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Published: December 13th 2018
Market in Samut Songkram
The market looks like a traditional market. However, for lack of space the market has extended close to the train tracks. Whenever a train comes or leaves Samut Songkram railway station the vendors have to dismantle their stalls to allow the train to run through.
A railway very much connected with a bridge, a brother very much connected to a brother and a market very much connected to a train
Thailand is a large country and there are hundreds of places we would like to visit throughout the country. There was no way for us to squeeze in more than a handful of those on this trip. Bangkok was an obvious first choice since we flew in and out of there. We wrote about most of the places we visited in Bangkok in our previous blog entry
. Here we are going to write about the other places in Thailand we went to. Samut Songkram
Bangkok is big, chaotic, noisy and is far from being the most beautiful place in the world. We wanted to see a tiny bit more of what Thailand has to offer. One day we took a day trip from Bangkok to the city Samut Songkram
. The main attraction there is the Maeklong Railway
. In Samut Songkram the train tracks run through a local market. For lack of space the market has extended not only very close to the train tracks but has actually spilled onto it. Whenever a train
Chang and Eng Bunker statue
Chang and Eng Bunker were a pair of conjoined twins born in the city Samut Songkram.
comes or leaves Samut Songkram railway station the vendors have to dismantle their stalls and pull away their awnings to allow the train to run through. After the train has passed they re-establish their business again and continue like nothing has happened. We filmed this and you can have a look for yourself what it was like to be there when the train came through.
You might have heard that conjoined twins sometimes are referred to as Siamese twins. The label “Siamese twins” were given to two brothers, Chang and Eng Bunker
, who for a while made a living as freak show acts in the US. They were a pair of conjoined twins born in the city Samut Songkram. The country Thailand was then known as Siam and when they in their teens and early twenties were touring as an attraction the name "Siamese twins" worked well.
In Samut Songkram there is a statue of the Bunker brothers. It was a bit tricky to find it as it was located in a park three kilometres or so away from the city centre. Today the only thing to see there is the statue. But we noticed that
Former Bunker brothers museum
Next to the statue there used to be a museum. The museum is permanently closed, apparently the Bunker brothers’ fame didn’t attract enough visitors. All that was left was this "Get photographed as the Bunkers"-screen.
there also used to be a museum there. The museum is permanently closed. We guess the Bunker brothers’ fame didn’t attract enough visitors. Maybe it is for the better that the museum wasn’t a success. A statue over the famous conjoined twins we think is OK, an entire theme park is not. Hua Hin
On our way south through Thailand towards the border to Malaysia we stopped shortly in Hua Hin. When we were there we went to Phetchabury for a day and we'd like to write about two places we visited there.
• Phra Ram Ratchaniwet
: This is a palace built as a summer home for the royal family. If you are in Phetchabury and have the time, it is not a bad place to go to. However, don’t expect anything spectacular. The palace is built in European style and has seen better days. There are very little furniture and other decorations in the palace. But we actually thought that was a good thing. We have in Europe seen many palaces filled with chandeliers, tapestries, statues, carpets, poster beds and so on. This palace had none of that and was therefore a bit different.
Phra Ram Ratchaniwet
It is a palace built as a summer palace for the royal family. The palace is built in European style. There is very little furniture and other decorations in the palace. But we actually thought that was a good thing.
Sometimes different is better and less is more.
• Phra Nakhon Khiri
: It is another site with ties to the Thai royal family. This was also built as a summer residence, but it predates Phra Ram Ratchaniwet with 75 years or so. To us this place felt more like a vast religious site than a royal palace. It is built on top of a hill and most of the area is covered with vegetation. There are several stupas and other buildings there which made us think of temples rather than a home. Again not a bad place to go to if you have the time but not spectacular either. One reason we aren't more excited over Phra Nakhon Khiri could be that we were there on a rainy day. If we had had better weather we might have enjoyed it more. Kanchanaburi
The famous Bridge over River Kwai is not fictional. The bridge is small piece of a railway line from Thailand to Burma
. It was built during the Second World War when the area was occupied by Japan. There were thoughts of building this railway already before the war. But those plans were shelved on an early stage because it was
Staircase in Phra Nakhon Khiri
believed to be impossible to actually build it due to the difficult terrain. The Japanese proved that it wasn’t impossible, only very costly. If you permit yourself to use forced labour, treat them like slaves, starve them and have them work themselves to death. Add to it that you don’t bother if contagious diseases spread in the camps where the half dead workers live then it is possible to build the railway. It is believed that more than 100,000 people had to pay with their lives before the railway was finally finished. Today most of the railway has been abandoned and/or dismantled. But outside Kanchanaburi there is one section that still today is maintained and in use. So it is possible to ride a train across the Bridge over River Kwai.
There is more to see around Kanchanaburi than the famous bridge. One section of the Burma Railway known as Hellfire Pass
is a popular day trip from Kanchanaburi. The Hellfire Pass was one of the more difficult sections to build on the entire railway. To make fast enough progress work was done day and night there. During the nights they lit up the site using fires and
Phra Nakhon Khiri
This was built as a summer residence for the royal family. To us this place felt more like a vast religious site than a royal palace.
those fires in combination with the suffering the workers had to endure made references to Hell come quite natural.
On the way back to Kanchanaburi we decided to catch the train. We couldn’t pass on the opportunity to take a train ride across the Bridge over River Kwai. It was definitely worth it. Some sections of the train ride were simply spectacular. We filmed while going over the famous bridge and you can watch the film here.
Another popular site near Kanchanaburi is the Erawan National Park
. The highlight of that park is a waterfall, or perhaps we should say seven consecutive waterfalls. We only saw the five lower waterfalls. The trail was too muddy and it was also raining the day we went there so we didn’t think there was any point in hiking further up to see the two most remote waterfalls. Instead we stopped at waterfall number five and had a swim. Durian
We just have to mention the fruit durian
here as well. It seems like the Thais have a very ambivalent relation to the durian. In some places it is labelled as "The king of fruits",
Phra Nakhon Khiri
There are several stupas and other buildings there which made us think of temples rather than a royal palace.
in one place they had a durian festival a few days before we arrived and we even came across a restaurant specialised in durian dishes. But in hotels, in the metro and in movie theatres you can often see signs saying that durian is not allowed inside. There seems to be a bit of a love and hate relationship going on there.
We have one more blog entry left to publish from Thailand. It's all about temples. In there we will also mention one more place that we visited. A place we actually didn't like and will never return to. Which place and the reason we didn't like it will be revealed then.
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