National Geographic Photo of the Day

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Kingdom of Thailand – Day 7 (June 20th 2009)

After breakfast, we left early with our guide – a woman named Oey (pronounced Oi) who kept talking a lot (good for me) in a minivan to Kanchanaburi province. Stopped at a store attached to a gas station for breakfast. Got some Fanta strawberry (Damn, why isn't this kinda stuff available in India) that was verrrrrry tasty. Here they add a lot of ice to drinks (hence decreasing the volume of the actual drink) just like they do at Mcdonalds, KFC, Domino's etc in India. But, the difference here is that you can ask them not to put any ice in and they'll leave the ice out and fill the glass right up with juice. Now that's the way they should do it. Shame on our retailers who so cheaply fill half a glass when we say “No ice please”.

Oi showed us some huge homes as we went past them on the highway and told us that a foreigner can't buy a home without marrying a Thai first. Also, to marry a Thai woman, the foreign man must earn atleast 40,000 Baht a month. Looking at me, she said “next time you come... I find nice Thai girl for you... very beautiful... then you can buy house”. I'm considering the offer ;-)

Our first stop was the War Cemetery. Here lie the graves of thousands of soldiers – of all ages, some as young as 20 – who died in WW2, fighting the Japanese forces and several of them being subjected to brutality in captivity, being forced to labour endlessly to build the infamous Japanese railway line – part of which is the famous “Bridge over the River Kwai” immortalised in movies. 115,000 soldiers and civilians died on just this railway line. 11 Indian soldiers are also honoured in this cemetery.

Next stop – the Jeath war museum (each letter of Jeath stands for a country / area of the world from where the soldiers came). War memorabilia of all kinds, as well as an exhibition of Thailand's past wars and great leaders and how Thailand was formed from the Khmer. Got friendly with an Iguana here, for the biologically–challenged its a big lizard 'nuff said. The lower section of the war museum displays Japanese articles – the bikes, airplanes, weapons, bombs that fell here, and the railway carriages used to imprison the POWs in harsh conditions.

Finally saw the remnants of the actual bridge on the River Kwai (shown above). It was destroyed by aerial bombardment and all that stands is a bit of it on the banks at one end. To think that so many died for this. Saw a few Japanese tourists there too, wonder what they would have thought about the handiwork of their ancestors.

After that we visited the new bridge (above) over the river Kwai which is actually a railway bridge. They let you walk across the structure though. But you have to be careful, slip anywhere and you'll fall into the river several metres below. Mum and my aunt decided to stay back at one end while me and Dad took a walk. Followed that up with buying a few silk shirts from nearby shops. At 11.20pm there was a train departing from the bridge's stop. The ride on this train is recommended for any tourist. It goes across the bridge and then passes through lands filled with greenery and mountains. The view out of the window is simply beautiful. A 1 hour + ride later we alighted at a quaint little station. A short walk found us at a restaurant where a sumptuous buffet was laid out, the building was made of bamboo, and the view from near the restaurant included a river flowing around a bend and a mountain in the background - the kinda stuff (apart from the killing) you'd have seen in “John Rambo”.

Yes, they did arrest me... j/k..

Once we were done with lunch, our guide told us that the car was waiting for us at the station we'd got down at. So we took off once more on road, this time to the Tiger Temple a good distance away.

Some of you would have heard about this place on National Geographic or the Discovery Channel. Its a monastery for Buddhist monks, where they take care of a number of animals like goats, pigs, buffaloes, deer..... and Tigers. The cats aren't drugged or anything, if that's what you're thinking. As part of tradition at this “temple”, the monks rear the tigers by hand from birth. So they're less ferocious than they would otherwise be and can be trusted around people. There are lots of tigers here, from small cubs to huge full grown tigers. A number of people volunteer here to help the monks look after the tigers. There was even this little tiger who'd run around a tree (under supervision of his monk master of course) looking at tourists as if he was a little cat ready to pounce on them. And I took plenty of photos with all these cats. Not like you get too many such opportunities coming your way every day now.

From the tiger temple, we headed back to Bangkok. The ride back was a long one, more than 2 hours. Heard the driver use the horn once during the trip (this must be the first time I'm hearing the sound of a horn in Bangkok).

Dad and I got down at Wongwian Yai (a Skytrain station) while the other two went back to the hotel. From Wongwian Yai, we took the train to National Stadium. You guessed it, MBK again!!! More tech shopping followed. More pen drives, one Panasonic HDD camera with a 50x optical zoom and 60gb worth of HDD space, and an Olympus camera with a 20x optical zoom and 10.7mp from Powerbuy. Got back to the hotel late after that.


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