Kanchanburi and Bangkok Take 2

September 9, 2009 - Kanchanaburi, Thailand

A sudden rise in internet usage costs and the frenetic pace of life in Japan has meant that once again I am behind on the blog. In addition, hygiene standards have kept me up and on the move, with little time spent actually in the hostels. The Kanchanaburi pictures have been up for ages, but alas, no journal entry has been made in weeks. I'll try to rectify the situation now, but I will have to be quick, because my money will run out in 20 minutes and the people waiting for the computer will all hate me in 10...

Kanchanaburi, my next stop after Chiang Mai was a surprisingly quiet and relatively dusty place. Having only one night there, I began with a whirlwind bike tour around the city, which included some of the POW war memorial cemetries, a rather sinister buddhist temple in a cave (not all that good - and temples have to be really outstanding now) and a visit to the monkey school. The cemetries speak for themselves really, but the monkey school was rather different. It's home to variety of homeless monkeys (many were kept as pets but then found to be too much for the owner) and some that are owned by Thai farmers. The monkeys that are young enough undergo a rigorous training programme which involves various tricks to show tourists (who are also a main source of income) and also lessons in coconut picking. Graduate monkeys go to work on coconut plantations where they can pick cococuts at something like twice the rate of a human apparently. As the only visiter on site, I received a private tour and personalised monkey display, including a 'slam-dunks only' basketball game (I took part, but the hoop didn't go too high, so it was quite easy).

The following day, I took a tour of both the 7-tiered waterfalls in the Erawan national park (a rather strenuous morning climb through the rainforest) and sites along the death railway, including the famous bridge over the River Kwae and HellFire Pass. HellFire pass is a long gorge that was cut by hand, so named because if its appearance at night when lit by the POWs' torches. The place is notiorious as being one of the most difficult, brutal sections of the line and is now remembered with a small memorial and an excellent museum.

Later that night, I took a sooped-up minibus back to Bangkok. It was probably 15 years old, but ran ran on LPG (which I didn't think was really a high performance fuel) and had a minimum speed of 70mph; fortunately I was in the front so had a seatbelt and survived the journey. Beginning where I had left off in Bangkok, I visted the barge museum the next morning and then explored Chinatown (with limited enthusiasm because I have seen more of China than Thailand) and the modern flashy area, where there are mostly just shops but lots of good, cheap food. Finally, a ride through the monsoon to the airport saw me leaving Thailand for Tokyo.




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