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Kanchanaburi - the Kwai and the Mersey - a lake, 3 ferries and two bridges

Kanchanaburi - the Kwai and the Mersey - a lake, 3 ferries and two bridges

Old Dec 1st, 2010, 01:29 AM
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Kanchanaburi - the Kwai and the Mersey - a lake, 3 ferries and two bridges

A ferry ‘cross the Mersey, Bridge over the Chaophraya, two more ferries and a Bridge over the River Kwai.

This trip my co-driver was to be “The Scouse” we’d travelled together before; a dyed-in-the-wool Scouser, (a Liverpudlian) this would be our first trip together for about two years, he’d been working in Europe and had come back with enough cash to tide him over for the next few months until the next contract. He’s married and divorced a Thai woman, they are still good friends to this day. She looks after his dog whilst he’s out of the country.....and for a short time they lived in Kanchanaburi, so he’s useful to have around.....or at least that was the theory.

You need to get a quick description of both Liverpool and my friend to understand how he ticks.....

Liverpool was - and still is - a hard place to grow up in.......... (the name “Scouse” comes a particularly meagre mutton stew that was regarded as the stable diet for the impoverished folk of Liverpool),

It’s a town with a tough reputation gained from its tough history.

“Her majesty's poor decayed town of Liverpool”

a description by its own inhabitants.... In a begging letter to QE I, asking for help.......

“Eh! Queenie! lend uz a fiver! - I’ll pay back yer on giro day”

the Liverpudlian appearance and distinctive accent seem to be reflections of the cities past - mix of Celtic/Irish and African heritage.
The city’s black population dates from the early 18th century, and if you look at the stereotypical image of a Scouse - the dark wiry/woolly hair - you can still see the Afro influence everywhere.

By 1851, approximately 25% of the city's population was Irish-born. During the first part of the 20th century, Liverpool was drawing immigrants from across Europe.
Music, culture and language - the Beatles were inevitable in this city, already famous for it’s music....as was crime, although the true figures don’t bear out the city’s reputation for rampant larceny.

Under PM Thatcher, Liverpool maintained it’s tradition of a workforce (often unemployed) unified in its resistance to the oppressive government of the time with a radical left-wing local council. In the 1980s, the Toxteth riots had the dubious privilege of being the first time tear gas was used on UK’s own citizens outside N. Ireland.

So the Scouse is from a “hard-knocks” background and has a simple life philosophy.....

“Eh! dat’s a rip-off!”

It works all ways - if you buy anything, you’ve paid to much and vice-versa if you sell something....it was too cheap.

This was born out in a conversation we once had when I told him I’d bought something (it doesn’t matter what) for B10,000. He misheard and promptly replied

“Eh - you sold dat too cheap!”

I then explained I had BOUGHT it not SOLD it....his immediate reply was

“Eh! - You paid too much for dat den”

With some people you just can’t win.
Negotiation is very difficult with this guy around.

We’ve had trips together end in disaster before, usually over the price of a meal at a local cafe.....

“How mooch? I’m not paying dat!”
in one out-of-the-way place when they kindly produced a translation of the menu in English.....

“I’m not eatin’ here - dere’s no prices on dat menu!”
(the Thai menu was priced fine and I couldn’t see one item over 60 baht.)

We are in fact chalk and cheese.....as he said

“you’re all degrees an’ boooks, (that’s with 3 “o”s) and I’m a hammer an’ nails man, me, I can’t be doin with all dat readin’ an’ writin’ an’ stooff”

So, what’s all this got to do with Kanchanaburi?

Well, apart from the fact that he had lived there for a while, “nott’n”.....nothing much. We just fancied a couple of days out and about 100km North of Kanchanaburi is the Sri Nakarin dam, which we both like and have the occasional hankering to set up some kind of house boat home up there. So we thought we’d check it out as neither of us had been up there for a few years.

So it was my “privilege” to return to this country town with a short and inglorious history of its own, a visitor in the form of a Scouse armed only with a limited intelligence and a smattering of inaccurate knowledge of the events of world war 2.

