Monday, January 9, 2012

Kanchanaburi, Day 2

We hired a car and driver from our guesthouse for the day, and he drove us north about 60 Km to "Hell Fire Pass".  This was part of the "death railway" constructed in WWII by POW (mostly Aussie) and conscripted Asian labour.  They had only simple tools such as picks and shovels and hand drills plus dynamite to cut a pass through rock about 25 meters deep and 500 metres long.  And they did this in 6 weeks because they were forced to work around the clock on very limited rations of rice and vegetables, using torches for light (hence the name Hell Fire).  There is a very good museum at the top of the pass built by the Australian gov't about 20 years ago.  There aren't many artifacts because the POWs didn't have much stuff with them, but some very good photographs, models of the railway, diary and sketchbook excerpts, and maps.  I found one part of the museum particularly poignant:  there is a cantilevered deck out the back of the building overlooking the pass, and at the end is a beautiful blue pottery bowl created by an Australian potter who had been one of the POW laborers.  He survived the war, and later studied ceramics in Australia.  There is a bamboo frame floating in the bowl to support fresh flowers.  
Overlooking the Hell Fire Pass.  The Burmese border is on the edge of the distant peaks.
We then walked down the trail to the pass itself, and walked for about 40 minutes on the original rail bed. The rails were lifted about 50 years ago, and the rail bed was restored again with Australian financial support in the last 30 years or so.
Hell Fire Pass
And then for a complete change of pace, we were driven to Sai Yok Noi waterfall where many white tourists were cavorting in the water in their bikinis (and some definitely should have been wearing more clothes...)
And then to Lawa Cave with some spectacular chambers:
Lawa Cave:  Hot and humid, not cold!
We were a bit surprised at how warm it was in the cave--not at all like European caves which are cold.  And there was not a lot of oxygen--there was a sign at the entrance warning us to "take note of your body condition.  Oxygen levels are low."
We finished off the day by being dropped by our driver at the Nam Tok railway station to return to Kanchanaburi by train, a journey that took over 3 hours but very scenic.

A Third Class train meaning hard seats and no air conditioning--windows wide open...
And we've wrapped up the day with another wonderful meal here at our guesthouse (Apple's Retreat).  And I enjoyed 2 glasses of Thai white wine--a little weak but wine none-the-less!

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