After departing the small town of Kanchanaburi, a two-hour cargo-filled bus ride later and we had arrived at Erawan National Park. Renowned for its many waterfalls, the milky pools of water offered a cool respite from the harsh midday sun in Thailand. It was evidently a popular spot amongst locals and visitors alike.
Within a few minutes of our arrival, we had noticed that this was clearly a hotspot for the Russian tourists of Thailand. (Who knew?) Like beacons amidst the otherwise serene surroundings, the swimwear was tight, fluorescent and positively indecent. The men were most definitely the worst offenders. Squeezing past on narrow paths, one had to be careful where to position fumbling hands scaling the steep rocks. Was this a National Park, or had we accidentally stumbled upon a Miss Russia bikini competition? It was hard to tell. Great for the male visitors, of course. Not so good for the timid and humble nature seeker. Not quite the plumage I was hoping for.
It soon became a tall order to get a photo without a bikini-clad woman as part of the frame. Couple that with a captive male audience, you can imagine that getting even a rock to perch on became a task in itself. Limber bodies were sprawled across the natural formations of the park, as if posing for a 1990s Sports Illustrated cover. Cue pouting and suggestive body positions under the cascading water. Feeling violated by the snug swimwear, we scaled higher into the park in an attempt to seek less provocative and more scenic sights. Fingers were firmly crossed. (Well, perhaps mine more than Mark’s.)
As ever, our outing was accompanied by thrifty and furry tree swinging locals. We had been forced to learn our lessons very quickly on our travels, making sure that all things edible were securely tucked away. One tourist’s luminous pair of pants were left to fend for themselves as the owner swam innocently in a nearby rock pool. Too colourful and intriguing to pass up, they were the catch of the day for one of the resident monkeys. Lesson to be learned: don’t leave anything around in the presence of monkeys. Lunch, shoes…dirty underwear – they will claim it as their own. Of course, as long as none of the mentioned articles are your own, then it all makes for a good minute or two of laughter.
After hiking rocks and clambering mammoth logs, our efforts were rewarded with an unexpected foot massage. The many little fish that inhabit the rock pools were more than happy to make a meal out of our seemingly appetising feet. The experience, I would say, could be likened to that of being licked by a cat’s tongue. This is highly speculative, of course. Nonetheless it was a peculiar sensation, one I’m glad to have experienced but not one I would necessarily take up again in a hurry. After the fish were satiated, we put our newly smooth feet to use and ran back just in time to catch the last bus back to sleepy Kanchanaburi.