A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about sights

The bridge over the river Kwai

Or the story of how I got brave on the back of a scooter

sunny 34 °C
View Orientales on DanaGege's travel map.

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.

Not always very wide

Not always very wide


Or high

Or high

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.

Dragon in the mountain

Dragon in the mountain

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.

Bridge over the river Kwai

Bridge over the river Kwai


Together on the bridge

Together on the bridge

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.

Posted by DanaGege 11:05 Archived in Thailand Tagged the thailand river bridge sights asia over kanchanaburi kwhea Comments (0)

Water, Wats and the National Museum sortof

Or, our first day in Bangkok

sunny 34 °C
View Orientales on DanaGege's travel map.

So, we landed a little after 5 on Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok. To our surprise out backpacks arrived on the luggage belt without trouble, despite the two delays. We had no problems at customs either and so around 6 we emerged onto the sky train platform. Just in time for the first train.

The Bangkok sky train is a modern, air-conditioned metro above ground, above the roads even, hence the name sky train.
A cab took us to our hostel from the nearest train station, but of course – it being 7 in the morning – the room was not ready yet. We were asked to come back around 11:30. So, we dumped our backpacks and decided to visit Wat Prah Kaew.

Wat?
Yes, wat?
No, Wat?
Oh!

A Wat is a Buddhist temple complex (the great majority of the Thai are Buddhists) and school (Buddhist boys still accept monkhood for a short period of time – used to be three months, now it’s around six weeks) in Thailand, Laos or Cambodia. It always consists of the following buildings: chedi (conical or bell-shaped building, containing relics of the Buddha), wihaan (meeting and prayer room), mondop (a usually open, square building with four arches and a pyramidal roof, used to worship religious texts or objects), sala (a pavilion for relaxation or miscellaneous activities), ubosoth (the holiest prayer room, also called the "ordination hall" as it is where new monks take their vows), bibiloteca, drum tower, bell tower and multipurpose hall.

Wat Phra Kaew is … glittery and it was hot, walking around in the glaring sun during the late morning.

Wat Phra Kaew Bell Tower

Wat Phra Kaew Bell Tower


Wat Phra Kaew overview of buildings

Wat Phra Kaew overview of buildings


Wat Phra Kaew Roof Colours

Wat Phra Kaew Roof Colours

So, to cool off, we decided to visit the National Museum, which was supposed to be mostly air-conditioned.

We were happily surprised to find the entrance free, on account of a national holiday, but less happy to hear that only two of the forty rooms were open. The national holiday was the Songkran festival, more about that later. We decided – since we were there and all – to visit one of the open rooms. This turned out to be the temple building (that National Museum is housed in one of the Kings’ old palaces). They had fans, so we sat down to ‘pray to Buddha’ for a bit. Now this comes with instructions: firstly, you must take off your shoes before entering the temple, secondly, do not step on the doorstep (this angers the house spirits) and thirdly, when you sit down, make sure you tuck your feet under you in a way that they are pointing away from the Buddha image. Needless to say, Thai have a thing against feet.
After staring at the golden image for a while (until we cooled down a bit) we wondered around the temple, but most of the murals were – unfortunately – completely indecipherable or, in other words, destroyed.

National Museum Temple

National Museum Temple

It was still too early to go back to the hostel, but too late to do anything useful, so we decided to visit one of the shopping centres - apparently a must-do here. We chose the Emporium shopping centre and – after the cabby drove us around in a very wide circle – were surprised by classical music on the doorstep and a doorman in a white uniform opening the door for us. The shopping centre was entirely what you would expect after that: Prada, Chanel, Louis Vuitton. According to Lonely Planet the food should be as cheap as the bags were expensive and in addition we found a nice supermarket. We acquired some water, fresh pineapple and weird Thai chips, because we’d noticed downstairs that Rio was playing in English in the cinema here and since this is supposed to be an experience in Thailand, we decided to go.

Emporium shopping centre Vuitton

Emporium shopping centre Vuitton

The movie was good, the chips were very weird and the cinema was freezing. They weren’t kidding when they said we’d need pullovers!
We picked up some take-out on our way out (curry with prawns for me, curry with chicken for Gege), which we ate in our hostel after taking a nice, refreshing shower (and a nap for me, I didn’t get to sleep much on the plane and was literally getting sick from lack of sleep).
We are staying in the Sivarin Guesthouse. The staff is very friendly and helpful, our room is spacious, clean and nicely decorated and the shower is fine as well.

We didn’t want to miss the change to see the last day of the Songkran festival, so we went out for an evening walk. Songkran is the Thai New Year. It basically entails getting each other wet, with water pistols, buckets, or even water guns. Take a look for yourself once we have the movie uploaded.

Since both of us were completely knackered, we turned in around 22.00.

Last but not least, if you speak Hungarian, or want to see other pictures, check Gege's blog: http://vandorsun.blog.hu.

Time spent in Asia: 1 day
Number of sights seen: 2 and a bit

Posted by DanaGege 23:35 Archived in Thailand Tagged bangkok sights Comments (2)

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