We just had a terrific three day tour to Kanchanaburi, a three hour drive to the west of Bangkok.
We had a very early start as we were dropped off at a travel agents in the old city at 6 am, which was far too early for our 7 am pick-up! But, if we hadn’t been early we would have missed seeing the monks from a local temple, walking along the street holding large bowls with silver lids, collecting food from the locals all around the block. They walked in single file, bare-footed, and shopkeepers gave them food, as well as passers-by who accosted them on the street. It was fascinating to watch, as we sat on a bench eating our breakfast.
After a two hour drive in a very comfortable air-conditioned minibus, we arrived at the graveyard run by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, of soldiers who had died in Thailand during the Second World War, specifically those who died building the railway. It was beautifully kept and we were surprised by the numbers of Dutch and Australian soldiers buried there too.
From there we went to the famous Bridge over the River Kwai. A visit to the museum first, which was fairly interesting but really needed updating, and then up to the bridge itself. Each sleeper on the railway represents a death, not only of Allied Forces, but also Asian workers drafted in to work too. Then we actually boarded a train and went across the bridge and then onto Thamkrasae, over a spectacular wooden support, again originally built during the war.
After lunch on a floating restaurant, we were driven to the Tiger Temple, a tiger sanctuary run by monks. Apparently, the temple became a place where sick or abandoned tigers were taken, and the monks looked after them. They say that the tigers are used to humans so don’t mind people having their pictures taken with them.
It was a very strange experience. The tigers were all lying down asleep in an enclosure, with one person attending to each one. Then someone led you round holding your hand, whilst another took your camera and took the photos. Some of the tigers were chained, and some were not. It seemed very unnatural that most of the tigers didn’t move, even when their head was lifted onto someone’s lap. It was very hard not to believe that they were drugged, even though the Temple’s pamphlet stated they were not. However, they did all look healthy and cared for.
After this, we walked round further to another enclosure, where there were four awake tigers, playing in the water. This was more natural behaviour, although the water was filthy and they had been given plastic bottles to play with.
The whole place was awash with wild boar, cows and water buffalo! And it needed an injection of cash to bring the standards up. Altogether, it was our least favourite ‘tourist attraction’.
Then we had a quick stop at a local waterfall before returning to the floating restaurant for an early dinner at 530 pm.
After dinner, we travelled by a boat shaped like a long canoe, powered by a speedboat engine, to our accommodation for the next two nights, the floating ‘Kitti Raft’. Thankfully, we had a good group of people with us, which made staying there more bearable. Basic is a good word to describe the Raft. But, and it is a big but, the air conditioning worked beautifully! I think the pictures say it all really – the bonus being that we can say we really are backpackers now!