Given the array of options for bamboo rafting, kayaking and other river adventures in the area, it wouldn’t have made sense to leave Sangkhlaburi without getting back in the water.
As with jungle trekking, most local guesthouses and hostels can arrange expeditions for you without breaking the bank. We headed for the Song Karia river (another exhilaratingly bumpy, dusty truck-ride away) and donned some fetching life jackets so that our insurance remained valid… Lucky for us, the worst injury anybody got was a really bad, bleedy splinter from the bamboo. Nobody has lost any limbs as yet.
My raft (that’s that one at the top there, with my feet on it) fell apart about ten minutes into our trip and we watched as our friends sailed away into the distance, leaving us standing in shoulder-high water with a few sticks of bamboo and some rope for company. Again- if you want to remember all this stuff, a waterproof camera or phone case is handy!
Luckily, our Thai guide managed to use his serious chat-skills to talk a passing lone rafter off of his craft so that we could have it instead. There were a few people going up and down with rafts carrying various cargo and occasional other people, so we decided he was probably fine with our bundle of sticks and carried on along our way.
When you’re figuring out who to go on your adventures with, be wary of package tours that involve elephant riding. There’s an elephant sanctuary in Kanchanaburi (which can be reached by bus from Sangkhlaburi and is a logical next stop for many travellers) where you can bathe and feed elephants who have been rescued from abuse elsewhere. The elephant ‘camps’ around Sangkhlaburi have some bad feedback from people who have seen bull hooks used to train the elephants, including babies bred in captivity who are kept on short chains without water for much of the day. Skip the elephants here, and head straight to the rivers and lakes. Wait until you can visit a sanctuary to get your fix of big-eared friends!
As well as waterways and scenery, there are a number of great markets to visit in Sankhlaburi town centre and the surrounding areas. Whether it’s a floating market you fancy, fresh produce in the daytime or incredible street food into the night, it’s all covered here. Internet-addicts will be pleased to know that just around the corner from the main marketplace are a number of cafes that now have Wi-Fi, and those in need of home comforts can head to the 7/11 (oh yes, they are everywhere, even hours from the nearest city) or to the 20Baht shop for replacement phone chargers, handheld fans and plug adapters.