Do go chasing waterfalls

Trip Start Oct 17, 2009
Trip End Oct 16, 2010

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Where I stayed
The Sugar Cane Hostel

Flag of Thailand  ,
Saturday, October 24, 2009

We successfully managed to negotiate our way out of Bangkok and to the bus terminal by metered taxi (although I pretty much had to turn the meter on!) and despite initially boarding the wrong bus, we managed to enlist the help of a couple of friendly locals and head for Kanchanaburi, home to the Bridge on the River Kwae made famous by the events of World War Two and the film of the same name.

Kanchanaburi offers an array of attractions and treks for the budding backpacker and one of the main reasons I'd originally been keen to visit was for the renowned "Tiger Temple", a Monk-run sanctuary originally set up to preserve various species of animal and which now gives people the chance to stroke, walk and even bathe a group of tamed tigers.  Now, unless you're working on an advert for Kelloggs Frosties, the chance to stroke a friendly tiger is not an opportunity that arises to often and it seemed immediately inviting!  However, the more research that we did and the more photos that we saw, the more the place, though originally well intentioned, seemed to have become unethical and dubious in its treatment of the tigers.  Having chatted to some local ex-pats, our mind was made up. The tigers are largely under-nourished, evidently drugged and spend most of their time chained up; we didn't want to give our money to a project like that.  You get the feeling that Tony would not consider it to be grrrrreeeeaaaat.

Nevertheless, there was plenty to do in Kanchanaburi besides the Temple and Nathan and I each picked up a pedal powered Tuk Tuk from the bus station.  I was impressed by the devastating calf power of my driver as he dragged me and my 17 kilo backpack along, even failing to be unnerved by his pedal falling off, and after viewing a few places we settled on a fantastic hostel offering Raft Houses on the River with stunning views for the princely sum of around three pounds a night. 

We promptly explored the town and booked ourselves on a trek for the following day, before embarking on the 2km trek to the Bridge.  The Bridge was built by Allied Prisoners and Asian forced labour under conditions of extreme mistreatment by Japanese soldiers in World War Two.  Allied bombers were sent to destroy the bridge but the Japanese, having received word of this, marched hundreds of prisoners out on to the Bridge where they were killed by their own pilots who carried through their mission.  Rumour says that the river ran red with blood for days and it the Bridge has now been fully reconstructed, allowing visitors to walk across it.

After a few days, we awoke the next morning for our trek only to find that the heavy thunderstorms that had struck in the night had caused its postponement.  We got chatting to an American bloke called Matt however and we all took a walk in to town to see the War Cemeteries of both the Allied soldiers which was unfortunately closed aside for a small section and the more elaborate Chinese one with its flambouyant monuments.  We continued to wonder and found a couple of temples which were housing some local Holy Day celebtrations and then joy of joys, a FAT BUDDHA.  At last!  We tried to make it to another temple but got chased off by a dog and preceded back to The Raft House for a few drinks and dinner.

The following day was trek day and we boarded our mini bus and headed off on the hour drive to the Erawan National Park, home to the seven tier Erawan Waterfalls which stretch a mile high in to the mountains.  Our guide told us that most people don't make it beyond tier five but being real men, me, Nathan and Matt were determined to ignore TLC and chase a waterfall.  We set off at pace, stopping to take photos at the various tiers and photo stops of what was a truly beautiful natural wonder and it became clear between tier six and seven why people give up as we had to wade through knee high and treacherous water from that point onwards.  However, upon reaching tier seven, it was well worth the effort as we saw the waterfall's beginning tumbling over the mountain and 100ft down - a truly awesome sight.  We managed to resist beating our manly chest before descended, after a quick swim stop for Nathan at tier 3, and lapping up our well earned free dinner.

We drove for another hour through beautiful scenery flanked by jutting, forested mountains to our next stop - The Hellfire Pass.  The Pass is another section of the Burma-Thailand railway in which undernourished allied prisoners of war were forced to work 18 hours a day under torturous conditions and with basic tools to cut a way through a large expanse of rock.  Over 80000 POWs and forced Asian workers died during the construction of the railway and the Pass and nearby museum provided another informative if sobering stop.

We drove again to nearby Krae Saw Cave which contains a Buddha but didn't impressed me as much as Wookie Hole!  However it did offer awesome views of the river and surrounding before we boarded the train down the original railway back to the Bridge and ultimately the Sugar Cane in time to freshen up and head to a local bar run by a Nuneaton ex pat and watched the Villa limp to a tepid draw against Wolves.  Despite this it had been a great day and we would reluctantly leave our raft house the following day and head East to the city of Ayutthaya.
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smartle on

Hello Hazza,

Loving reading your blogs! You're a really great writer...keep em coming! x

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