a rush of adrenaline and I just kept paddling and saw our bus getting closer every second. Wait a second I was enjoying this. I was quite good at this. I didn’t want it to end. So I circled back and then did a couple circles around the other people in the group. A little bragging a little gloating, but I was master of the art of kayak. Then everything was blurry and I was drenched…did I fall in was I going to drown was this the end just as (laughter) I snapped back to reality and noticed my friends laughing as they splashed me with their paddles. Maybe enough of my grandstanding it was good to be humbled.
For the rest of the trek, I slowly went along taking some pictures and really took in the beauty and the peace. As a place that was the area of so much bloodshed. I was amazed how much beauty and tranquility could be found here. I was one with nature and the kayak and explored areas to both sides of the river. I saw some of the most amazing plants all around and had the calmness of the river moving under me and the wonderful sound of birds flying overhead. As something I was afraid to die from I was at one with the world hear. My truest most wonderful moment of calm overtook my body. Then as I approached the bridge. I was blown away seeing the inner workings of it from underneath. Marveled at the craftsmanship and how much care was taken into this bridge that has survived so long. As I got off the kayak and got on the bus I was just silent reminiscing of my wonderful emotional experience.
The famous bridge on the river Kwai in Kanchanaburi Thailand
Anyone ever thinking of coming to Thailand make sure that this is part of your trip and maybe you will be lucky and you’ll get a solo kayak experience too. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but I would say experience is worth a million.