Thursday, January 22, 2009

Highs and Lows

Day 316
It was another early morning but at least there was time for breakfast today. I really hate skipping breakfast. I got lucky today and three out of the other five people in the group were also traveling alone. I met Heidi from Germany, Rob from England and Olle from Sweden. The last two were a German couple that Heidi had met before and didn’t like. I think that we all decided to dislike them based on that. They pretty much kept to themselves anyway.

Our first stop was the 7 tiered Erawan Falls. At the entrance a sign warned us about fierce monkeys. I usually think of them as cheeky so this brought to mind monkeys in couture. It didn’t matter anyway, we didn’t see any monkeys.

The hike was quite nice and not too difficult. There were loads of waterfalls, but only the biggest seven seemed to count. The water looked enticing, but my legs were not so hot looking with my healing sunburn so I decided not to jump in. When we reached waterfall number 5 we were beginning to run out of time. Olle and Rob decided to skip the last two and go swimming at number two. Heidi and I kept going and the going got rougher. At one point we had to climb up ladder like steps where half of the rungs were missing. It was all for nothing as well. The last two falls were nowhere near as impressive as the others had been. Still, when we had got back to number two and found the boys we told them that they had really missed out and teased them a bit for being lazy.

Lunch was early, at 11 am, but was pretty good and I was hungry after almost 2 hours of hiking. Our next stop was Hellfire Pass, part of the Thai-Burmese railroad. This area was named for the unearthly apparitions cast by the nightly fires apparitions cast by the nightly fires of the laboring POW’s. There is a 4 kilometer trail of the former railway that you can walk, but we were just here to visit the museum and the pass.

The museum was quite well done but much like the one I had visited two days before. This museum spent more time on the Asian laborers than the previous museum. Many of them were forced into labor or tricked with promises of large salaries. They had a 45 percent death rate compared to the 21 percent for the POW’s. I think that the previous museum was really remiss in not talking about them more. Of course, there is less information on them as no records were kept and there are very few current accounts available.

Hellfire pass was built during the time period know as speedo. The railway was completed in 20 months when it should have taken double that amount of time. Today 130 kilometers are still in use. The allies had no idea that this was happening until after the railway was finished. Several POWs were rescued from a sunken Japanese ship and were able to tell what had happened.

After the museum we walked down to the pass. It was very sobering after a morning of fun in the woods. Some of the tracks and sleepers were still in place. There was a memorial and we spent some time reading the signs and having a moment of silence before heading back up.

Next we headed to Krasae Cave. There was a large oddly proportioned Buddha and the cave went back a bit. Right next to this is what they call the death railway. I have no idea why this is a tourist attraction and would have preferred to not have done this. It’s a bit of what is left of the Thai-Burmese railway. We all climbed in what could have been a WWII era train and went for a thirty minute ride. The train was so packed that we couldn’t sit down. The only redeeming quality was that there were some really nice views out of the window.

I think that almost everyone fell asleep on the way back. Our last stop was the famous River Kwai Bridge itself. I didn’t realize that you could walk on this when I saw it before. It’s still functioning and there were places to stand if a train came by when people were on it. The whole thing seemed rather unsafe to me. By leaning over the edge a bit some of the bomb damage was still visible.

Once we got back to the hotel we decided to meet for dinner and drinks a little while later. I tried to find the Canadians hotel to invite him to come but wasn’t able to. I felt bad about it because he had mentioned that he had been lonely for a bit and I really didn’t want to ditch him.

Everyone but Heidi was a bad traveler that night by ordering pizza. We played a bit of uno and drank some funny tasting Chang beer. After a bit we moved on to another bar and chatted until closing time. Everything closed around midnight so we were not out very late.

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