Today we were once again going to be picked up early, as we were off to Kanchanaburi on a bit of a tour of the Death Railway and the Bridge over the River Kwai! To be fair rounding up everyone before we set off was almost like a tour of Bangkok in itself as we seemed to be heading here, there and just about everywhere. We raced round and round the city picking people up along the way until our little charabanc was full whereupon we were transported to yet another minibus!!!
The driver of the new van was a young fellow and after experiencing his driving style first hand, it was my considered opinion that he had a grudge against life such that he wanted to end it all and take us all with him at the same time! We should have realised our driver’s somewhat fragile frame of mind by the tee shirt that he was wearing. It showed a somewhat dishevelled Mini Mouse having her photo taken whilst being arrested saying ‘Who gives a Fcuk? These were signs that not all was well with this young fellow. As most people do over here in Thailand, he drove at breakneck speed so nothing out of the ordinary there then, as well as overtaking he also started undertaking as well. Then lastly he used a manoeuvre that took us all by surprise, at red lights where there was a petrol station he would cut through the petrol station and rejoin the traffic flow on the side which was on ‘green’!
Well we reached Kanchanaburi in one piece bodily even if our minds had become fragmented or unravelled somewhat and our first port of call here was the War Graves Cemetery – after our journey it was almost far too appropriate for my liking! The cemetery itself was well tended with groundsmen and women all over the place making it look in pristine condition. We went for a wander round the graves of the British soldiers who had died whilst building the railway and their captors, the Japanese but also as we went round we understood there were also many men from Australia, New Zealand, America and the Netherlands as well, it was quite a poignant place. We also read a piece informing us that an estimated 80,000 to 100,000 civilians also died in the project it was quite astounding in a somewhat sad kind of way, I hoped they too had their own memorial to their efforts and injustices.
Then we were called back to the van and managed to hit mach 3 on the way to Jeath museum dedicated to the building of the railway. From the windows of the museum you could see the bridge but there too you could see the last remains of the earlier built wooden bridge too. The museum was interesting but although the story is riveting the way the museum told it was just a little bit disjointed or maybe it was the way I was interpreting it. It just felt a bit like wandering around a junk shop of Japanese war items. The final and possibly strangest items I have ever seen in a museum were the cement statues of various war personalities from each of the sides involved in the conflict. If I live to be 100 I will still have no idea what they had based Churchill’s statue on or the piece underneath that was written about him.
After the museum visit we could then go for a wander about before the train ride so we did as most of the other tourists did and take a few photos on the bridge and then went for a quick snack. The train would take us on a journey on the Death Railway that the prisoners and conscripts had built using the simplest of hand tools through solid rock in some places too. It was quite a strange trip really, on a beautiful day and a very hot one too, on the period piece train, though as it happens it was not actually too dissimilar from the train that had transported us from Ayutthaya to Bangkok.
As we rode along though every now and again my mind wondered to the arduous task that the prisoners had on their hands to build the railway in heat such as we were feeling today, no wonder so many had died of exhaustion, we were worn out just sitting there on the train. Nothing brought it home to me more though than the Wang Po viaduct, the curve between the mountain and the river, a stunning location but the rock looked like granite and the prisoners would have been dropping like flies due to the heat, the cholera and the terrible treatment they experienced at the hands of their captors. It was said that almost everyone who worked on this part of the track died and it was easy to see why.
From arriving at our destination station of Nam Tok we were then whisked off for a spot of lunch which was really nice and by this time we were ready for it, very far removed from what I imagined the poor railway builders would have been eating! Then we were allowed to go and spend some time at the nearby Erawan waterfalls, which was a bit strange, no to be honest it was very strange. We got there and if you can bear in mind that we had brought all our swimming gear and were well up for a bit of a dip, however for this to occur you need two things, dippers (i.e us!) and dippee (i.e water!) and the second part of this equation was nowhere to be seen.
There was only a trickle of water, not enough to wet our toes even so instead we went for a walk to the source of the river and this was even worse because there appeared to be a relative of the Sasquatch playing in the water and he had a tame bird who kept flying over to him for some food, which I assume, he kept in his beard! He was wearing disturbingly very little which was quite off-putting considering we had just eaten so we left them to it.
We trudged back to the starting point of the waterfalls and as if to add insult to injury the heavens opened up and we had to duck under cover. It was absolutely pouring down and with all the water the waterfall would really start to move now but it was no use we could not go and see the falls without getting drenched, now this was not as much of a problem as were the bits of tree and fruit that were falling down from the trees we were cowering under due to the pummelling they were taking, so venturing any further was definitely not to be advised. We did not have to wait very long though before our trusty minivan and untrusty driver arrived to pick us up and take us back to Bangkok. I am sure that you would want to know more about the journey ‘home’ but of it I shall say nothing willingly as I only revisit the event during my darkest nightmares that lay me still and chill me to the marrow (as told in Ye Olde English style).
At night back in Bangkok we had yet more noodles as who knew when we would see our next batch when we changed continent? The place we chose also served up a spot of dim-summery magic so we both partook in this particular piece of edible tomfoolery. I love these meals that you can build up from simple small tasty morsels, dim sums, tapas, finger foods, you know buffet stuff with a bit of extra vroom! The nibbles were lovely and cheap too, my favourite flavour lol, it was a most excellent way to end a lovely day that had tugged on every emotion.