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THAILAND | Monday, 22 August 2011 | Views [526] | Comments [2]

River Khwae from Apple's Restaurant

River Khwae from Apple's Restaurant

1PM Friday - Today dawned grey and a bit gloomy for our last morning in Bangkok. With breakfast out of the way, we repacked our purchases (including my beautiful Thai silk tailor made clothes which were FINALLY delivered to us before a late dinner last night), and checked out of the Grand China Princess. The hotel had arranged a transport for us to Kanchanaburi & we were able to leave shortly before our scheduled departure time of 10am. Once out of the main part of the city of Bangkok, the highrises gave way to much lower apartment blocks and larger, extremely well maintained homes in amongst the comparative slum like apartments & shop houses. Surprisingly though there is a lot of greenery even in these outer suburbs. Not quite sure though where the city ends and the countryside begins. It just seemed to be an almost endless highway of people trying to eke out a living doing and selling whatever they could....and then we were at our destination. Apple's Retreat is out of the way of the busy part of town across the famous River Khwae (pronounced quare not kwy - if it's pronounced kwy the locals will think you're saying "buffalo"). The, even more famous, bridge is about a 2 kilometre walk from here & could be our expedition for this afternoon. We've just devoured a delicious lunch in Apple's Restaurant overlooking the river - pork wontons for Chris, fresh vegetarian spring rolls with tamarind sauce for me, and we both enjoyed a bowl each of Tom Kha Kung, Chris's favourite Thai soup, and touted to be the "best in Thailand".

8PM Friday - So after our delectable lunch we donned our walking shoes/thongs (Chris) and headed off along the local road in the direction of today's sightseeing goal, passing street vendors and restaurants in their early preparations for dinner. The thoroughfares for walking in this part of Thailand are odd creations of semi footpaths, wide pathways & roadside gravel or, indeed, the road itself. Fortunately the traffic is nowhere near the busy, frantic pace of Bangkok so, although you do need to keep aware of the traffic, it's not a constant battle for space. We did decide, of course, to take our walk in the hottest part of the day and, although there was plenty of cloud to keep the temperature of the sun at bay, we figured it was a bit like walking in a sauna...veerrrrry steamy! We could see as we approached the attraction that there were lots of people visiting today, and before we had our first glimpse of the bridge we passed the obligatory stalls selling t-shirts, hats, keyrings, and the list goes on, to the many tourists that pass by each day. Visitors arrive by the bus load on day trips from Bangkok to view "the bridge" and there were still a few hanging around by the time we arrived. After elbowing our way through the touters we managed to get some great shots of Travel Rabbit experiencing this iconic piece of our history. It's possible to walk across the bridge in between trains, and why wouldn't you? On the opposite side of the river is a large temple with a huge standing Buddha image overlooking the river, and some lovely shady very welcome trees moving with a cool breeze off the river......Heading back to the other side we enjoyed a little shopping and bartering for some good prices...fun! Makes you very thirsty though & I craved a coconut...delicious, and refreshing enough to revive for the walk back to Apple's. We didn't quite make it all the way & both of us were pretty wrecked and hot & sticky so we hitched a ride (for 40Baht) with a man on his scooter...with framework and seating attached to the side. The airconditioned comfort of our room was a welcome relief and after cooling off for a bit wandered across the road to enjoy more of Apple & Noi's hospitality...and delicious food...chicken for Chris & tofu for me with cashews and pineapple...yummo...we do love good Thai food. Another busy, full day tomorrow as we explore some more of Australia's history in this beautiful country. 8PM Saturday - Travelling is very tiring! We've had an incredibly long day today. After an early breakfast we loaded into a minivan for our tour of some of the Province of Kanchanaburi. Our first stop after a pretty long drive, or is that long, pretty drive?, was Erawan Falls National Park. After hiking up many steps and clambering over rocks we came to the Falls themselves, a series of 7 waterfalls with beautiful pools beneath for cooling off after more sauna walking! We made it as far up as Level 4 and ventured into the pool there which really was very refreshing, once you got passed the fish that nibbled at you as soon as you entered the water...odd feeling! We had, of course, been led to believe that these fish gently sucked dead skin cells of feet and legs. Yeah right! Nothing gentle about it...these little "suckers" weren't so little and they had TEETH!!! That was about all that we could manage. With me not being much of a swimmer & no opportunity to reach the bottom of the pool with my feet, we clambered out of the water back up over the slippery rocks crowded with others hanging for the hungry fish experience!! Heading back down the to the bottom of the falls we made our way to our lunch spot...Cafe number 6 as directed by our guide for the day, Anne. A deliciously cool coconut was on the cards while deciding what to have for lunch. After another yummy feed of Thai food we hopped back into our transport for the next leg of our adventure...a 1 hour drive to Hellfire Pass, one of the more horrific locations in Australia's history. Over 100000 people died building the Thai-Burma railway under the brutal supervision of the Japanese army during the Second World War, many of them Australian men...very young men. My thoughts as we approached and toured the site were with the lovely Gav, a resident of the aged care facility where I work. He's just turned 91 and was a POW during WW2 and sent by the Japanese from Singapore with 10s of 1000s of our troops to create the railway. I couldn't help but be completely amazed at how anyone could survive such harsh conditions. They must have had strength and tenacity beyond anything I can comprehend! While we were approaching Konyu Cutting (Hellfire Pass itself) it started raining, not the gentle rain that we've been experiencing on & off since arriving in Kanchanaburi, but a torrential tropical deluge. Our troops would have continued digging and shoveling through many similar downpours and if they hadn't would have been beaten & whipped within inches of their lives (and beyond). Gavin and others who survived the horrendous conditions are absolute legends.

10AM Sunday - So from the sad and astonishing Hellfire Pass we travel to a station, surrounded by market stalls selling all and sundry to unsuspecting tourists, to board a train to travel the Death Railway...Just another railway trip? Well pretty much, except this particular 415 kilometres of track, that we travelled just a short distance on, was built by Allied troops in just 20 months, through some of the most difficult terrain and thick jungles in extreme weather conditions, using almost primitive tools. On arrival at the "4th station" we disembarked and boarded our minivan once again. The last stop for the day was "the bridge". The market area surrounding the bridge is much busier on a weekend as many people from Bangkok head out of the city for some R&R. Having already explored this area on Friday we wandered leisurely around the markets until it was time to rejoin our group for the short drive back to Apple's and an early night!



I'm exhausted after reading that!!

  andreagee Aug 22, 2011 3:21 PM


I share your pain, fun but draining.

-2 in Canberra tonight


  Rod Aug 22, 2011 6:43 PM

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