Tuesday, December 24, 2013

12-20-13 an 12-21-13 The Race to Kanchanaburi and the Ensuing Awkwardness

     Today, we had a really easy day due to midterms. The students filed into the classrooms, took tests that lasted an hour each, and they had to remain silent the entire time. Oh, sweet, blissful silence... how I miss thee...

     So the old me would have packed overfilled bags of clothes for an overnight trip, but the new me is really getting the hang of packing the night before and tossing a very small amount of actual useful stuff in my bag immediately after school. It took only 2 times of running around with way too much weight on my shoulders to teach me that lesson.
     After school, I ran home and two of the teachers helped me call a taxi to take me to Mo Chit 2 (the Northern bus terminal that I’m always having so much trouble getting to). Jess planned to leave from Sai Tai Mai, the Southern bus terminal. Even though I reached my terminal first, I had to sit around to wait for my mini-van. I left maybe 15 minutes before Jess left hers...
     And thus began our race to Kanchanaburi.

Jess's status:
Racing with Jen. Let’s see who gets to Kanchanaburi first ;)

Our conversation, almost 2 hours later:
Me: I’m supposedly 20 min away
Jess: I’m about the same.
Me: It’s on.
Jess: Lol yes it is.
(These conversations made me laugh really hard, so I looked a little insane because I was traveling alone and laughing at my phone.)

     But it doesn’t even matter because I won. Because winning is the only thing of importance in this lifetime. :D Haha just kidding. I did “win” but only by about 5 minutes. She found me as I was clumsily making my way into the very wet and gross bathroom at the Kanchanaburi bus station.
     Google Maps on my phone told me that our hostel, Sam’s House, was only about 2.4 km away from the bus terminal, so we decided to walk it in order to avoid paying the taxi drivers around us. However, my phone must have gone berserk because we walked for 30 minutes to the polytechnic college, only to find out that that was NOT where Sam’s House was located. We asked for directions (thank goodness I’m not a stereotypical man, especially with my lack of directional sense because I would be lost all the time... and not asking for directions either. I guess that’s not too different from my current situation though, even when I do ask for directions because I’ll be lost either way.)
     A strange man gave us a ride (don’t worry, he knew the security guard we were talking to) and dropped us off at Sam’s House, which on Google Maps, is spelled Saem’s House. Gosh darn it, Google Maps... lol
     We got a very cold night’s rest because there was no heater. Jess said that there might be mold in the room too because as we breathed the night away, we were heavily sniffling... ewwww. But otherwise, the place was decent to stay in, especially as compared to other hostels and their much higher prices. Plus, the design outside of the room was adorable; maybe it would have been better to sleep outside and freeze there instead.


     Alright, now I’ll split the day into two different blog posts because otherwise, you’ll be reading a novel here. And what’s better than one novel? You’re right! Two novels. Stay tuned! lol jk :)
     We rented motorbikes and mine had Pikachu stickers on it! We rode to the Death Railway, which is also known as the Bridge on the River Kwai (and other names such as the Burma Railway and the Thailand-Burma Railway. There is no definite name for it). This was the historical landmark I wanted to visit not only for its physical beauty but to learn a little more about its history. 
     It was built during World War II when the Japanese empire took over the British project of building a railway between Burma and China, although the Japanese only wanted to connect Burma with Thailand. The line was meant to stretch for over 250 miles, but the Japanese allowed about one year for its construction (even though they estimated it would take 5-6 years to actually complete), as the railway would help transport war supplies and men to the Burmese front where the Japanese were fighting the British. Allied prisoners of war (or POWs) were responsible for building this bridge, and they worked in horrid conditions. Prisoners faced cruelty in the lack of sufficient diet as well as the brutal treatment they faced from their captors. Diseases ravaged the masses, the soldiers continually beat them, and they worked for over 12 hours a day on top of that. Perhaps about 100,000 died building this railway. It was so terrible, that “when looking down on the wok area at night, it looked like working in the ‘jaws of hell’-thus the workers gave it the name ‘Hellfire Pass.’” 
     Similar to the Great Wall, the POWs also built over bodies of the dead. That way, instead of taking 5-6 years as originally estimated, it instead took a mere 16 months. Unfortunately, a lot of people’s hard work never made a difference because the Royal Air Force bombed the railway often. After the war, the Thai government only reopened one section of the railway, which operates today: Nong Pladuk to Nam Tok. 
     It is a fascinating and haunting story, but the bridge stands as a testament to time, showing that some, if not all, of the effort the prisoners put into it still made a difference. I was both awed and saddened by the sight, especially as it stood so still and solid against the calm, blue water beneath and the Kwang-Im Temple in the background.
     While Jess and I took pictures of the bridge, and I looked increasingly awkward in  my stretched-out shirt, some guys tried to jokingly photo-bomb our photos. When Jess walked away, one of them approached me and we spoke a little in broken speech. He thought I was a university student, so I tried to tell him I was a teacher. I found out he was a boxing instructor, and he pulled up his shirt sleeve to show me his muscles. As soon as Jess noticed that this guy was creeping on me (although I thought this situation was hilarious), she came over and bluntly said, “Oh, so we’re going to be late.” 
     I almost fell down laughing at how awkward it was. Even the guy backed away immediately and apologized. Plus, the tone she used and its implied message was so obvious, which just added to the comedic timing. Hahahahahaha :D 
     For the rest of the time we spent at the Bridge on the River Kwai, many guys kept staring at me. I believe one or two guys during the day asked if I was Japanese (not necessarily on the bridge). It was incredibly annoying, especially as I looked like a bum, and so next time this happens, I’ll do a creepy stare at them. No harassment toward me, please! :) I’ll be the harasser, thank you very much. 
     Even at the temple, this one younger gardener was staring at me. Have they never seen females before??? Some guy at a gas station called me “beautiful” too. Hey, I know I should be flattered, but I would rather be judged for my awkward personality than my looks. Haha... 

     Next blog post will be about our visit to and from Erawan National Park! :) I am so proud to say that I visited it because the place is so beautiful... just wish we could’ve spent more time there :)

I couldn't read this. I still can't discern what it's supposed to say. War Wall?

The railway

Don't get run over!

The Death Railway

Sad that such a beautiful place has such a sad history.

Afraid of heights?

Hey, my creeper is the one toward the right with the sunglasses.
I didn't do too shabbily, did I? :D

Guan-yin in the background

Looking back upon whence we came.

You had to walk on the tracks for a while because the railings were gone.

Jess and I walked toward the temple and saw a pheasant(?)

And peacocks in cages :(

The park was so pretty.

Looking up at the bridge

Someone playing "Staying Alive" by the BeeGees on a violin :)

The train's coming!

Soldier's helmet atop a mound

The houses on the river

Don't get run over, for real! lol

Some random scruffy dog

I finally reached the temple.

Beautiful :)

This garden is so pretty and almost seems to make the 
past of the railway disappear in the sunlight.

2 monkeys

2 snakes

1 dragon. How coincidental!

I liked this one because of the baby. 

Dragon on the staircase.

Looking down from the top of the stairs onto the temple grounds


Inside the temple

Next to the temple

Guan-yin :)

So serene and so elegant framed against the sky

I really liked this temple! :) The grounds were so pretty :)

We then went to eat at a restaurant. I loved the wooden theme.

Pad see eiw thalay

Goodbye for now, Railway!

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