|Kanchanaburi lies on the path of a popular smuggling route from Thailand to Myanmar (Burma) and is the hme of the infamous Bridge on the River Kwai. It is also the starting point for tours to a monetary that we saw on a National Geographic documentary months ago.
If it had been anyone else doing this not a monetary full of monks you would immediately label it a money making scam. As it is, it's just very strange! Their monetary, wat Pa Luanga Bua Yannasampamo is now more affectionally known as Tiger Temple because it is also home to around a dozen Bengal Tigers. A similar story as with all the other animals they have given homes to, it started with one orphaned tiger and grew from there. The purpose of the tourist is to make money to feed and care for the animals and to raise enough to build the island resort style home they have planned for the tigers.
Currently you walk into a canyon where the tigers are between 1-5pm where you are then led by hand by a member of staff to sit with the tigers whilst someone else on the staff takes your photos. It's a bit of a circus but they do a good job of keeping everyone under control that way. As a finale, four, four month old cubs were brought out to play whilst we stood around and laughed at their antics.
Before visiting the famous bridge on the River Kwai we took a look at the well designed Thailand - Burma railway centre. The museum explains why the Japanese built the railway in WWII, the Prisoners of War who were used to do the work, why so many died and what has happened since the war.
An estimated 16 000 PoW's died whilst building the Death Railway. The railways objective was to secure an alternative supply route for the Jap's conquest of Myanmar and other Asian countries to the west. Construction began 16 September 1942 and was estimated that it would take 5 years to complete. In fact, the Jap army forced the PoW to complete the 415km railway in just 16 months despite much being built in difficult terrain requiring high bridges and deep mountain cuttings. Today little remains of the railway as the Thais tore it up at the end of the war. The Death Railway Bridge better known as Bridge on the River Kwai was bombed several times in 1945 and was only rebuilt after the war. The curved portions on the bridge however, are the originals.
Our last day in Kanchanaburi was spent slaving over a very hot stove in a Thai cooking class! We had a great day, the teacher was good. We think it was a guy, but he was wearing a skirt and heels so we're not entirely sure, and the name Mickey didn't really help with that one! So we are now culinary masters in the art of Thai cooking too.