Under The Bridge......Over The River Kwai

Trip Start Jun 15, 2004
Trip End Jun 15, 2005

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Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Tuesday 22nd June 2004
Went on my first organised trip today - though organised in the very loosest sense. Kanchanaburi is the site of the famous Bridge Over The River Kwai, where those nasty Japanese lets thousands of Allied POW's die building their railway to link Burma to Thailand - though of course none of us would know if it were not for the film, and none of us notice that tens times as many Asian people died building the railway - and a minor technical point, the bridge blown up in the film was never on the River Kwai, but since the film was so good, the Thais renamed the river!!!! Anyway, I'll get off my soapbox now and tell you all about it!

We started at the allied graveyards in Kanchanaburi centre - row upon row of British soldiers, dead aged around 32/33 - and I spend my time swanning off round the world at a similar age, then onto a theoretical bamboo raft ride down river - except the poor women trying to row us hadnt the strength, so we were pulled by a motor boat, with its long propeller tail ominously close to the people at the front, but, we got there, but less than inspiring.

Following that was the Erawan waterfalls - you have to go there!! - Fantastic, scenic waterfalls, that go high into the mountain, in seven major steps, and in each you can swim in the crystal blue water - slightly weird feeling when you first get in, as the fish think your lunch and start nibbling you, but once you get into the centre, or underneath the waterfall itself, its sensational! Met loads of people, and then canoed (in a sinking canoe!) across a lake to our night time accomodation - bamboo huts in the trees - no electricity, just fire - very basic, but fantastic - slept under my mosquito net, to be woken by the cockerels at 5.00!

Wednesday 23rd June 2004
As well as millions of mangy dogs, in the countryside, around peoples houses, there are loads of chickens - precisely the same chickens you get bird flu from - thankfully none of them sneezed!

Went onto to Hell Fire Pass, an area of the railway where the Japanese were getting desperate - they needed the railway, and they needed it quickly - so they got POW's and Asian slaves to work 18 hour shifts, blasting through rock and building bridge after bridge - the Australian funded museum there was very good

Went on to see Muang Sang ruins - older than Angor Wat apparently, and whilst impressive, glad I hadnt seen Angor Wat first!

Then caught the train back to Kanchanaburi - at points it felt like the train had peanut shaped wheels, and it literally threw you out of your seat - I was sure we were about to derail, until I looked at the locals, and clearly this was normal - crossed the imfamous bridge, complete with some original parts, and thankfully there were no allied aircraft in the area.

Thursday 24th June 2004
Elephant riding this morning - debated in my own mind whether to actually do this, as a few people had told me they werent treated very well, but also had the option of walking with tigers, who were apparently fed with "Milk Tablets" - lets face it, if you walked with a normal tiger, he would mawl you to death, so I'm glad I didnt do that!

Anyway, decided to go with the elephants, and loved every bit of it - my elephant controller did have a spikey stick, but didnt use it once, and my elephant was a happy elephant - just wandered off to get something to eat, and we went along for the ride - when the controller wanted him to change direction, he simply told him!! - I realised it is the quality of the controller, as I did see one guy hitting his elephant too often - but overall, very enjoyable - and it is the only thing elephants do these days - they are no longer used for anything other than tourists.

Went to a different set of waterfalls in the afternoon - again very impressive and soothing!

Also went to the Jeath Museum - close by the bridge, and tells you all about the bridge etc

Back to Bangkok, and watched the footie until 4.30am - why oh why did I bother????

Friday 25th June 2004
Got up at 1.00, and decided to get some peace from Bangkok, so walked a mile or so to Siam Square, then caught the Skytrain to Lumpini Park - which is a bit like Hyde or Central park, and is so much an oasis of peace in the storm of Bangkok. Got caught out at 6.00 when a whistle was blown, and everybody stopped (err, except me) as the National Anthem was played - I did of course stop when I realised, but I think I'd offended the country by that point!

Very strange to see lots of people doing Tai Chi in the park, and even stranger to see mass aerobics sessions in the park - thousands upon thousands of people jumping up and down to techno Britney!
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