This is a continuation of my previous posts. Please read the previous posts here.
We took a few more tours while we were in Bangkok and they were quite interesting.
I had heard a lot about the floating markets in Thailand so we planned to see it. Damnoen Saduak Floating Markets is a prime tourist attraction that not too far from Bangkok.
We were picked up from the hotel in a van and driven 100 km southwest of Bangkok to Damnoen Saduak. As soon as we were in the canal area I saw lots of floating boats some with tourists and some selling colourful souvenirs, fruits and other items.
The floating markets of Thailand is a great place to view colourful boats with vendors selling fruits, vegetables and other delicious goods. It’s a great place to also see a traditional way of buying and selling goods of the Thais.
The best things about these markets are the food stalls. There is no Thai dish you cannot find here. The hardest decision is narrowing down your choice to one or two. Squashed in amongst the food and tables lining the canals are handicrafts, plants and clothing stores too.
We were asked to hop into one of the boats and we had a guide who took us around the 32 km canal. Sitting on a wooden long tail boat, we ventured out to the floating market. It was fun passing through narrow canal lanes and underneath bridges. It was a really fun way of seeing the market.
Once we were back where we had started, we had some time to look around by ourselves. I ended up buying lots of souvenirs like a floating boat, a tuk tuk, a hat and a beaded earring.
River Kwai and The Jeath War Museum
The next stop for us was in Kanchanaburi province where we went and visited the war museum and the river Kwai.
Once there we went to the war museum and there were lots of information about World War II. Then we went to the bridge over the river Kwai which was built-in World War II.
The JEATH War Museum is situated on the junction of the Rivers Khwae Yai and Khwae Noi, right on top of the old rail tracks. The name is an acronym recognising the primary nationalities of those involved in the construction of the Death Railway; Japanese, English, Australian, American, Thai and Holland. To the locals it is known simply as the Wat Tai War Museum.
The museum is divided into several sections. While the main path through the exhibitions charts Thailand’s involvement in the Pacific War (from the first invasion through to the destruction of the bridge, and finally Japan’s retreat accompanied by the release of prisoners), other areas offer a range of different perspectives on the region.
One room focuses on the prehistoric evolution of the area, while another charts the annual winners of the Miss Thailand competition. There seem to be Buddhist shrines tucked away into every empty corner, and there isn’t an inch of wall space that hasn’t been written on. Some of it in Thai, other passages in French, English or German, and these verses range from military history through to religious philosophy. To read them all would have taken a day at least.
Perhaps the most striking feature of the museum however, are the wooden effigies used to depict the suffering of Allied POWs. Carved in a similar style to those that appear in Thailand’s numerous Buddhist Hell Gardens, these often crude figures show naked men engaged in hard labour, being tortured, or lying dead and bloody at the bottom of rivers.
The intention is to shock… but also to bring home the very real pain and suffering which prisoners were subjected to. Towards the end of the museum, a courtyard is walled in with mounted figures of WWII’s military leaders: Churchill and De Gaulle; Mussolini and Hitler; Japanese Generals Tōjō and Yamashita; Joseph Stalin and General Douglas MacArthur. On an adjacent wall, written in both Thai and English, hangs a sign which reads, “War is sinful behaviour”.
Perhaps the most poignant feature at the JEATH War Museum however, is the broken wooden structure which protrudes from the riverbank beneath an observation platform. This is all that now remains of the former bridge, and is a stark reminder of the tragedy that befell here; in 1945 both the Royal Air Force and the US Army Air Force mounted bombing raids on the bridge, but after both attacks it was repaired using prisoner labour.
Finally, on 24th June 1945, an RAF squadron was ordered to halt the Japanese movement into Burma at any cost. Fearing defeat, the Japanese filled the bridge with as many Allied prisoners as they could fit, in a hope to deter the bombers. It failed however, and when the bridge was finally put out of action, its destruction came at a cost of many Allied lives.
Kanchanaburi’s ‘Tiger Temple’
The last stop of the day was the Tiger Temple and it was the highlight of our trip. It is a Buddhist temple where there were many monks, lots of tigers and few other creatures.
Almost a decade ago, monks started to look after tiger cubs whose mothers had allegedly been killed by poachers. With the outbreak of tiger-euphoria, tourists reported enthusiastically how the monks of this remote temple devotedly cared for the animals. Initially there were just a few young tigers – joined by freely roaming deer and other small mammal species. Therefore, it all started as a neat little temple zoo with lovely deer, orphaned tiger cubs and monks as keepers.
For around fifty dollars each, we were allowed to be up-close and personal with the tigers. This was 600 Bhat admissions and 1000 Bhat for photo with the tigers. It was a really unique experience and I was a bit scared but then it was all good as there was a guide with us all the time. I patted the tiger and he didn’t eat me 🙂
We also saw a cub on the way back and we were allowed to take pictures and pat it. It was a really nice experience.
After coming back from the holiday, I did some research about the place and I found lots of negative things so I am still confused as to what to believe.
Also if you are going there make sure you wear a covered dress as they will not allow you in otherwise as they have a dress code for both men and women.
By the time we got back to Bangkok both of us were tired and ready for bed.
For the next few days in Bangkok, we met AS’s cousin and went shopping. I was feeling sad already as I knew we were going to different places once the holiday was over.
More on that in the next post. Till then take care.
M from nepaliaustralian