|A stop along the way|
|The Death Railway|
After the museum, I walked across the trestle. During the war, it was bombed several times, last time being in November 1944, after which it was rebuilt till after the war. Today, the railroad no longer connects to the Burma (Myanmar) rail system due to the instability of the region. Instead, the train stops about 10 km from the border. Later in the morning, we boarded the train at Kanchanaburi heading west. It was a regular train (all 3rd class) with two cars reserved for tours. Especially interesting along our 1 ½ hour ride was the long wooden causeway along the Kwai Noi River. The other interesting part was the number of sellers who came through selling just about everything, from food products (I brought some fried tapioca) to t-shirts and hats.
|Timbered causeway along the river|
We ate a late lunch (it was nearly 2 PM when we got off the train. Afterwards, I’d signed up for a tour to the Hellpass Gap area, where POWs and civilian forced laborers dug a cut through solid rock without the use of dynamite. But somehow, I ended up with another group that got to float on a bamboo raft along the Kwai Noi River and then ride elephants. The rafting wasn’t a big deal; I’d seen better rafts made by Boy Scouts floating on the Cape Fear River. As for the elephant ride, I felt guilty riding the beast and the only thing I could think of after I got done with bouncing around on top is that Hannibal was a damn fool to try to invade Rome with those beast.
|Footbridge seen during rafting trip|
Had there been a banjo player up there, I'd been worried!
|Yep, that's me...|
The group I was with was mostly Irish (from the North and the Republic) and they knew how to party. But I was tired and decided to head to bed with the plan of waking up early and writing. Several times I woke up in the middle of the night with the Irish singing and dancing (the last time was around 3 AM). I couldn’t believe it when they were up and ready to head out the next morning at 8 AM (they were up but not exactly social). I was up early the next morning, but wasn’t able to write very long as the power had gone out during the night (which also meant the toast for breakfast was just plain bread). Instead, I did sit out and observe the river. When it was raining hard, the sounds of the jungle were silenced by the patter of rain on tin, but when the rain let up, you could hear the jungle, the insects and monkeys as well as the drumming from a Buddhist temple that wasn’t far away.
|Morning, between showers, on the Kwai Noi River|
|A monkey at the falls|
The next day we went to Erawan National Park, home of Erawan Falls, a 1500 meter waterfall that cascades down the mountainside. There are seven main drops along the way, each with a pool at the end. The climb to the top is steep and over 2.5 km long. I hiked with the only other American in the group of 30 of us (three vans), a woman graduate student from George Washington University. I didn’t write down her name and have forgotten. We had interesting conversations about school, religion (she’s Jewish) and travel. She is on a four month trip that started in New Zealand and Australia, and will take on to Nepal and to Israel. The falls were spectacular with the top falls probably being the best. We came down to the third falls where I went swimming. She started too, but decided not to when she realized the minnows in the water would nibble at your feet (later, in Cambodia, there were places advertising “fish massages” where you paid to put your feet into water and have fish “eat the dead skin off.” I figured I didn’t have to pay any extra for my “massage.”
After everyone got down from the waterfalls, the mood was rather somber as one of the Irish girls had her passport, ipod, money and credit cards stolen from her backpack while swimming. She was with three other girls and had travel insurance, but it was still going to be a hassle getting a new passport and making a claim. However, I was pleasant surprised with her character as several folks in the van were encouraging her to “inflate her claim,” and to say that her ipod was really and ipad and instead of a couple hundred pounds that she had 500 pounds (the maximum cash the insurance policy would pay). She keep saying no and finally she told the group that maybe there was something to this Buddhist karma thing and that bad things happen to those who are not honest! After lunch, I sat beside her in the van (for the five hour ride back to Bangkok) and we talked a bit. She is a pharmacy student, having one more year to study and on a four week trip with friends. Before lunch, using one of her friend’s phones, she already had her credit cards cancelled and a new one being sent as well as money from her parents being wired, so she felt she was going to be okay.
I got back to Bangkok at 7 PM and checked back in at Sam’s Lodge. I went out and had a bowl of Chicken Noodles at a sidewalk café, then called it an early night, for I was going to have to be up early again to catch the train to the Cambodian border.
|The third cascade of the falls|