After duly counting the wheels on the truck (well, you never know with a Scouse about) we set off..........

It’s not a long trip, but it could have been shorter. I have mentioned before but it still is a major bugbear of mine, the road signs around Bangkok - or Thailand in general - are quite appalling and totally inadequate. Even if they are there, they either don’t have any relevant information on them or they point the wrong way.

This time we needed to turn off the Chonburi expressway and onto the Kanchanaphisek Bridge that carries the route 9 ring road the Chaophraya river south of Bkk and leads to all points South and West. The sign we needed - when it eventually came - was “Rama IX Road” which is of no use to man nor beast. Why not “West” or “South” or “Ratchaburi”???? It sounded too local so we missed it.

So we ended up taking a detour towards the Airport and then negotiating a U-turn at the first junction to get back on course - this was also made all the more confusing by a lack of good signing. We could have made a u-turn by off-roading through the central reservation and some road works earlier but that was just a bit too “Thai” for me.

BTW - if you approach the airport from the South on this road (route 34) you will find the signs equally uninformative - no distances and one actually points to a turn-off that isn’t there.

We kept telling ourselves it didn’t matter as we had plenty of time- but one still can’t completely suppress one’s annoyance at the fact that this situation has arisen from the sheer incompetence of the traffic engineers, who seem not to have been informed that the road has been completed and now has traffic on it.

On a brighter side, the bridge over the Chaophraya river is quite dramatic, affording spectacular views of Bangkok. You also drive past an immense statue of a three-headed elephant at Samut Prakan - it marks the Erewan Museum - I must confess I find this huge Hindu imagery somehow rather disconcerting, even grotesque, due I think to its ultra realism, apart from the 3 heads that is! Apparently the fortunate Hindu God had thirty-three but traditionally sculptors have found this a bit too much so the imagery is reduced to three - you have to imagine the others. The elephant itself is nearly 30 metres tall and in addition to that it’s standing on a building too! so quite a tall and impressive structure.

Quite an easy drive on to Kanchanaburi; both my Scouse friend and myself like to stop at the roadside food stalls and see what we can get. So we did a couple of exploratory stops.....noodles at one and rice at another......the owners tend to look rather bemused at first, but the food is always good and really tasty......and cheap.......

“Eh! Thairty baaht, dat’s not bad eh?”

A great thing about driving round Thailand, is that there is always something to eat by the side of the road - I’m not referring to road-kill but the plethora of roadside eateries ranging from a simple noodle stall with a couple of plastic chairs to a beautiful restaurant with palm trees and lights - and none of them will break the bank.

We arrived at Kanchanaburi at about 5 pm and headed straight for the “Jolly Frog” This budget resort/hotel is famous amongst travellers.

Run by (I’m told) a “German/Swiss” woman and her Korean (???) husband - rooms/beds are from about 150 baht - 300 or 450 will get you a double room with fan or air. The place has a great garden that overlooks the river and a “jolly” good restaurant that serves both Western and Thai food.

As we expected, it was full. This was a week-end, but it makes little difference with this place; once the season starts it fills up...don’t bank on getting a room on spec.....it’s possible but not probable. I’m sure you can get in touch on the net via a booking site and book a room - but try as I might, I couldn’t find their own web site with rates booking and contact details.

So........We went next door to the Tamarind - 350 or 450 for a room with fan - I did what I usually do and negotiated the price down from the aircon rate by waiving use of the air-con - and at this time of year, I really wouldn’t use air anyhow - it gets quite chilly at night.

Anything over 350 baht and the Scouse would have started moaning and at 450 he’d have slept in the car....

“Eh! it’s only a bed, I’m not paying dat mooch!”

So the Tamarind it was. Built on the banks of the river with good views from the windows, a pleasant eating area overlooking the river and floating down on the river some more rooms to rent on pontoons. They certainly weren’t offering a full restaurant service, but we had already decided we would go back to the Jolly Frog to eat.

The food at the Jolly frog is unbelievably cheap - and pretty good to boot. We had a lovely Thai supper - Laab phed (duck) and few other dishes. Less than 300 baht for two including my friend’s beers.

