Kan of Chang Beery, please
Kanchanaburi Travel Blog› entry 77 of 113 › view all entries
October 30th, 2008 – by: afredrix
The area's historical significance attracts a steady flow of tourists. During World War II, Allied POWs were forced by the Japanese to pave the way for the Thai-Burma railway. This meant cutting through bamboo jungles, solid rock and hauling it off without the help of machines. The soldiers completed a 5-year project in the span of 16 months. As a result, nearly 100,000 of them lost their lives during work on the Death Railway, as it came to be known.
It took us awhile, but we eventually became some of those visitors. Multiple days passed that began and ended with the statement, "We should really go see some of these sights." Until finally the evening came where we booked a tour and were left without a choice.
A minibus took us and a handful of other tourists on a predetermined path. We started our day admiring the seven tiers of Erawan Falls; hiking a path along the spilling waterfall and stopping at each tier to jump in its pools. The scenery was gorgeous, the water was agreeable and the fish were biting! Within seconds of submersion, every fleck of dead or otherwise deliciously deemed bit of skin was breakfast for a school of tiny silver fish.
From there, we went to Hellfire Pass (named for the shadows projected onto the wall as workers slaved away in the firelight) and followed the path of the old railway. An audio recording of the history and personal soldiers' accounts relayed the story as we walked. As the majority of the war prisoners here had been Australian, the boys were especially interested and informed.
After a special stop-off to see some monkeys on the side of the road (and thereby completing my list of life desires) we ended the day with a ride on the remaining section of the railway.
Kanchan and the Jolly Frog guesthouse swallowed us in their placidity. It was a place you didn't really bother with makeup and passage of time was irrelevant. You slept away the heat of the morning, and unintentionally stayed up til the wee hours of the night. We inspected the local drinking holes and instigated pool tournaments for the entire bar. Or stocked up at 7-eleven and carried the party to the table of locals out front or river pier by our guesthouse. We survived the days' heat with dips in a nearby pool, and played BINGO afterwards with the owners.
It was also at this time that the world and I learned who the next American president would be. I woke on the 4th with butterflies in my stomach, closely followed by anticlimactic disappointment at the realization that the 12-hour time difference meant I'd have to wait until the following day. I slept like a kid on Christmas Eve. Waking every hour in hopes that Santa had come and left me a shiny, red-ribboned Obama in his wake.
The morning of the 5th revealed that Santa -- and the American people -- came through and made me one very happy camper. It was the first time on my trip I would have loved to be surrounded by Americans, but they weren't to be found. In this remote destination, I had met plenty of French, Finnish and Thais, but came up short-handed with other Yanks.
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