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Colin and Sue’s Travel Diary

Wednesday, 09 May 2007

Location: Kanchanaburi, Thailand

MapAnother birthday (Colin is 49) and more travels. We moved on from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi - home to the infamous Bridge over the River Kwai. It's quite strange that something which caused so much misery and suffering should now be a tourist attaction surrounded by restaurants and stalls selling the usual tourist stuff. We hadn't realised that the majority of the Death Railway was in Thailand rather than Burma or indeed that Thailand declared war on the Allies. The town is near the mountains which form the border with Burma so is quite scenic and the locals offer a range of tours including railway based trips, waterfalls, rafting, elephants and a Tiger Temple where you can have your photo taken stroking a tiger. We weren't convinced of the ethics of the last one so gave it a miss.

We have added to our modes of transport here in Thailand - first of all the sleeper train and then on arrival in Kanchanaburi we got a bicycle rickshaw - we wanted to take two but the guy was determined to take us so we paid him what he asked (about double the going rate) so he was happy although we were a bit concerned about all the weight - something like 170kg with us and our packs. But he had Tour de France-like calf muscles and fortunately it's fairly flat in town so we made it. We also caught our first moter scooter taxis - one each this time - quite safe but of course no helmets. Probably safer than us hiring them - at least the drivers know what they're doing.

We started off staying in a very picturesque riverside house on stilts - unfortunately it was better from the outside - it was above a swamp so there were lots of mosquitos, the room was really dingy inside and we heard animals (rats?) scrabbling in the roof space. So we moved to the solid concrete Ploy Guesthouse - described by one website as "flashpacker" - so that's us! The bedroom had big windows overlooking our tiny private garden so was really light which is a real rarity here and the bathroom was open air with the loo and basin under cover and the shower outside by the garden - very nice in the morning sunshine.

We walked to the bridge and walked over along the tracks - we also stood by as a train crossed the bridge - there are lots of platforms to stand on so no danger of being run over. The bridge was bombed during the war and later rebuilt but some parts are still original. We also visited the Thailand Burma Railway Centre which tells the story of the railway and the PoWs and is very moving. We hadn't realised that in addition to the PoWs thousands of forced laboures from Malaysia, Burma, Thailand and Indonesia died. The neighbouring Allied War Cemetery is beautifully kept.

On a lighter note we spent the day at Erewan Waterfalls - having a very hot walk to the top and then I swam in one of the pools which was lovely despite the nibbling fish. Colin declined to swim as he was under attack by mosquitos and not didn't want to show them any more bare skin. We also went on a great elephant trip - first riding and then bathing the elephant. It was great fun - as well as riding in the seat, we sat in the mahout's place on the elephant's neck (the mahout walked) which was a very strange sensation. But the bathing was the best - the elephant just sank beneath you as you held on to the neck rope and then struggled to get back on. Our driver was accompanied by two girls who came along for the ride and they were obviously very amused by the mad tourists. We've uploaded a video but haven't been able to view it at any internet cafes.

We had two very good meals at the Apple Restaurant and signed up for a morning's cookery course with them. There were 5 of us plus Micky our man/woman possibly transvestite tutor. We started in the market and then went to a very well equipped open air kitchen where we cooked and ate tom yam soup, coconut milk soup, pad thai and green, red and Massaman curries. They were really delicious and we all ate far too much. Much easier cooking when someone else chops all the ingredients and does the washing up! Our only slight complaint was that the main flavouring of the meals was tom yam paste or the relevant curry paste rather than the base ingredients - but we probably can get them all at home.