Published: September 25th 2012September 25th 2012
Tahnee and I have just had one of the most exciting days of our lives. It started with waking up at the crack of dawn, or in this case actually before dawn. We have arranged a day tour from www.tourwithtong.com after reading some very good reviews on Trip Advisor. We met our tour guide (Lily) in the lobby of the hotel at 4.30am. We were up so early, some of the bellboys thought we were checking out to go to the airport!
Lily took us to a waiting 4x4 (thankfully air conditioned) and we started to drive west through the city. As we went, she explained a little bit about what we would be doing today, and explained we had roughly a 2 hour car drive ahead of us as we would be passing through 4 seperate provinces of Thailand to get to our destination (there are 77 provinces in total, in an area the size of France). Our destination was Kanchanaburi province which is right on the border of Myanmar (Burma). It is known as an adventurous province as it is full of jungles and mountains which attract young explorers who wish to experince thrills. It also has a
big problem with illegal Burmese immigrants, and on our way we saw a prison bus literally sardine can full of glum looking people being taken back to the border after being caught.
There was a random police road check, but as soon as the officer saw we were white tourists, he waved us on without even stopping the vehicle. As Lily joked 'he wants to see if you terrorist or tourist! Ha!' The Thai find pale skin very attractive and just like we have tanning salons, they apparently have whitening salons that chemical peel your skin to expose light, fresh skin underneath.
Our first stop was a quick one to look at the war graves from WWII. A significant number of allied POWs and particularly indian-asian labourers died in the construction of the Burma Railway, which follows the route of the River Kwai. The construction of the bridge was immortalised in the film Bridge over the River Kwai - and that was our next destination.
Today the railway still operates, but is on a different guage. The railway line still runs into Burma, however, service stops well short as there is no need for the service to
run through the jungle anymore. It is a very inhospitable place. It is very mountainous and the jungle is incredibly dense. Even the Thai people don't like to live in the jungle there and Lily says they actually used to fear it - with good reason. In addition to the trecherous terrain, there is the native wildlife to consider and diseases in the form of Malaria etc used to be very prevalent. In addition, the temperature can reach well into the 40s. The river itself offered access to water, as well as a way to ship construction materials to the relevant locations, which is why the railway roughly follows the route of the river.
The bridge looks very different to the one in the film as the hollywood version was built out of wood and was in Sri Lanka. Just before the end of the war, the allieds after many attmepts managed to partially destroy the bridge by hitting it directly in the middle. Post war, the middle was replaced by the Japanese government as a gift to the Thai people and as a result the two middle spans do not match the existing shape (The old stuff is
semi-circular, and the middle bit is now trapezoid).
Our next stop was the main attraction - Tiger Temple
There are more photos below