We spent the evening people-watching in a few bars. The crowd consisted of a few younger Thai students and the occasional Thai family, although they tend to stay away from the strip that runs down to the railway - it mostly caters for the young “world” tourists and a rather dismal-looking community of expats.

Restaurants, massage parlours and bars lined the road giving visitors the chance to taste, feel and then finally forget about Thailand in a haze of cheap alcohol. We were particularly impressed by one woman who had a makeshift stall on the pavement called..... “Drunk for 10 baht” ...... she was doing a roaring trade selling shots at 10 baht a throw. She seemed to be selling a mixture of those Lao Khao quasi-medicinal herbal infusions, the commercial rice and sugar spirits and normal shots of whiskey and western spirits. Most spirits in Thailand seem to get called “whiskey” anyway regardless of the composition of the original mash.

The crowd consisted mainly of backpackers, flash-packers, geriatric-packers, a few exchange students and some young teachers out for a jolly from Bangkok also the odd middle-aged guy with his young girl from the bars of Pattaya or Nana in tow were milling around. Live music blared from some of the bars...... I love trying to make out the lyrics as sung by the native Thai vocalists...

“Dis wee kee on towin, Pow May keyon berlin,
Lowee, Lowee, lowee dow der liver.”

(“Proud Mary” as sung by a Kanchanaburi journeyman vocalist.)

Amongst the crowd one could also make out the expats. Older than most of the other revelers they were hunched over a bar, sucking deeply on cigarette after cigarette, paunchy with a liver swollen from too much beer or too thin from the kind of drinking that makes eating an unpleasant chore. Kanchanaburi is a small town and there is a relatively large expat community here...too large for the town?......a small town with a disparate group of foreigners with nothing to do but drink. This they do in small groups dotted up and down the street. They seem to keep apart from each other, presumably because old rows and drunken fights prevent them from all socialising in one place too often. Any small town is the same; a lack of real occupation and the surplus of alcohol........and the local sex trade...oh dear, well just as they say a country gets the government it deserves, Kanchanaburi expats got the sex trade they deserve.

“Now you see why we left” - my Scouse friend comments after leaving a group of expats to move to another bar.

We were surprised at how in many ways, very little had changed since our last visits - compared to other tourist attractions, Kanchanaburi seems to have changed little - even the prices of the hotels don’t seem that different from 4 or 5 years back.....certainly the Jolly Frogs rooms and food seemed very cheap.

In fact, the lack of change in Kanchanaburi is a bit spooky; you get a feeling of being in the place time forgot; in 5 years or more, the place has hardly changed. It’s as if time and progress have been frozen here - Albania-style - this is someone’s - or some group’s - own personal fiefdom and the rest of the world - or rather Thailand - is kept out except by invitation or as a tourist.

I couldn’t help but get a strange feeling in Kanchanaburi that it’s all face, with an air of normality, but scratch the surface and it’s a town of dark secrets - and to some extent that is true.There have been some pretty unpleasant incidents there - not to mention the shooting of some tourists by police officer. Rumours abound of murder, family feuds and vendetta.

Nevertheless most visitors to the town will no doubt have a pleasant night out and remain completely oblivious to the “darker side “ of this little country town.

Sri Nakarin Dam
THe next day we wanted to set off quite early for the lake.
I was up first and thought I’d catch up on my internet and a few things - upload some photos etc.
At first I couldn’t connect to the free wi-fi - when the lady of the place showed up I asked if there was a problem as my computer couldn’t find any available wi-fi. She then said she didn’t turn it on before 8 am. This seems a bit strange as I must assume that at some point every evening she turns the wi-fi off - I really can’t see the point in this but I can imagine some visitors getting a bit pissed off that they can’t get in touch with home after a long days rafting or whatever.........

For breakfast it’s usually muesli

Breakfast - instant coffee (dried or condensed milk) - my shrink would have been off to find the real thing..........no Thai food; Khao Tom etc, but Muesli. I guess muesli is probably the most popular breakfast dish in Kanchanaburi went the tourist season is in full swing......

