Today is a travel day, heading north for Kanchanaburi through lush river country. Our goal the famous bridge over the River Kwai. But, traveling with OAT (Overseas Adventure Travel) is so much more. Panu points out the salt flats, where ocean water is piped into clay pads. Salt is made only in summer. With the intense hot sun, ten inches of water can evaporate in one day. The farmer uses the salt for pit toilets, house use, preservative and to put in the soil to sweeten the mangosteens and coconuts. When the rains come, the same flats are used to raise fish and shrimp. They produce fish sauce for sale. Thais have used windmills for years to pump water and are now experimenting with wind power.
Panu stops at a fruit stand and buys for our tasting pleasure, Longan, Mangosteen, Pomelos, lychee, and tangerines.
Our second stop is this amazing woodcarving company that ships beautiful pieces all over the world. Oh, how I wanted the bench above with its bird arm rest and pheasant back piece. Gorgeous. The pieces are drawn on paper and deeply chiseled to produce a dimensional work of art. The piece is drawn on a paper and pasted to the wood. The carver below is nearly finished.
Next stop a coconut processing plant. Its a family affair, not for export. People in the region produce for their own use and barter with neighbors. Transportation was made easy by the canals built by the king before good roads were built.
It was absolutely fascinating to realize this wok is boiling coconut milk into a syrup using the coconut shells to fuel the stove. The foaming sugar boils up but instead of boiling over onto the stove, it seeps through the bamboo slats and drips back down into the wok again. So clever.
This photo shows ground coconut meat fried until it releases its oil. Then the oil floats and is separated. A tool called a rabbit is used to remove the fresh meat from the shell easily. We tasted, fresh, juicy and delicious. I learned that coconut milk is plentiful in a green coconut. When the coconut ripens, the meat gets thick and is taken for oil and food. This family allowed us to traipse through their house and see how a typical,middle class Thai farm house looks inside. People here live simply and spend much time out of doors. Can you imagine us allowing 10 people to roam through our house?
Our next stop was the floating market, kind of carnival in atmosphere. This farmer augments his income by bringing his elephant to town. People pay him to have their picture taken with the elephant. It is against the law to have an elephant in town, but in this country place, the people seem to ignore the law. Most Thais have no refrigeration, or traditionally had no refrigeration and they bought their daily food each day from the market. Everything transpires here on the canal. Goods brought to town from outlying farms, they cook on the boats, eat, sleep and socialize. At one time they threw all their garbage in the canal. The king beseeched them not to do that and a market place on land as well as on the canal developed. Toilets and washing places and garbage containers helped take the stink away and what is left is a fascinating, wonderful place.
This woman is cooking and arranging her wares on banana leaves.
Fruits and flowers of all types are available as well as dry goods like hats and pots and tools. In recent years, souveniers as well.
When your shopping is done you can sit in the Gossip Cafe for a sip and a treat.
Or, have your picture taken with a snake.
We finally reach Kanchanaburi. Above is one of the original Japanese steam engines used on the rail over the River Kwai.
At lunch, we view the new Bridge over the river Kwai. We walked the bridge and could see a small remnant of the original bamboo bridge that was blown up by the Brits.
Later we visit the War Museum and War cemetery with graphic pictures of the Allied POWs and the Asian conscripts forced to work themselves to death on the infamous railway.
200,000 Asian laborers and 61,000 Allied POWs built a 260 mile stretch of rail in abominable conditions. For every half-mile of track, 38 POWs died, 700 Americans, 13,000 Aussies, 18,000 Dutch, 30,000 Brits. If a prinsoner had no solid feces, they were made to catch 2000 flies a day before they died. They actually counted the flies.
The Chinese cemetery.
Flat Stanly managed to hook a ride on a wooden elephant at the market before we got to our hotel and dinner.