Or the story of how I got brave on the back of a scooter
15.04.2011 34 °C
The best way to see the sights around Kanchanaburi is by scooter: most sites are outside of the city and the distances between them are reasonable. So we decided to rent one (Gege got an international drivers license before we left) and I had the dubious pleasure of taking the backseat. Now, for all of you who have never been on the back of a scooter doing 40 to 50 km/h before: it’s terrifying, ok? Especially since Gege hadn’t driven a scooter in quite some time, so it was all a little wobbly in the beginning. We got the hang of it during the day, though, and before lunch, I was filming from the back of the scooter 0_0.
Link to YouTube.
First stop was Tham Khao Poon, a cave wat. It was quite narrow and small and all, but thankfully my claustrophobia didn’t really bother me. Probably because the narrow parts were short and followed by big caves.
The Buddha images didn’t impress us much; for one because they are not spectacular to begin with, but also, because we’ve seen so many Buddha’s by now, they just make us eye roll. The caves themselves more than made up for it though. There were huge stalagmites and stalactites and we even saw some bats. Apart from that, the humidity inside must have been nearing 100% and it wasn’t so deep that it was actually cool, so we were quite sweaty and panting by the time we climbed back out.
There was supposed to be a mountain Wat not too far from the caves, so we tried our best to navigate that way. We had a map – that didn’t quite show all the roads correctly - but the signposts are either in Thai or not very clear, so in the end, we missed it. After a long drive we passed them, but never found the entrance. We did find Wat Ban Tham on our way and tried to get a picture of the stairs that go up the mountain. It’s a huge dragon, coming down the mountain and the stairs eventually lead into its mouth and through its body, up into the Wat. It looked a little Chinese to be honest, but that’s possibly simply because I associate dragons with China.
On our long way back down – looking for the boat restaurants – we missed our exit and landed square in front of the Thailand-Burma Railway Centre. It was signposted far les exuberantly than the Mea Klong Dam we crossed to get here, but – as it turned out – far more impressive.
The Thailand-Burma Railway Centre is a museum about the thing that made this area infamous: the Death Railway. If that doesn’t ring a bell, it’s the railway that runs over the bridge over the river Kwai (pronounce the ai like ua in square, not the way the movie taught you, they fucked it up there). The museum is very well done and has lots of information about the PoW’s, the camps and the railway. In short, they worked too long, in terrible circumstances, with little or no food and slept in sickness ridden camps. But what made it most impressive to me, was the possessions and letters they showed of the PoW’s. I find it hard to describe the gut wrenching feeling you get when you read a letter PoW this-and-that received from his 4-year old daughter in which she explains that she’s been very brave, because she’s lost a tooth and didn’t even cry. And then asks ‘What are you doing, daddy? I thought and thought about it. What are you doing?’. The last sentence on the display was that the PoW died of beriberi two weeks after receiving this letter.
I spent quite some time in the museum and because we couldn’t find the boat restaurants in the end, we had a very late lunch, 16.12 h. late. We figured we couldn’t leave here without seeing the bridge over the river Kwai. Not because it’s that impressive, it’s a bridge, after all. But because it’s so famous. It was mostly a ‘we are here now, let’s go and see it’ kind of deal. Well, it was indeed unimpressive and full of tourists, but we have seen it, walked on it, even.
Back at the hostel we met a nice couple, she was from Spain, he from Columbia, both studying in London. And we revisited the night market with them. We left them there to enjoy it, but for us the bus to Erawan National Park would leave at 8 the next morning, so we wanted to get some sleep.