So muesli it was then - no fruit - run out or some such thing and yogurt - oh dear no yogurt either.....never mind - muesli with condensed milk...yummy, and I’d remembered to bring some teat bags - extra strength English tea, strong enough to mask the taste of the condensed milk even!

Anyway it was quite a pleasant breakfast in the end - the Kwae Yai river drifting past, a monitor lizard making it’s way over a bed of lotus pads out on a sandbank, my beloved Mac in front of me,my camera and my Android phone I was surrounded by nature and my favourite electrical gadgets...it doesn’t get much better than that.
It’s one of the great advantages of living here, that I never have to travel light.
My Scouse friend on the other hand, had one small duffle bag ...... and that was only half full. He emerged from his room....
He asked about breakfast and got increasingly shirty at the prospects of eating muesli.....

“Oats are for ‘orses an’ the Scotch” (His words, not mine)

Then he spotted my tea

“Eh, great! tea - is dat tea? where did you get dat?”

“I have have some bags in the car”

“Eh, great can I ‘ave one , I’ll take it down to the Jolly Frog and ‘ave a proper breakfast”

So off he went next door for an “eggs bacon sausage beans and a slice”, and a mug ‘o tea.

So by mid-morning we’d checked out and were on our way.

Sri Nakarin lake is really a large dam about 100 km north of Kanchanaburi - Last time I went there was about 4 years before. The place was stocked with fish, there were a few resorts around the edge and one or two places to rent a houseboat.

The drive up there is quite interesting. I’ve never seen “rock and boulder dealers” anywhere before.......all along the route are these collections of enormous rocks. Shaped by nature rather than by man they have a sculptural beauty all their own. All shapes and sizes, they are displayed along the roadside, so if you see a rock you like, I guess you just go in and buy it........and that’s where your troubles would start.

Some may be small enough to fit in the back of a pickup but others look as if if they would strain the largest of low-loaders - they are enormous like giant abstract Henry Moore or Barbara Hepworth sculptures only carved by nature, (polished by hand?) they are worth a stop if only for a great photo opportunity.

My Scouse friend was only slightly impressed....

“Eh! I could make dem, in concrete and at half the price,”

“So how much are they?” I asked

“I donno, but mine’d be hollow.”

THe rainy season was clearly over here, and the dry weather had already settled in -, the light was bright and the roads were dusty as the car flicked through the shadows of the Acacia trees that lined them.

On getting to the lake you are given a choice; you can either follow the road North along the Eastern edge or catch a ferry which is really a short-cut. The road around the edge is quite new - at least in it’s present metaled form, it makes a scenic windy drive as it clings to the hillsides around the lake. This time though we opted for the ferry - as on the other side was a chap we new with as restaurant.

THe ferry is a “ro-ro” affair......well actually it’s just a couple of pontoons bound together by a platform superstructure. With ramps at both ends there’s no bow or stern in fact it never turns round - there are to bridges and two engines and propellors at either end too.

Somebody loves this ferry - it is freshly painted and two ladies run an Oleang stall on it, the decks are clean and tidy...but the engines, oh the engines......at each end of the vessel are some fairly ordinary Hino truck engines, but they are immaculate - beautiful multi-colored pieces of second-hand engineering; every surface is painted, cleaned or polished - even the if you were completely turned off by all things mechanical I defy you not to gaze and admire these engines. Don’t stand too close though - in typical Thai style, scant regard has been given to public safety, once in motion, prop-shafts, pulleys and belts are all in plain view just waiting to entangle some hapless voyeur who gets a little to involved in this wonderful mechanical spectacle. They reminded me a bit of the love and care that went into the old steam traction engines back in the UK in the late 19th century.

Whilst crossing we got a coffee and sat on the benches along the side of the ferry. It was a great ride only about 20 minutes or so - the water was mirror calm and all around was the panorama of the mountains.

Next to me three people were having a lively conversation in a language I didn’t recognise. I’d already spoken to one of them in Thai, but this was not the language they were using between each other. I asked what it was and was told it was “Karen” that many people in those parts spoke Karen.

