Friday, March 28, 2008

The Bridge Over the River Kwai and the Thakilen Train Ride

As I got near the bridge, I noticed a horde of tourists. People were walking on the bridge, crossing to the other side and back, just to get the feel of it. It has to be mentioned that this isn’t a safe area for letting children walk around, as they might fall off the bridge! This Death Railway stretches for 415 km all the way to the Burmese border. it’s notorious construction took the lives of some 100,000 soldiers who toiled hard under harsh conditions to finish its construction in 1 ½ years for what would normally take 5 years to complete.

It was a nice experience walking along “The Bridge” with the rest of the crowd. There were wide-open spaces which took my breath away (I have trouble with heights) but it was part of the thrill. Some monks dutifully posed as tourists flocked for photo opportunity. These guys are proverbial “superstars” and they seem to embrace this practice good-naturedly.

From the “Bridge”, we gathered back to the van. By this time, I’ve scanned through the DVDs sold at the nearby tiangge; the souvenir shops, etc. We were driven to a train station 30 minutes from the JEATH Museum. This was the Thakilen Station. We bought our tickets (50 baht) then waited as other tourists anxiously congregated at the platform. This was going to be fun, riding through the Death Railway. It will take an hour. We were instructed to be attentive and to go down at the 6th station of Namtok where we were going to have lunch. I positioned myself near the edge of the platform, hoping to get a good seat. I’d be lucky to get a seat. It's going to be a packed ride, with a mix of farangs and local commuters. There were students on the ride. The guide told us that the crown princesses took this train earlier this week. When the train arrived, I jumped in and took my seat beside a German couple. The Malaysian girl sat nearby. Several others were standing on the aisle. Occasionally, an ambulant vendor would pass by selling drinks and a yummy-looking doughnut. I finally gave in and bought two pieces. The mountainous route was peppered with rural scenery, bamboos and kamoteng kahoy jut out from the arid land. There was a river along the route, lined with quaint cottages.

When we finally got to Namtok, I got off the train. There were no platforms here. I hopped off the rails. Our van was waiting for us. We were taken to a restaurant for our 1 PM lunch, and as fun as it sounds, we ate in comfortable silence. We enjoyed three viands and a very sweet pineapple fruit. After our lunch, it was time to see more sights. The Spanish brothers were whisked off to go elephant riding (a very cheap 100 baht/ride) while the rest of us were taken to Sai Yok Noi Falls.

Restaurants along the Kwai Riverside.

Monks enjoying the spotlight. They were stopped, while crossing the bridge, by a group of tourists who wanted photos taken with them.

My austrian tourmates at the Thakilen station before purchasing our train tickets.

Thakilen station platform. Waiting for our train.

Thakilen station ticket counter.

Thai students on our train.

A riverside resort seen during our train ride.

Our train ride along the Death Railway.

When the local commuters went off at the 4th, 5th station, we had more space and better seats. Our austrian tourmate (right, middle, with eyeglasses)...

At the Nantok station, we got off the train. No platforms.

Our late lunch was here.

This is the Eye in the Sky!

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