This post is going to be in two parts otherwise it's going to be huge!!
We'd been kind of talking about going away for the weekend (It was a long weekend due to the fact that Monday was Constitution Day..........a bit of a joke really since the coup but hey, Chris had a day off so I wasn't about to start complaining!!). We only decided on Friday that we definately wanted to go somewhere and that that somewhere was Kanchanaburi (We have been a couple of times - you can read about the history of the place here). Once Tony heard we were going he asked if he could tag along for one night since he's never been so most of Friday was spent trying to sort out how we were going to get there and where we were going to stay once we did.
It was an adventure - we decided that we would travel the way the Thai's do and take the train. Now, depending on which website you looked at, the train, and there is only one train leaving in the morning, either left at 7.15, 7.30 or 7.45 from Bangkok Noi (Where??? I had never even heard of it - we found out where it was eventually......Chris's colleague Rung was very helpful and even drew us a map). We decided that we would err on the side of caution and aim for the earliest time - we were up and out the apartment at 6am (No-one should ever be up at that time in the morning.....unless they haven't been to bed yet!!) to get a taxi to the station. The station was exactly what I thought a Bangkok Train station should be like - there was a huge food market next to it and there were just people everywhere.......farangs with backpacks, kids running around, people cooking breakfast on their stalls, people carrying huge bags of food, chickens squawking in woven baskets.......what an atmosphere. It was just as well there was lots to look at - the train didn't leave till 8.30!!
The journey itself was great (took about 4 hours in all). It was an old fashioned style train with windows that opened and fans on the ceiling. The scenery was amazing and we passed all sorts of things - a couple of Bangkok slums, a huge temple, some building that had amazing metal sculptures outside it (I've no idea what the hell it was), a man working in his paddy fields and then, as we got closer to Kanchanaburi, the mountains. I absolutely loved it - at every stop people dived on the train and then walked up and down it selling water, beer, freshly cooked chicken, freshly cooked omelettes with rice and all manner of Thai sweets and the cost of our trip........100 baht each which works out at £1.42.
Now, I had really struggled to get accommodation when booking on Friday (as you can see our room was a rather basic hut on a raft on the river - but it only cost 250 baht (£3.60) so what did I expect!!) and had just put it down to the fact that there was a long weekend. I was delighted to discover that there was a light festival that weekend telling the story of Bridge over the River Kwai...........and was even more excited when I realised that we would be able to get tickets. We spent a chilled afternoon looking round the market at the bridge then made our way back to our hotel where we were collected by boat and taken to a position on the river from where we could see the show. OMG it was absolutely fantastic!!
The bridge was lit from different angles and the show started with lights going from green to blue to red as Thai soldiers, carrying flags from all the nations involved in the building of the bridge, walked onto the bridge itself and then, when all the flags were half mast, a lone trumpeter walked to the middle of the bridge and paid tribute to all the soldiers and civilians who's lives were lost at the hands of the Japanese army during the actual building. (I cried!!). It was so cleverly done - There were straw huts at the other side of the river bank built to resemble what had been there at the time and turrets on both the bridge and the river bank representing the Japanese Guard Towers. The show then progressed to tell the story of the building of the bridge - it was amazing.....they used small flashes of light combined with sound effects to make it sound and look like there were actual people there doing the building and this section culminated in the completion of the bridge and a real steam train going over it. Then for the finally they used fireworks to simulate the bombing of the bridge - small fireworks represented the British bombers and then there were huge explosions of fireworks from points both on the river and on the bridge to represent the bombs landing. They had people dressed as Japanese soldiers running around the bridge pretending to fire back and then (God I nearly had a heart attack) one of the guard turrets burst into flames and fell into the river followed by two of the soldiers - I really wasn't sure if that was supposed to happen.....it was bloody convincing!! (It was supposed to happen cause they had people on a boat do the same but the Thai's don't really go for health and safety and there was a real moment when I thought.......). During the show there was a voice over who told the story and gave the official death toll. It was very very moving and very very beautiful!! (They had a huge fireworks display at the end)
They do this every year apparently and change and add to it each time - if you ever get the chance to go do......it was really worth seeing (My words don't really do it justice but hopefully the fab pictures Chris took will!!)