If you just happened to say "The Bridge on the River Kwai" - you would be right! On Saturday, Lauren and I skedaddled a couple hours west of Bangkok to the lovely town of Kanchanaburi! (FYI: Our taxi driver on the way to the bus station repeatedly informed us was "Kahn-chahn-ah-bour-eeee!" after Lauren and I apparently butchered the pronounciation in our good ol' Midwestern accents.) We arrived in Kanchanaburi around lunchtime, promptly found the first street food stand and met some new friends - Nut and her 14 year-old daughter Aan. After some delicious cow pad sai pak (aka stir-fried rice with egg and vegetables), we headed on our way with our tuk-tuk driver for the day straight to the bridge!
Actually known in Kanchanaburi as the bridge over the River Kwae (note the spelling difference from the movie), the bridge holds a lot of history from World War II. During the 1940s, Thailand was occupied by the Japanese, who built a railway between Thailand and Myanmar (Burma) to make it easier to transport supplies to help them fight the Allies. To set about building this railway, the Japanese forced Allied prisoners of war (mostly from Australia, Britain, Holland and the United States) to build this railway, which became known as the "Death Railway" because over 12,000 POWs died constructing it.
The actual bridge was especially harrowing to build and was the focus of "The Bridge on the River Kwai," which won 7 Oscars. Sooooo...now you have received your history lesson for the day, time to continue on through Kanchanaburi. After Lauren and I walked over the bridge (and just so happen to "walk through" a jewelry market nearby), we headed to the Kanchanburi War Cemetary, which is dedicated to all those involved with the Death Railway. A beautiful, well-kept cemetary, it was very humbling to see all the graves of those soldiers who so bravely gave their lives during WWII.
After the cemetary, we took a quick trip to the Jeath War Museum, which chronicles Thailand's involvement in WWII in some fascinating old photographs. It is an adorable museum located in a U-shaped bamboo hut to commemorate the U-shaped huts the POWs lived in at the Japanese prisoner of war camps in Thailand. Why "Jeath War Museum" you may ask? Well, according to the pamphlet, "death" is too horrific of a word, so they decided to use jeath instead!
Today, after arriving back from Kanchanaburi tonight, it was time to cross more things off of our Thailand to-do list, this time with the help of an old friend! Lauren and I met up with Ted - a fellow traveler I met while in Austria back in August (who just so happens to be from Wisconsin and to have graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison on the exact same day as myself!) - to head out and cross two very important things off of our list...the floating markets and the Grand Palace! Here is Teddy and I on the long-tail boat, cruising through the canals of the Chao Priya River on our way to the "floating market"!
Unfortunately I say "floating market" because the floating market we were brought to was a bit of a disappointment. Supposedly the floating market is a bustling tour through boats selling a variety of Thai food specialties, souvenirs and trinkets of all sorts. However, this floating market was an ugly green barge in the middle of the canal with about four boats selling food. Soooo, either we got scammed into going to the wrong market or the floating markets are a mysterious Thai tourist attraction that doesn't exist. I am going to go with option #1.
It's a good thing the gang and I can have a good time anywhere, because after the floating market let-down, we took a tuk-tuk to the Grand Palace (Ted's first Bangkok tuk-tuk ride, may I remind you) and on the way, it broke down in the middle of the road! After a good laugh, we hailed another tuk-tuk over to the Grand Palace, perhaps Bangkok's #1 tourist attraction. Here is a pretty flower shot from the inside of the palace - this one's for you Mom, I know you love the flower photos!
The official residence of the king of Thailand from the 18th century to the mid-20th century, the Grand Palace is just that - grand! It is an elegant complex of several buildings which is protected by ornate white walls on all four sides. When the current King Bhumibol began his official reign over 60 years ago, he moved the official residence to Chitlada Palace. Now the Grand Palace serves as a major tourist mecca and provided a nice afternoon stroll for Lauren, Ted and I. Here is Chakri Mahaprasad Hall - the largest of the Grand Palace buildings (and I think the prettiest)!
Starting tomorrow - Exam Week! That's right, just one more week of school before I will re-sign my title as Grade 1 teacher at Sarasas Witaed Saimai. The days are quickly passing, and still, I have so much left to do! Hope you are all staying warm as I fight off the humidity and along with it, some really out-of-control, afro hair!