I could think of no better way to recover from Bangkok than by visiting a railway museum. It had come to that! It was a short journey by bus to Kanchanaburi. It’s a place that probably wont ring a lot of bells but it’s actually a place by association that I am pretty sure everyone knows. You see there was a very famous film (which I haven’t seen) based on the events in and surrounding this town. I’ll give you a clue. There’s a river and a bridge.
I was ashamed as I flicked through the guidebook that I knew so little about the bridge over the river Kwai. It’s one of those places that I find so familiar but was absolutely devoid of any information. That’s where the wonderful Thailand-Burma railway museum came in. It’s not for everyone, in fact I seemed to be one of the few people who really liked it (I’m thinking it may have had something to do with the free coffee!) Sure it could do with some interactive displays but the information it contained was at the perfect level. It was informing but never overbearing. Reading the stories of the suffering of the thousands of people who worked on the railway line between Thailand and Burma was at times deeply moving, especially when looking at the conditions of the men and what they had to work in from 1942 to the end of the war. This is heightened when walking around the small war cemetery. Situated amongst the traffic, it feels a world away from the chaos that surrounds it. Beautifully kept, peaceful and respectful, it’s a real credit to the Thai people. As for the bridge itself…well it’s a bridge with a lot of history behind it. I walked over the top of it, being careful to jump out of the way of passing trains and then walked back again. It’s not spectacular in fact you would glance twice at it but in context, it’s an incredible piece of history.
From Kanchanaburi I went to a place which unashamedly I still do not know the name of, except it begins with the letter a. I am really struggling at the moment to remember the names of places in Thailand. A quick flick through the guide book tells me I went to Aytthaya, the center of power in Thailand between 1350 and 1767 before the Burmese came and ransacked it. The capital then moved to Bangkok. The Burmese were so ruthless in their attack that much of the gold and jewels vanished. What is left is a huge number of crumbling temples all within a bustling modern day city. It’s very strange to see a huge tower beautifully crafted poking out from behind a local convenience store. I really liked Aytthaya, some of the temples and Buddhas were spectacular and one can only imagine what the city must have been like in its day. Unfortunately despite being impressed by the sights, my enduring memory of Aytthaya is at the other end of the scale. When attempting to exit Wat Yai Chai Mongkon I became very thankful for having a rabies jab. Some will suggest it was the result of bad karma, considering that I had only paid (not deliberately, it’s just that their entrance gates are even worse than Nepal) for the entrance to two temples, however I say it’s a case of sheer stupidity allowing out of control animals to roam the streets. It’s all well and good looking after and caring for every conceivable animal, but a monk in charge of a aggressive/rabid dog is probably not the best mix. So I was obviously unimpressed when I saw a monk shouting at a dog, which I only became aware of when its jaws were lunging at my right thigh. Fortunately call it a warning bite or not, a gust of wind blew my shorts enough that it caught a chunk of them rather than my leg. That was rather lucky because it was one very angry dog. I then put in all my Cesar Millan training into action (there was a chapter on him in a book by Malcolm Gladwell) and stood still rather than run. It seemed to do the trick as the dog snarled and backed off. I didn’t hang around to have a debate with the monk as I decided for all I knew he may not have been trying to control the dog but rather had told it to attack, I was going out of the wrong exit after all!