Over The River

All right, so, the deal with travel in Thailand is that while the buses are more convenient, faster, and much more comfortable; the train is insanely cheap (at least when traveling third-class).

For some reason, however, the train fare to Kanchanaburi is the same as the bus. So, I thought to bring the bus here. One could either catch a minivan from Victory Monument – which is very easy to get to, but whose drivers are notorious for their lead-footedness. In fact, there’ve been so many accidents on these routes that the government is trying to crack down.

But not wanting to take my chances, it meant trying to get one’s ass over to the Southern Bus Terminal. By utilising a very helpful city map hung on a wall at De Talak, it looked as though I’d found a way to get there with only one transfer. But wondering if there weren’t a better way, I began to snoop around, and discovered this incredibly useful page, which listed the #507 from Khlong Toei to Sai Tai Mai (as the terminal is named) without transfer!

Could it be? Than, a De Talak staff-person, was highly skeptical. But she phoned the Transit Authority, and the latter confirmed its validity.

So Thursday morning, after a longer wait than expected (I think one – or possibly even two – coaches had gone MIA), I hopped the #507. Owing to rush-hour traffic, it was a long enough ride. But that was okay. Only a fifteen minute wait for the Kanchanaburi-bound bus, and only a few hours from Sai Tai Mai to here.

Ended up walking to the guest house from the bus terminal. Normally like to do that anyhow; but wasn’t exactly sure where it was, so considered getting a tuk-tuk. Was able to haggle a rickshaw driver from 60 Baht all the way down to 20 (tip for dealing with tuk-tuk drivers: pick up your bags and begin walking; that’ll get them off their number right quick); but I’d told him 10, and would accept nothing more.

Was able to keep fairly well shaded during the walk; and found the guest house just fine. But by the time I’d made that walk, checked in, then went out and got some food, it was already fairly late. Even arising quite early, and making a rather short trip, inter-city travel can be an all-day affair.

Picked up my first lychees of the season! I’d seen some in Siem Reap and also Bangkok; but they never looked good. These ones looked decent; and turned out to be just that: decent, not mind-blowing. When I was walking back with them, though, a street-vendor busy prepping food for dinner flagged me down as I passed, and asked if she could have some.

“One? Two? Three?” I indicated for her to take as many as she pleased; and she was most appreciative indeed. So there you have it: Thai/American friendship via lychee.

Quite nice little guest house, with a very cool/loud-mouthed proprietress. Here’s the view from the patio just outside my room.

kwaiview

Ought, perhaps, to explain just what in the Hell I’m doing here. Well, what it is, its being one  of my ten favourite movies of all times (maybe even edging near to the top five), I’d wanted since learning that Kanchanaburi is the site of the infamous Bridge Over The River Kwai, to make visit. Finally now have got around to doing just that.

Here we have Sunset Over The River Kwai. Almost rivals Luang Prabang’s Mekong sunsets, don’t it?

kwaisunset

It occurred to me that I’d not actually watched the movie in some years; so on Thursday night I downloaded it and gave it a watch. And…I’m sorry to report that it’s no longer in my top ten favourites of all times.

I still think it’s a great movie; and certainly its central message that war is madness and that military officers on all sides are jack-assed crazy persons still resonates with me quite strongly; but it now seems to me to be a little over-the-top for my taste, especially with regard to the viewers’ proxy, Clipton.

Well, that’s the way it goes.

Yesterday, Friday, I went to visit some museums related to the Bridge and the Death Railway. (There’s also a cemetery dedicated to Allied war dead – 7,000 POWs who perished building the Railway are lain here in Kanchanaburi.)

But on the way to the first museum, I ran smack into this wild procession.

Don’t know about you, but for me, any town in which the locals are dancing their asses off at 9:00 in the AM is a town I like!

Soon, yet another procession showed up to join the first.

Now twined, they marched together on into the temple.

As per usual, the camera’s mic just can’t capture the sounds very well. So – again, as per usual – one’ll needs must trust me when I say that the bands laid a big-time whipping on the llama’s ass. So fucking great, they were!

band

This fine young gentleman offered me a brew. I did decline his kind offer; many, I can assure you, did not decline.

beer

What was it all about? My best guess is that the Men In White were on this day being ordained into the monkhood. But, it’s only a guess.

So,  still on the way to the first museum, visited a whole other temple, totally unrelated to the party temple. Pretty cool; has this big huge “horseboat” thing out the front.

horseboat

There’s a small structure with a Buddha’s Footprint inside.

footprint

The main chapel has a wonderful ceiling…

ceiling

…including this stone-cold killer Naga composition.

naga

The murals here were quite good generally; though many of them were obscured by ceiling fans.

mural

Still walking toward the first museum, passed this oddity.

shards

That’s the great thing about travel: you never know when you’re a-gonna walk by a wall with hundreds of shards of glass glued onto its topside.

