Yesterday I had a day off from my work as writer-in-residence at ELC School in Thailand, so I headed northwest towards the historic area of Kanchanaburi. Two teachers from the school went with me, both ex-pat Canadians (and Vancouverites!).
It was here where the historic railroad and bridge over the River Kwai was built by Japanese prisoners of war to connect Siam with Burma. The original bridge was destroyed during the war, but you can still see the foot of it.
During a later part of the day, we took a short train ride that crossed over an old wooden-trestle bridge that was the same vintage as the original bridge over the river.
And of course, now, they have a new bridge. You can walk over it, but it is still functioning! There’s just a simple sign (and not a very big one, if you ask me) that instructs you to jump out of the way if a train comes!
There is a fairly good museum attached to the site where you can see many old relics left over from the construction of the bridge. Of course, there were many shops and souvenir stalls here too. As our tour bus pulled up I spotted what I thought was a little leopard cub hanging out at the entrance. Then the bus turned the corner; I whirled around to my companions and asked them if they had seen it and they both immediately thought I was dreaming.
So as the bus stopped, I jumped off and raced around the corner. And, sure enough . . .
This poor little fellow was feeling pretty hot. I guess he was there just so tourists could come by and pay a few Baht to get their photo taken with him. I didn’t want to do that—I would have rather just set him free. Apparently, this is a pretty common scene in Thailand. There’s lots of exotic animals, including wild cats, and they are kept on a heavy dose of sedatives so that they are docile for interactions with tourists.
I had a much better experience with the elephants. But more to come on that later . . .