Bridge on the River Kwai

Day 6

As I’m a solo traveller getting to areas out of town can be expensive, so I booked a day mini-bus tour taking in some of the main attractions of the Kanchanburi area. There were only two other people on the tour; some German students, and we were whisked off straight to the Bridge on the River Kwai. Our tour guide’s English accent was so bad you could only understand a quarter of what he was saying!

Tally ho wot wot don’t let the Japs get you down son!

As an attraction it’s boring but still cool to walk along the same place that the Brits slaved over. The place is a tourist trap but we only hung around for ten minutes before continuing to the Sai Yok waterfalls about an hour away. The falls were nice, just one set, but didn’t rate compared to others I’ve seen.

Setting up a tripod on underwater rocks with a broken shoulder is not the easiest of tasks!

Then it was off to Hellfire Pass, up in the hills. This is a section of the wartime railway that had to be manually hacked out of the rock. The conditions were appalling especially when the timeframe for the completion was brought forward and prisoners were working around the clock. Many died and this outdoor museum is an audio tour as you walk through the cuttings and hear first hand interviews with ex-POWs. It’s really well done and amazing to imagine what you are walking through was hacked away by hand and explosive. Some of the stories from the POWs are quite horrible. Further along the railway the jungle opens out to this amazing view over the jungle to the mountains (Burma lies behind these).

The weather was scorching, at least it wasn’t raining as usual! We continued to an elephant centre and had an elephant ride through the jungle including wading through a river. When we were going through the river the second elephant decided it would be fun to have a wash and sprayed mud with its trunk behind it, spattering me completely with chunks of mud. Brilliantly one bit landed smack-bang in the middle of my camera lens!

This elephant’s manhood is the length of my arm.

Next was a short bit of bamboo rafting. You sit on a tiny plank a few centimeters above the water and a guy poles you along the river. Good fun. At this point I was wishing I’d brought my waterproof camera as we slammed into rocks and went through rapids. Oh well, I thought, at least my camera would die happy if the worst happened!

We collected some girls afterwards who had done a jungle trek and stayed overnight in the jungle. They had seen tarantulas and sampled the killer local homebrew whiskey. Then it was off to the “Death Railway”, a stretch of the original WW2 railway which is still in commercial use, over a cool cliffside bridge. As we waited for the train we explored a nearby cave shrine.

Jumped out of the tracks as the train arrived but still failed to get a good photo of it! Then stood on the steps of the doorway to get a great view. There are handles so it’s safe as long as you don’t have a death wish. The train journey took us a few stops through the countryside.

One of the girls from the tour

Then it was back to Kanchanburi. I was determined to try and get some decent golden hour shots of the river piers so, knackered from the day, I got my first motorbike taxi. We bombed through the streets dodging traffic but unfortunately I had shown the wrong place on the map and we ended up at the ferry pier. It seemed interesting so I stayed to check it out. Locals were fishing from the pier and the ferry was just a basic flatbed boat which people and motorbikes piled onto, chugging across the river every few minutes. Unfortunately the poor weather meant there was no good light, but it was nice to experience the place.

I wandered back as it got dark, through a busy food market and picked up some kebab things. I had trouble finding a motorcycle taxi, since then I’ve learned that they always have a numbered top on. Eventually one turned up and the driver, not speaking English, turned off in a wrong direction. I thought I’d wait and see what he was doing as the map I’d shown him was quite clear. Turns out he took me to his taxi rank and handed me over to a driver who spoke English and they split the fares. So sometimes it pays to put faith in your foreign help! Had a restless night thanks to the overwork I’d given my shoulders.

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