Bridge over the River Kwai

Trip Start Sep 01, 2010
Trip End Jun 18, 2011

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Sunday, March 27, 2011

So today was another early start…5am to be precise! We have signed ourselves up to a day tour visiting the bridge over the River Kwai and Death Railway. The only thing that we know about the River Kwai is that there is a film about it, so late last night we sat down with good old Wikipedia and learnt some more about it. During World War 2, the Japanese used prisoners of war and civilians to build a railway between Thailand and Burma: over 90,000 labourers and 16,000 POWs died during the construction on the railway (now known as the Death Railway). The living conditions of the people involved were horrific and many people died because of malnutrition, torture, malaria and other tropical diseases. The construction of the railway and bridge is now counted as a war crime. Over 6000 British officials died during its construction: we decided it was right to visit the railway to pay our respects and learn some more about its history.

It is starting to become a bit of a pattern with tour companies in Asia…but yet again this one was so unorgainsed. We got picked up at 6am and then drove around Bangkok for the next hour and a half picking other people up and then swapping them over with other mini-buses- it was like a shuttle bus shuffle. I don't know why but tour operators in Asia cannot orgainse a day trip for anything: it is like they go around the city randomly picking people up and then when they have got about 100 people or so they pull over at the side of the road and say "okay so where does everyone want to go today?"and then they start figuring out which minibus everyone should go on from there. I swear that most people around here are just winging it on a daily basis. Once we had figured out we were on the right bus we settled down and caught up on some sleep for a few hours while we drove for 2 hours to our first stop of the day. On our tour were 3 British guys from London: I think they were about 18 and it was like traveling with the cast of The Inbetweeners. They were so funny (without meaning to be, they just thought they were cool) and spent all morning talking big about the girls they’d pulled the night before, moaning about their hangovers, reminiscing about their teachers at school and giggling at some episodes of South Park they were huddled around watching on their phones. We ended up eating lunch with them just because they made us laugh so much!

Our first stop of the day was a war cemetery which houses some of the POWs who dies building the bridge and railway. As we pulled up in the mini-bus we were met by Eddie, our tour guide for the day. Considering the nature of the tour we were on, Eddie didn’t really seem like the most appropriate tour guide: he was the campest, loudest, brashest Thai man imaginable and spent most of the day ripping the piss out of the London boys by asking how many Thai Ladyboys they had been with. It was also a bit strange having such a brash tour guide especially because he got very excited when he told us where all the British soldiers were laid to rest in the cemetery. But he was harmless enough, just a little bit over-excited. We spent about 20 minutes looking around the cemetery before we got back in the bus: it is difficult to explain how it felt walking around the burial grounds. Even though you are there with the best of intentions, you can’t help but feel like you are trespassing or gawping at people’s gravestones. It was a very uncomfortable start to the day.

Afterwards we drove around to the bridge over the River Kwai, but first we stopped at the Death Railway Museum to learn a bit more before we actually got to the bridge. Now I say it was a museum but it was actually more like walking into one of the houses that you see on documentaries about old people who horde 20 years worth of newspapers and stack them in their living rooms. Imagine a house full of old crap, then add in a couple of paper-mache Nazi mannequins, a giant iguana, a full-sized Japanese steam locomotive and a £4 entry charge and you’re someway to imagining the JEATH Museum. Most of the stuff in there was broken beyond recognition and nothing had any descriptions on them… so all in all it was a pretty rubbish museum. Afterwards we walked around the corner to the bridge. On the way we saw two guys with a tiger… like you do! They had the tiger on a little platform and basically you could pay to cuddle and have your photo taken with the tiger. The poor animal was drugged off its face, its eyes were rolling around its head and it couldn’t even stand up: every time anyone wanted to have their photo taken with it, the two men would literally have to pick it up and lie it down across the person’s chest and shoulders because it was pretty much like holding a dead animal. It was absolutely disgusting; I really hope that one day the tiger breaks free and eats them both for its breakfast.  

