With the Red Shirts and the army at odds, Bangkok is not a lot of fun right now. Margery and I decided to take off for the weekend on a combination sightseeing and golfing expedition to Kanchanaburi, on the River Kwai. It is about 150 kilometers due west of Bangkok and only about 50 kilometers from the Myanmar (Burmese) border.
Kanchanaburi is the famous site of the World War Two prisoner camp and the bridge and it is hard not to whistle that familiar theme from the movie as you head down the road. We had hired a van and driver and were joined by Nancy and Mike Harris, originally from Iowa, and like us, long time overseas educators. Mike is retired and Nancy is a math teacher at ISB.
Yahoo Weather for Kanchanaburi said ‘105 degrees Fahrenheit’. Heat index was casually listed as, “Feels like 115 degrees”. That’s pretty hot, I guess. We settled into our rooms at Nichigo Golf Resort. We were the only ones there. The troubles here have caused many people to cancel their holidays, plus, I suppose the heat might have put a few people off. Our AC was not working so we had to change rooms. A sign outside room 224 read, ‘No Spikes Inside’. Our wooden floor looked like someone had failed to follow the rules.
Margery and Nancy made arrangements with the driver to do some exploring and shopping the next morning. Mike and I made tee times at 6:30 AM. We met at 6 for an ‘American Breakfast’. Two funky looking eggs, two slices of mystery meat, some mashed potatoes, Tang, a couple of pallid looking chicken sausages and a slice of pineapple. I decided to try the ‘Thai Breakfast’ the next day. Couldn’t be much worse. We paid our greens fees and walked out to meet our caddies. We had already decided that maybe renting an electric cart would be a good idea. 115 degrees, remember!
The course was incredibly beautiful, green and lush with mountains in the background, water everywhere with birds of all kinds making a lot of noise. We never did see the monkeys, but you could hear them. The trees were in full beauty ranging from that wonderful spring green to white to riotous Flame Trees the color of firecrackers. I hit my first tee shot long but slightly to the right, at the base of a gorgeous tree.
As I stepped up to hit the ball, I instinctively leaped up in the air. I am not sure what a nano-second really is, but it seems an appropriate measurement. I dropped my club, frantically brushing off about 100 fire ants. They got in at least four tasty bites before I could retrieve my club, gain my composure and take a ‘free drop’. It was my first encounter of that day with the animals inhabiting the course.
We progressed through the round and I seemed to be the designated driver. After another tee shot, we jumped in the cart with the two caddies on the back. As we went around a curve, I drove over what I thought was a tree branch across the cart path. It was slim and about 5 feet long, hardly noticeable as the rubber wheels passed over it. The caddies simultaneously let out a sound between a whoop and a shriek. Mike said, ‘Snake…big snake!’ The caddie said, ‘Cobra!’, with her Thai accent on the final syllable. I did not have rear view mirrors. I asked Mike if he wanted me to turn around to check it out again. His answer, ‘Nooooh!’ I stopped and looked behind me. The snake was gone, back into the woods along the cart path. I think all of us were a bit more vigilant for the rest of the round.
Although we saw lots of birds in the water and rising off each green where they perhaps were gathering sand for their gizzards, we didn’t see any more non-feathered life until some time in the third nine. (Yes, we did 27 holes both days!) As I raced around another corner, I swerved hard to avoid a 4 foot Monitor lizard which seemed never to consider the possibility that I wouldn’t avoid it. It was dark green with yellow stripes along its body, much like an American garter snake. It had a forked tongue. It looked bored.
The only other truly memorable event of the day (I didn’t shoot well enough to make any television highlight reels) was when I lined up to hit an errant second shot on number 6. I could see the green and the flag fluttering in the slight breeze. As I went into my practice swing, the caddie said, rather sharply, ‘Sai, Sai!’ That means ‘left’ in Thai. I disregarded her advice and hit a great shot, under some tree branches and directly toward the pin. Unfortunately, the green for number 6 was 30 degrees ‘Sai’ from number 9, the hole I was aiming for. I took a triple bogey on that one. The caddie appeared somewhat disgusted.
The final morning, after our 27 holes, we trundled our gear to the van and drove back to Bangkok. Our apartment is in the extreme northwest of the city, well away from the barricades and the burning car tires and the location where yesterday 8 people died and 150 others were injured. I don’t think I will go downtown tomorrow night to sit in with the band at Nomads Bar.