Sunday, May 15, 2005

Do You Speakee Inglish?

Upon leaving Bangkok I headed west to the small, provincial town of Samut Songkhram, from where I hoped to visit a traditional floating market. Getting around through southern Thailand and Bangkok had been relatively easy as even the hawkers had some smatterings of English (even if it was just numbers to tell you how much things cost), but that was because the route was already well-travelled. Step off the beaten track though, and you are well and truly stranded in a sea of incomprehension. Still, I found myself a hotel (from the looks of it the only one in town) and the next morning managed to get a moto-taxi rider to understand where I wanted to go (via various hand gestures and my feeble, mispronounced attempts at Thai). Unfortunately when I got there the market was nowhere in sight as it didn't operate on weekends (as I was wrongly informed by my guidebook) but only on various lunar days. The only floating market operating that day was the notoriously soulless Damnoen Saduak, to which busloads of tourists are carted every day. But I thought to myself that since I was there, what the hell. That was until I saw the convoy of about 20 minivans carting the tourist chattel to market. That was it for me and I decided to cut my losses. At least I learnt an import lesson: not to trust everything in the Lonely Planet implicity

So here I am in the town of Kanchanaburi on the banks of the Mae Nam Kwae Yai, or the River Kwai as most people know it back home. There is a bridge, but it is not the one aficionados of the film will recognise (I am ashamed to say that even though I consider myself to be a bit of a film buff I haven't seen the film, though I plan to watch it when I get back home). The wood and bamboo structure in the film (and book) was actually a temporary bridge that was quickly built before the main one that stands to this day. Visiting the bridge also rounds off my tour of importtant WW2 sites of the Malaya campaign: from Changi PoW camp to Kota Bahru (site of he first clashes bettween he Japanese and British forces) and now here by the infamous Death Railway on which over 100,000 people lost their lives.

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