My unplanned escape from Sri Lanka left me with a few unexpected days in Thailand. Having travelled in that beautiful country three times already, I looked for a place I had never been to and settled for Kanchanaburi, a historically important city two hours from Bangkok. And since I didn’t do all that much during this brief stopover in Thailand, I also threw in a few pictures from my 2004 and 2010 trips there.
Hellfire Pass; one of the most difficult challenges in the construction of the Thailand – Burma railroad. As the workers were made to work long into the night, the site was light by torches, which lead to the name. Using primitive tools and dealing with terrible living conditions, prisoners of war (POW) and labourers “recruited” by the Japanese Imperial Army built the 415 km line in only one year. The project was a high priority for the Japanese authorities, as their forces in Burma needed better logistical support to fight back the British and possibly even invade India.
Of the 60,000 Australian, British, Dutch and American POWs who worked on the construction, 12,399 died. The Asian workers fared much worse: of the 250,000 employed, it is believed 70,000 – 90,000 perished during the construction.
To say that communication with the outside world was limited for the POWs is a bit of an understatement.
From tunnelling to bridging, this was not the easiest terrain on which to build a railroad in wartime conditions. The rail is still in use, but for short distance tourist runs (it was a bit scary on the bridges).
And for those old enough to remember “The Bridge Over the River Kwai” (or who watch old movies), this is it. Although to be precise, there is more than one such bridge.
I also had a hotel over the River Kwai. In fact, this is the only time I ever had to walk over a hotel roof in order to get to my room. The hotel was a lot nicer than this picture suggests. And good timing it was. On one afternoon, a British tourist asked me if I ever got sick, travelling like this. “Not really”, I answered truthfully. That evening I got a food intoxication of some sort. A good place to rest and recover, but it did result in me skipping a few of the other sights in the area.
Nearby Erawan Falls (one of the seven sets of falls).
You can swim in the basins.
But the most entertaining thing in my visit to the Erawan National Park was that by complete chance, I ran into two people I know. Fabienne and Celine have also been travelling for a long time, and I last saw them in Zambia around late August. Kanchanaburi is a touristy place, but there are far more popular places in Thailand, and Thailand is a huge country. I was quitter amazed by the coincidence.
Apart from Swiss girls, the forest also had trees all wrapped up, and the locals deposit offerings at the base. I have often seen alcohol and cigarettes as offerings, but never before make-up. Must be the God of Beauty or something like that.
That’s the problem with offerings; buying presents for a God is so difficult! I guess pig heads, chicken feet and bottled water is a safe bet, but so unoriginal (Bang Pa-In, 2010).
You can always give the God some cash or Walmart gift cards, but as I showed you in this Tibet post, often the monks steal the money while the God is not looking. (also Bang Pa-In, 2010).
And on the topic of silliness, an appealing restaurant sign in a resort town near Phuket Airport, 2010. I did not go.
But I did walk into a strange looking bar in the same town, happy to find it was safe. I just hate those HIV/tsunami-filled bars.
The King’s Palace in Bangkok, 2010. The streets around it are completely filled with touts, scammers and con-artists of all kind. In the immediate vicinity, here’s how to tell if someone is lying to you. Ask yourself: “Is this person Thai?”. If the answer is yes, the person is lying.
Liberace would have been so jealous.
Ayutaya, the ancient capital of the Kingdom, 2010. A short day-trip from Bangkok, and some tour agencies can book a trip there by bus, with a return by boat along the Chao Phraya river, stopping at Bang Pa-In.
Gardens at the base of the mountain-top temple of Doi Sutep, near Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand, 2004.
As I said, mountain TOP.