Quite aptly, I’m listening to Groove Armada’s At the River as I write you this letter.
One of my ultimate favourite things is staying in hotels. I’m not very finicky about them though- as long as they have fresh sheets on beds and a clean bathroom, I’m happy.
Imagine my delight when we stayed in not just a pretty good hotel room, but one that was actually sitting by the river. Or should I say “on”, though?
There’s an area in Thailand’s Kanchanaburi Province, a strip of land which abuts the River Kwai, dotted by hotels built on top of river rafts. This stretch of floating hotels is flanked by Kwai’s clay- coloured waters and a thick jungle in front, while fields of crops and looming green mountains take up its rear.
With dried stalks probably from the expanse of plantations not one kilometer from the river banks, you can see thatched roofs over anchored hotel rooms bobbing up and down the streaming water.
With tied bamboos and wooden planks for bridges and hotel “balconies”, you can see- nay, feel– the rushing waters right below your every anxious step.
We booked one room for the three of us at the Boutique Raft River Kwai Hotel. Many a confusing signs and dirt roads after leaving the highway, we saw a two- storey structure built to the style of Asian Contemporary/ Tropical Resort Design peeking out of a short driveway and a periphery of tropical trees and plants.
The air automatically felt fresher as we drove in. The quiet more pronounced, with only the faint rushing sounds of a river yet unseen.
The day offered a peaceful sense of “being out of town”- that characteristic realisation that time is of no consequence as you minutely stare at nature with nary a thought in mind, only that you are a silent observer of a little world much busier that yours at that very moment.
1) a red bug that slowly transits from leaf to leaf
2) a dragon fly that fleets around a sunny garden, where its shiny wings make the reflected lights play before your very eyes
3) a bird calls out to its colleagues from tree top to tree top, all concealed
The night offered otherwise- darkness around the jungle and the river except where the nice hotel lights hit those waters and their surrounding trees. There were much louder sounds from nature at night- the rushing river seemed more violent, more unkown creaks and buzzing from bolder creatures came out.
From the hotel room, we stepped out with more caution.
Very good Thai food can be had from the hotel’s restaurant: Tom Yam soup, Thai green curry, fresh steamed fish, pineapple rice.
We sat at the Hotel patio after our sumptuous dinner, armed with mosquito repellants, a few bottles of alcohol, and heavy heads. We gazed at the semi- darkness of the river, now less threatening than it was when it had first gotten dark.
Languor was our companion, dim yellow lights hanging down from trees and rafts our entertainment.
Before driving off the next day, we had breakfast at the open dining area overlooking the river. The same quiet of the previous day took over that hotel by the river again.
As if to emphasise this peace, we saw a monk and his dog walking across the hanging bridge nearby, as we slowly had our cereals and fruit.
Sipping my coffee and quietly enjoying the view, I tried to take as much of the sensation in (because eating by a river and a jungle and a mountain does not always come by, even during vacations).
I was quite happy (if only wishing for all my loved ones to be there with me), with nary a thought in mind.
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