5.19.90, On Barge
An 8-1/2 hour bus ride brought us south of Nakorsawan. We have 2 barges lashed together with a tug pulling us. We divided up: party-ers vs. river romantics. We river romantics watch the river through a fine drizzle as we set off about 8 P.M. -- the kind of atmosphere that leads to discussions on the meaning of life -- only ours was on the meaning of free trade between U.S. and Canada (though we did finally touch on Gorbachev and world peace shortly before the bed mats were rolled out). Oriental style, the galley is low to the floor -- a two-burner stove about a foot off the ground, with knives, spices and wok neatly stowed around it. A stainless steel cooler holds food, bottled water, soda and beer. We sit on wooden benches along the side, where they slid open the semicircular iron roof.
11 of us, plus the family members who run the boats slept side by side, and head to toe on thin futons under a gigantic mosquito net hung from the ceiling and tucked in around our mats. It was warm and everyone snored, but I slept okay, with only 2 comfort calls. (Toilet looks like an outhouse perched out behind the stern. It opens to reveal two boards to stand on, and the river flowing beneath. No illusions about sewage in this river.) Roosters give wakeup call, even on the river.
This morning the air is hazy and sweet with the smell of hyacinths. Clumps of water hyacinths float by like islands. Crowded ferries cross the water here and there. The banks are jungled. The Chao Phya River is broad. Sky is full of fast-moving clouds.
1:30 P.M. We have finally entered the Kwai Noi Canal lock after a 3-hour wait. We swelter. Near 100 degrees in the shade -- 118 in the sun -- no air movement.