Newspaper article Tweed Daily News (Tweed Heads, Australia)

Float on Kwai

Newspaper article Tweed Daily News (Tweed Heads, Australia)

Float on Kwai

Article excerpt

Byline: David S Potts

A plume of water arcs out behind our longtail boat.

We're in Thailand on the River Kwai, best known for the 1957 Alec Guinness movie Bridge On The River Kwai.

Upstream from that famous bridge, we're racing against the energetic brown river that sweeps down to join up with its twin (the two aptly named the Big Kwai and the Small Kwai) to flow eventually into the sea at Bangkok, 190kms south.

The river rises in the mountains bordering Burma (Myanmar) and Thailand. It traverses limestone gorges and valleys where waterfalls cascade over cliffs and wild orchids and other jungle flora trail from overhangs.

On either side of us are steep banks covered in dense jungle. Bamboo as thick as your arm. Occasionally there is a bend in the swift river where rock cliffs of white, grey and brown limestone rise sharply.

Twenty exciting minutes after leaving the village of Pakseng we round a bend and in front of us are the thatched roofs of the Kwai Jungle Rafts, our unusual floating home for the next two nights. The only way in and out is by river.

Built in 1976, the jungle rafts are built over pontoons and comprise two separate wings each with 50 double rooms. The central section comprises an open-sided restaurant and bar area - and there's a massage room. The rafts are tethered to the shore.

Roped together like a string of sausages, each raft has four rooms, made of split cane and timber floors, with ensuite bathrooms. (Our shower water simply drops through the timber floor into the river.) There's no electricity, so no hot water and rooms are lit by kerosene lantern. Nobody complains: it's a unique experience.

A timber walkway and deck fronts our room. There's an inviting hammock and a lounge chair with table. And everywhere, lush tropical plants in pots. The sound of the rushing river is constant.

It's hard, initially, to adjust to the fact that it is the river moving not the rafts. It's hot and we are encouraged to take a swim - in the river.

Into a life jacket and head for the furthest pontoon upstream. Jump in and drift with the current downstream, making sure to catch the last pontoon. …

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