On the other bank where you disembark there are a few restaurants on pontoons. We went into one that is run by a guy called “Paul” - a Thai guy with a touch of the DTs........we had some “nuggets” of fried fish that we were assured had come from the lake, or should I say “goujons de Pla Chon”? With a chili dip they were tasty enough. The others customers seemed to comprise largely of a Chinese clan out for some family week-end. Many were dressed in white; I thought it might have been a funeral, but I was told they were merely dressed to go to the Temple.

We hadn’t decided whether or not to stay on the lake that night so we thought we’d check out a couple of places. My Scouse friend knew some people who rented out house boats and I know of a cabin resort on the lakeside.
We found the house boats - they’re not the sort of thing you just sleep on; they have motors and you can take them up and down the hundred kilometres or so of lake. The house boats were there , but unfortunately no sign of any boss or mangers. Across the water you could see the resort I’d stayed at before - in fact nothing much seems to have changed on this lake since my last visit - I think I remembered the cabins were quite dear - about 1200 baht - so that counted them out for my Scouse friend....

“Eh! I’ll sleep in the f****in’ car at dat price.”

The road to Nowhere

We still had plenty of day left - so I suggested we go on to Mae Khamin waterfall. This involved another ferry ride - I hadn’t done this part for a while and I was having difficulty remembering how we had got there the last time - I remembered a smaller ferry but considerably more pricey, but I couldn’t for the life of me remember where it was. Along the lake a little for sure - but how far? We hit the road to find it.......after a few kilos, I began to have doubts - I was sure it hadn’t involved a long road trip from where we’d stayed before -

My Scouse friend was adamant - carry on up the main road: -

“Eh! Der ferry’s at the top o’ der lake - 100%”

“Why would they put a ferry at the top of the lake? Half way would seem more logical”

“Eh - this is Thailand - no accountin’ for what dey do here”

Well we had a great drive - about 50 to 60 km into the mountains. We picked our way over landslips, hairpin bends where the hardcore appeared to have been totally washed away, meaning we were driving on little more than a two inch thick ribbon of asphalt suspended over the steep river valley dropping away hundreds of feet beneath us.
...but no sign of a ferry - in fact there was no sign of the lake either.

“Eh - jus go over dat pass an’ we’ll see der lake....100%”

-it was becoming a mantra -

I was reminded of the song that had haunted me in the Burmese borderlands in Mae Hong Son before....

“the bear went over the mountain - to see what he could see;
the other side of the mountain was all that he could see....
so...the bear went over the mountain.......etc etc.”

It felt as if we were getting near to the Burmese border, but as we had no map that showed this road it was hard to tell. I also didn’t think to look at the compass.
Although, given that it was election day on the other side of the border, we didn’t see anyone who looked like they were fleeing anything, nor did we hear any gunfire.

We didn’t see any other vehicles for quite some time, but we had fuel and apart from the odd landslide and rockfall the road was quite good. The Scouse amused himself by categorising the possible mishaps that good befall us......hit by a bolder, flat tyre, no better - 2 flat tyres, breakdown, brake failure, arrested by the Thai border police and asked for a huge bribe, or the Burmese police, no better still a group of rebels, eaten by wild animals.........well if you’ve grown up in Toxteth, that’s the way you think.

“Wharrever ‘appens, if the buizzies pick uz oop, I ain’t payin’ a single setang! Dey know where dey can stick their open ‘ands”

So any encounter with any uniform - Thai or Burmese was just about guaranteed to end in conflict.

Eventually we came upon a small village in what appeared to be a predominantly fruit and veg growing area in a valley that must have been pretty inaccessible until recently when they built the road; it seemed to have no other way in or out.
We pulled over in front of a newly built shop, with a large sala outside, with a lovely hardwood platform and a bright red satellite dish sprouting from the roof.

By now my Scouse friend seemed to have given up on finding a ferry - especially as we seemed to be several hundred metres above the level of the lake.

Most of the people here seemed to speak Thai (not Karen) and as far as we could make out there wasn’t much up ahead, so we decided that after some refreshment we’d about turn and head back.