Okay, the first museum was housed inside a replica of a POW hut. Inside was mostly pictures as well as copies of news articles — the latter mostly to do with reunions, or passings of people who’d laboured on the Railway.

Pretty small-time museum; but worth the 30 Baht admission; especially for enthusiasts of black-and-white photography.

Back up to the first temple, the party raged on. Damn, that band just knocked me a good one. A still-under-construction building on the grounds, down by the river, looks rather like some sort of spaceship.

spaceship

The next museum, the Thai-Burma Railway Centre, back up in the middle of town, is much more extensive. Took a few hours to look through it all, and well worth the 120 Baht admission.

Later on, had some decent-but-not-great Durian. Kinda like the lychee had been.

This morning, Saturday, got up at 6:00 in the AM and made the hour-plus walk up to the Bridge. Even at 7:20 in the AM, there were already quite a few people aboard.

morningbridge

A temple across the river, not yet ready for prime-time, has still got its Buddhas all wrapped in plastic.

plasticbuddha

The view of the bridge from there, with train in mid-span.

train

And then I walked back across the river…and that was kind of it. Don’t know exactly what I had hoped to find with this little pilgrimage. But, basically, I didn’t find anything except a ho-hum bridge and oodles of souvenir-selling Thais.

It’s kinda like, one time I was in New Hampshire, and decided to look for J.D. Salinger’s house. I may or may not have passed and seen it. And then…so what? Doesn’t matter! The works of art may have sent your being to an incomparable place; but tourist points-of-way aren’t gonna enhance one’s appreciation of the art. Or so is my experience.

But it might be worth it anyhow. Certainly was in this case: the museum located near to the bridge turns out to be one of my favourite places in all of Thailand! Weird-assed place with a gruff-but-lovable proprietor.

building

There’re two buildings with five or six floors each. The bottom floors are dedicated to the Railway; mostly dioramas of emaciated POWs in hard labour, as well as blown up pages from memoirs (in many different languages).

Speaking of language, check out this particularly flowery account of the destruction of the Bridge. “Higgledy-Piggledy” for the win!

language

The upper floors are loaded down with ephemera. But neither rhyme nor reason, that this farang can discern, account for selection and placement. Just wonderfully weird collections of…stuff.

For examples!

noble

medal

remainstooth

Though I could find no clue as to what this sign is on about, those are words to live by there, to be sure! And amen to this as well:

sinful

Yeah, all three of the museums are careful to indicate that they’ve been curated not to specifically call out the Japanese for their sins; but to make witness to this particular horror in this particular war; noting that all sides in all wars comport similarly to what the Japanese had done here in Thailand.

Moving on, why are these shoes on display? And why is the one pair on top of the case? Fuck if I know – but I ain’t complaining!

shoes

Why is the motor-car set atop the train? Fuck if I know! (But dig the dude’s afro in the lower-right of the photo.)

trainmotor

Why are there dozens of casserole dishes filled up with woodchips, then housed inside many display cases (many more than are shewn here, in point of fact)? Fuck if I know!

woodchips1

woodchips2

I want this chickenbelt…

belt

…but I daren’t lose my composure.

composure

A collection of red t-shirts, anyone (again, many more than you see here; and, also again, no apparent rhyme nor reason whatever)?

tshirts

Looking for oddly juxtaposed photo displays? Look no furhter!

weirdphotos1

weirdphotos2

weirdphotos3

Can you guess what the display introduced by this sign may look like?

purpose1

C’mon, have a guess! While you’re thinking about that, have some wall trophies.

trophy1

trophy2

Okay, here’s the display you’ve, hopefully, guessed correctly.

purpose2

I think it means: don’t take this picture-frame off the table???

takeoff

Well, in addition to all of the crazy/weird/awesome shit, there are some pretty great murals as well.

murals1

I especially enjoyed the black-and-white and blue-and-yellow murals. Dig those shoes!

portrait

blueyellow

Also, from the upper terraces, some kick-ass views of the Bridge, and the surrounding mountains.

bridgeview

mountainview

One sentiment with which I absolutely cannot agree, however…

soldier

Fuck patriotism, man! That’s from whence the “sinful behavior” springs in the first fucking place.

I have downloaded the movie To End All Wars, and will plan to wrap up my Bridge excursion with an evening screening. I’ve not seen this movie before now; but it’s to do with the Railway. (Update: Don’t bother with this one. Turned it off after thirty or so minutes; owing to exceeding stupidity.)

There’s lots of other interesting-looking shit to do around here – but not in the hot season. I may make a return visit when it cools down some. Actually, rainy season would be just the trick, perhaps, as it’d be great to be right at this very guest house when some huge-assed storms roll in.

Now, however,  ‘tis time for some cucumbers…to be followed by a nice pair of Durian!

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2 Responses to Over The River

  1. Lindsay says:

    Wow, great post! You didn’t happen to see the hotel shaped like a durian did you?

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