Seeing the bridge over the River Kwai was a very strange experience because it was like visiting a little Disneyland. I’d expected the atmosphere to be peaceful and respectful but it was more like being at a theme park: the Black Eyed Peas were being played, you could buy hotdogs and popcorn, people were posing for funny photos right in front of the commemoration plaque, you could buy 'I rode the Death Railway’ t-shirts and hats. It was just so weird. Even though the bridge is still used by 3 trains a day you can walk across the bridge, so despite feeling like I was doing something massively disrespectful, we decided to walk across the bridge. To be honest it wasn’t a nice experience. There were hundreds of people walking over the bridge and about half way across we had to go to one of the safety ledges because a train started coming across the bridge. The surroundings were absolutely beautiful and we stayed for about half an hour before we had to get back on the bus.

Next we were going for our lunch, but before we did we had to drop off some people at a local elephant sanctuary because they were going elephant trekking for the afternoon. We are going to do an elephant trek when we get to northern Thailand and I’m quite glad that we didn’t go to this one: the elephants looked really tired and hard done by and there were a couple of psychotic monkeys chained up in the corner of the yard. One of the women from the sanctuary walked past the monkeys and they actually did a flying kick at her (just like in the Karate Kid)! Afterwards we went for a really nice lunch with the London guys and then headed out to spend a few hours at a local waterfall. After we had enjoyed relaxing at the waterfall for a while we got back on the bus and went to a local train station. The next part of our day was to ride the Death Railway on a traditional locomotive. We were on the train for about an hour and the scenery was absolutely incredible. There is one part of the journey where the railway goes around a really tight corner and you get a full view of the jungle and river below you. The train was an old-fashioned one where you can put the windows down so we were very happy to be sticking our heads out of the windows as we went along.

Back on the mini-bus it was time to head back to Bangkok. The drive was incredibly long and it felt like we were in there for hours on end. When we got back to Bangkok even the driver was tired…so much so that he couldn’t even be bothered to take us all back to our accommodation and just dumped us all on the edge of the bypass near Khoa San road and told us to walk back the rest of the way! It was only a 5 minute walk so we decided to visit the veggie café one last time and enjoyed another round of curry noodles and tofu. Back at the room we were both so exhausted that we couldn’t even keep our eyes open anymore. However tonight was our last night in Bangkok and we couldn’t leave without going for a drink on the infamous Khoa San road. One of the reasons why Bangkok is so infamous is that they serve a drink which all the tourists love to drink when in Thailand… whiskey buckets. Basically you take a bucket (like a big version of a sand-castle bucket) fill it with a bottle of Thai whiskey, red bull, coke and ice and then add a couple of straws. The red bull over here isn’t like the red bull back home: it comes in a medicine vial, is more like a cough-syrup than a drink and is about 3 times stronger than at home. They put 2 bottles of it into one bucket and it is  the same as drinking 6 cans of red bull back home.  We couldn’t miss the chance to try a Thai bucket so we dragged ourselves out of bed and went down to Khoa San for a drink. Neither of us really felt up to going out because we were so tired and we only wanted to try one bucket just to say that we had done it. Well one bucket became many buckets and by the end of the night I wasn’t drunk so much as physically blind from the stuff. It was really weird, because I didn’t feel drunk but I just literally couldn’t see anything. At one point Tom asked me if I could see a sign for the toilet and I had to tell him that I couldn’t even see him anymore! It was a great night and we had such a giggle laughing at all the drunk people stumbling down the road (yes I know we were drunk too but that’s not the point). Considering that neither of us really wanted to come to Bangkok we’ve had a brilliant time here- it has been a great start to our travels again and there is nothing like 3 buckets of Thai whiskey and redbull to blow away the cobwebs…and your eyesight!
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rach on

had a good laugh at this one !! are you sure your guide 4 the day wasnt a ladyboy ?!?! and ninja monkeys pmsl !!!! bet your head was sore after your whiskey buckets !!! could you keep them for chuckin up in later ??? and after reading all this just kept thinking to myself ............................. did you get a watch for dad ?????? lol xx

rach on

i didnt laugh at the serous stuff !!!!!

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