Mae Khamin Waterfall and Ferry Service

I still wanted to find the second ferry - if only for reference - it was going to be too late to go on to the Waterfall now as I didn’t fancy our chances of picking our way back from there to Kanchanaburi in the dark. Last time I was there ,there were no metaled roads only dirt-tracks through the forest....lovely in the day-time but that list of “perils” my co-traveller kept reciting was beginning to play on my mind.

All along the way back I kept an eye out for possible turn-offs to a ferry that we might have missed - And they just weren’t there. So after eliminating all other possibilities we turned back down the track that headed to the houseboats. Right at the entrance another track shot off to the right, we followed it for about 400 metres and found the ferry......

It was indeed too late now to go over to the waterfall, so we settled for a drink in the ferryman’s house/shop by the shore of the lake and chatted to his wife. The ferry runs until about 7 pm. It’s a similar affair to the one we took earlier but smaller. There’s no specially built dock facility; you wait just wait for the ferry to beach and then drive onto the ramp. THe price? Well that’s 250 baht return - about 5 times the other ferry!

Assuming it hasn’t changed much since last time I was there, you disembark and then drive off through a bamboo forest on un-metaled road until you come to a rather pleasantly landscaped clearing. Here there are eateries - sit down ones - and toilets etc. (can’t remember if they’re sit down too!) You can park up and walk on to the waterfall. It’s not too far and very beautiful. There’s a great swimming hole - it seemed incredibly deep too so I guess it would still be useable even in the dry season (it was a June, the last time I went there.
Back at the rest and refreshment site, there are signs indicating if you drive on, you’ll get to Kanchanaburi - so I assume you can do a kind of loop back down past Erawan. We didn’t do that last time, we retraced out steps back via the ferry.

Having got a bit of information for future reference we then headed back into Kanchanaburi, stopping on the way back to eat at a “noodle shack” - a pool of white fluorescence in the night with great noodles for about 30 baht.

On returning to Kanchanaburi in the early evening we stopped and took an obligatory stroll around the site of “The Bridge”....these days it is illuminated with a light-show - spanning the river it changes colours through red to blue, purple yellow and green and various effects are applied - I get the feeling this wan’t in the original design.

I simply can’t understand the thinking behind this - most of the bridge is not original and how does turning it into a light-show enhance our understanding of what happened here or contribute to the memory of those that died making it? It’s not that they made a beautiful bridge - it’s what happened whilst they were making it, and what it was for that is important.

I thought I’d come back the next day and have a proper look.....

Well, we rounded off the day with another bout of people watching and my friend had a few beers - actually - quite a few beers - like so many Scouses and in the great tradition of that city, he’s got one hell of a voice; I left one bar to cross the road and use the toilet of another and I could still hear him talking away on the other side of the road from inside the W.C.

So this mix of beer, culture and voice has inevitable results; when the resident band started playing a few 60s songs it was only a matter of time before he joined in........
The evening was brought to a climactic close with a deafening rendition of - “Get off my cloud” - I think if Jagger and Richards had been shown a glimpse into the future of these two guys (an old Scouse and a Thai crooner) cheek-to-cheek howling into the mic - they might never have written the song - but who are they to talk now?

THe next day, after muesli (with fruit AND yogurt!) I did a little shopping etc, whilst my friend nursed a hangover and treated it with another enormous English breakfast from the Jolly Frog.

We then took a longer walk around the Bridge site and took some photos.

The Bridge

Kanchanaburi would most likely be a tourist town with or without the bridge - it is a great river resort and as such very popular with Thai tourists. It’s convenient for a day or week-end trip from Bangkok. Thai people like to come down from the capital and spend a couple of days floating along on huge raft-restaurants which ply their way making an enormous amount of noise - music blares out full volume and echoes across the river “boom! boom! boom!”- in between this the roar of the “long-tail” boats ripping past, looking like aquatic ‘60s Cadillacs speeding or racing each other up and down the river.

But the town really owes its fame for western tourists to the film “Bridge over the River Kwai - [Producers of the movie the Bridge Over the River Kwae are guilty of giving the river and bridge both the wrong location and mis-pronunciaton. It is pronounced ‘Kwae’ as in the English word ‘Hair’.]

