Kanchanaburi - Railways and Tigers

May 18, 2007

After quite a spell in Bangkok we finally got organised again and took a tour out to the Kanchanaburi province, west of Bangkok. The tour included a visit to the famous Bridge on the River Khwae, a ride through the Khwae river valley on the Death Railway, and a visit to the Tiger Temple.

The start of the tour began with a somber visit to the graves of the people who died a brutal death at the main POW cemetery in Kanchanaburi city. Here lay 6,982 buried POWs, mainly British, Australian, Dutch and Canadians. According to the guide there was one New Zealander buried here, but we were unable to find him.

Afterwards it was a short trip up the road to Jeath War Museum. This was constructed near to the famous Bridge over the River Khwae. The museum explained that the Japanese devised a project to link existing Thai and Burmese railway lines to create a route from Bangkok, Thailand to Burma to support the its occupation of Burma.

About a hundred thousand conscripted Asian labourers and 12,000 prisoners of war died on the project.
The museum had 3D installations of some of the carriages used to transport the POWs as well as depictions of when the US bombed its own soldiers that were working on the bridge.

I remember also being told that my red and black Crusaders top would not be suitable to enter the tiger temple. I wish the tour agent had informed me of that! I had to buy a very 80’s looking blue silk shirt. Later I gave it to Sam as he was running low on usable shirts.

Following the trip to the museum and a walk along the bridge we the guides took us at a train station. The tour continued on the track built in the 40s.

We would discover later (part of a small walking tour) that parts of the line had been abandoned.

A tiger watches intently Last on the tour was Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua or, more simply: The Tiger Temple. Originally when the temple first opened it cost a mere 20 Baht (<$1NZ) to enter. But now with the number of tigers and the increasing popularity, the fee is 300 Baht ($14NZ).I donned my new retro looking 80’s top and entered with Ben and Sam. It was busy with all the tourists inside.

Basically what happens is that two staff will lead you around the 8 or so tigers. One holds your hand, while the other snaps away on your camera. At first I was very reluctant to pet these refrigerator sized animals. But these lazy animals just don’t care. I have heard stories about the animals being drugged, but I don’t think so— they are fully aware of you the whole time. At the end of it the three of us walked out with some nice photos.

The tour drew to a close. Back into the minivan and we crawled back to Bangkok. A pleasant day in Kanchanaburi.

 Getting map markers...