The Night Market Baby
It is day two of our six week journey throughout Southeast Asia. Before I tell you what we did today in Thailand, I want to tell you about the fun evening we had last night. We took the ferry from the main terminal in Bangkok down the river to the Asiatique Night Market, a market that is made up of refurbished trade warehouses. Asiatique houses some fabulous restaurants and boutiques. We were surprised at the number of restaurants ranging from beautiful street food to high end restaurants on the water. We stopped at a place called Fire & Dine Bar 5 and we sat at the beautiful bar. They have a traditional Thai menu and a European-Asian fusion menu. We selected spicy chicken with lime and Thai spices, pineapple fried rice in a pineapple bowl and red curry with beef. Everything was wonderful.
Asiatique is a mix of upscale and interesting boutiques, restaurants and activities for the entire family. We went on Saturday night, which meant there was live music everywhere, a DJ with techno dancing and a carnival type fair. The carnival’s centerpiece is a huge Ferris wheel which lights up the entire outside space. There are a number of stands set up with virtual reality games and a virtual reality roller coaster [unfortunately, it must have been fairly realistic, as we observed a rider getting sick]. We also saw the fish tanks where you sit and put your feet in for the fish to clean your feet. We were not brave enough to do it, but we did watch the Kardashians do it when they were in Bali. I decided then and there that it wasn’t something I would participate in! We had so much fun just walking around and looking at all of the booths. It was much more upscale than we anticipated. We stopped for ice cream on the way out and caught the ferry back to our hotel. I would highly recommend a visit to this night market.
The Bridge Over The River Kwai
So on with today! We woke up early today and began a 2.5 hour journey by car to the city of Kanchanaburi [meaning the City of Gold]. This city is important because it houses a famous war memorial cemetery for approximately 7,000 Australian, Dutch and British prisoners of war that died while building the Thai-Burma Railway for the Japanese during World War II. The cemetery stands just a short distance from the site of the Kanburi Prison Camp. Over 100,000 people died constructing the railroad, with the majority coming from coerced labor from Southeast Asian countrymen and the balance from prisoners of war. The railway was called the Death Railway for obvious reasons. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, they also began a mass offensive in all of Southeast Asia as well. In 1942, the Japanese in the former Burma were relying on supplies brought in by sea, which were very vulnerable to attack. The Japanese controlled Thailand and Burma at the time.
The Japanese decided to build a railroad linking Thailand and Burma as a way to receive supplies by land. When Japanese engineers surveyed the land, their initial projections predicted that it would take five years to build the railway. However, the workers were forced to build the 415 Km railroad line in just 16 months under grueling conditions and with primitive tools. The workforce was savaged by malaria and starvation and were forced to try and sustain themselves on small amounts of rice and salt each day. Workers died of malaria and starvation. The railway was completed in 1943. Workers that died were buried half hazardly in the surrounding area. After the war, the British owned the railway and the war cemetery was created after the war, as bodies were exhumed and brought to their proper resting place. The railroad was in operation for only 21 months after it’s completion and the end of WWII. Today, only 165 Km of the original 415 Km is open for operation. What an exorbitant loss of life for such a frivolous endeavor. The pictures of these men in the memorial museum were so incredibly sad. Just skin and bones.
From the war memorial and the museum, we transferred to a long boat which took us down the Mae Klong River just a short distance from the fork and merge of the River Kwai Noi and the River Kwai Yai. We took a right at the fork. Our journey on the long boat ended at the famous Bridge Over the River Kwai [made famous by the Hollywood blockbuster by the same name]. In the movie the bridge is wood. However, in actuality, the bridge is made of steel from Indonesia and was built by the same workers who built the railroad. During WWII, the United States bombed a portion of the bridge and it had to be rebuilt.
We transferred to the train and had the opportunity to ride the train over the tracks that these prisoners of war built. During our journey, we were able to relax and watch the colorful and vibrant landscape that is Thailand emerge before our eyes. We passed fields of gold [as our friend Sting would say] made up of beautiful marigolds. We traveled through taro fields, banana plantations and rice terraces. It was a beautiful journey.
On the train, our guide, Pan, purchased a snack for us called Krong Krang, which is wheat flour sprinkled with coconut sugar and deep fried. It reminded me of when my grandmother used to take left over pie crust and sprinkle sugar and cinnamon on it and bake it in the oven. I also watched Tim eat a Thai favorite, ice cream on a bread roll. The bread was a light green in color because Padan was used as food coloring. Interesting!
Right at the end of the train’s journey, we passed over the Thamkra Sae Bridge, an all wooden bridge built in just 14 days by the prisoners of war and workers during WWII. Yes, we were concerned about going over a bridge that was built in just 14 days as well! We made it. At the end of the train’s journey, we were served a home cooked Thai meal – sweet and sour stir fry. Wonderful! While I cannot imagine eating again, I am certain that I will have more to share with you tomorrow about where and what we eat tonight! Until tomorrow my friends. Tomorrow morning we are off to Chang Mai in Northern Thailand, where we look forward to having great adventures with the elephants. Until then . . .