(Day 264 to 267)
11.08.2010 - 14.08.2010 37 °C
The Bridge over the River Kwai
Two and half hours from Bangkok by train got us to the peaceful town of Kanchanaburi where we would see the renowned Bridge over the River Kwai. It’s the town’s main attraction, along with many war museums and well kept cemeteries. Although it is known to be slightly disappointing, we decided to come and see for ourselves and take a trip along the Death Railroad.
We stayed on the River Kwai itself, our room being situated on a platform on the river and feeling the rocking movement of the ‘waves’ every time a (Karaoke) motor boat went past!
Our first (rainy) afternoon was spent at the “Thailand-Burma Railway Centre” Museum. It gave an impartial description of events around the building of the bridge and the Death Railway during World War 2. The amount of deaths caused through the building of the railway (almost impenetrable terrain, harsh conditions, illness) amounts to 38 per kilometre – over 415 kilometres from Thailand to Burma! All mainly Prisoners of War and Asian labourers, under Japanese occupation.
This informative visit would help us appreciate the trip when we took the journey by train ourselves for part of the way. We took the train over the legendary bridge and followed some beautiful scenery till the end of the line and back again to Kanchanaburi. It was a long but relaxing day on the train which we thought we just had to do.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Cub
Our third and last day was spent at the controversial Tiger Temple which is a Buddhist temple. According to the abbot and others associated with the temple, in 1999, the temple received the first tiger cub, it had been found by villagers and died soon after. The story goes that several tiger cubs were later given to the temple over time, typically when the mothers had been killed by poachers, others who wanted to get rid of their tiger "pets" or those were under pressure to do so as laws and policies surrounding the keeping of protected species became stricter.
Now they have many tigers of all ages and it’s open to the public. Unfortunately there’re many stories around about animal abuse, drugging of the tigers so they don’t hurt the tourists and so on. Although we went in with eyes wide open, we saw none of the alleged abuse (I – Martin – had done a lot of research online before deciding to go and read a few blogs by volunteers of the temple who said the stories were not true.) They didn’t look drugged to us, they are cats and cats sleep many hours during the day. And if they’re really were drugged it’s a true miracle how they jumped and played in the last part of our day with them.
We arrived when the gates opened and were allowed to stroke the larger, older tigers before walking them down to the canyon where more photos could be take as well as watching the older adults being let free and play in the water with each other with so much energy for about an hour.
The highlight was to be our 45min of one-on-one attention with the cute, fuzzy, playful 2 month old cubs. The most incredible experience. We played with them, cuddled them and fed them milk all the while being bitten gently, having leftover milk splashed on our clothes and being used as human jungle gyms. Unforgettable. We both agree that this experience is going onto the ever-growing list, as one of the many highlights of our trip.