I think the first Scousers to visit Kanchanaburi would not have had the luxury of being so choosey as my companion or done so in such relaxed circumstances, they’d certainly have had more to complain about.
It would be a certainty to say that several “Scouses” must have given their lives slaving under the Japanese forced labour program here.

[BTW - the Thai for “bridge” is “saphan” - it has to be more than a coincidence that the other word in English for bridge is “Span”?]

For foreign (Western) visitors, it is the “Death Railway” and the cemeteries that put this town on the map. During the Japanese “occupation” of Thailand in 1942, POWs both from allied forces and local Asian laborers were forced by the Japanese to build a railway linking Thailand to Burma as part of the supply lines for the war effort. It is generally agreed that this resulted in the death of more than 100,000 “workers” - (16,000 allies and 90,000 local Asian laborers) died from the horrific working conditions.
When tourists started coming in their droves to see this bridge over the River Kwai (Kwae) there was a distinct problem; no such bridge existed. However, there was a bridge over the Mae Khlung. So, in a typically Thai solution to the problem, they renamed the river the “Kwae Yai” ('Big Kwae') several miles north of the confluence with the Kwae Noi ('Little Kwae'), this conveniently included the bit under the bridge.
On arriving at the site of the bridge one has to say that the phrase “turn in their graves” springs to mind.
If this was once the scene of misery and death, the locals and most of the visitors seemed oblivious to this....I hesitate to say forgotten, I don’t think they ever knew.
If you broach the subject of WW2 with the Chaophraya locals they smile, laugh (a reaction to avoid confrontation and embarrassment) and say "oh yes, Japan!...mai dee" and then that’s about it. I get the feeling that the history of this place has eluded most of the locals.
The bridge itself was loaded with tourists. among them apparently a lot of Japanese marveling at the construction, because (it was so hard to find good labour then?), apparently it's not even the original bridge. One wonders how many of the visitors to this site are actually aware of what went on....and why???
There's something rather disconcerting about watching a Japanese family all smiling, posing for a photo on this bridge.
In the background various westerners too drunk to work out where the bridge is, staggered about in a daze  just like the POWS did half a century before only fatter.......”
We both found the site rather soul-less and failed to convey any of the history associated with it. Here and there you’d see old men in veteran’s uniforms wandering about and I have to say I felt a great sense of disappointment on their behalf. They had travelled here on some sort of pilgrimage to be confronted with hot-dogs and souvenirs that bear no relationship to the sufferings endured here. I wonder what they made of it.

...so that was about it...... by early afternoon we were ready to hit the road back to Changwat Chonburi. using the Kanchanaphisek Bridge the trip back was pretty quick and uneventful.....we eve found the right turn-off.

I hope that it won’t be 5 years before I return there again, it really is a nice part of the country, especially up around the Sri Nakarin Dam.
khunwilko is online now  
Old Dec 4th, 2010, 03:42 AM
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"If you broach the subject of WW2 with the Chaophraya locals they smile,"

Chaophraya - should read "Kanchanaburi"
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Old Dec 4th, 2010, 09:26 AM
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Another great report. At several points it was difficult to continue, I was laughing so hard. Puts my trip with a few dozen Scousers in perspective (didn't find it so funny at the time though).
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Old Dec 5th, 2010, 02:58 AM
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Glad to have touched a "funny bone"!
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Old Dec 5th, 2010, 03:05 AM
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My God! I've just seen what you wrote "a few dozen Scousers" - that's very brave! You're not from Manchester, are you?
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Old Dec 5th, 2010, 11:36 AM
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No, I'm not. If I were, I'd have emigrated after that trip!
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Old Dec 10th, 2010, 11:19 PM
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Oh well.
I went back the other day with my fiend "Shrek" =- we wanted to hire a house boat up on the lake for new year off some farang unfortunately they were nowhere to bee found
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Old Dec 26th, 2010, 08:04 PM
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I've just been back for a third time - this time and I have to say the place was deserted - a week day, admittedly, but the numbers seemed incredibly low considering this is meant to be high season
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