So where were we? Ah, the sights.
Our first stop was the Bridge on the River Kwai, made famous more by the movie (a largely fictitious account) than by its own real and fascinating history. Yes, it was built by prisoners of war in extremely hard conditions, and yes, it was a vital part of the rail link (chillingly called the Death Railway) that would have given the Japanese quick overland access to Burma.
But in actual fact, the POWs didn't themselves heroically destroy the bridge before it could be used. It served its part in the Death Railway for almost 2 years and was then destroyed by Allied aerial bombing, with hundreds on POWs standing on it, a last desperate measure by the Japanese to prevent the attack.
The bridge that stands on the River Kwai today was reconstructed from the original spans of the destroyed bridge. Together with the war museum nearby, it offers not only a fascinating glimpse into the past, but also a sombre reminder of the horror that is war.
On then to more cheery sights, like the magnificent 7-tiered waterfalls of Erawan. The picture is of level 3, which is as far as we got, because the climb got steeper and more slippery with each level and while I thought I could still manage carrying a wriggling Moppet up it, I had doubts about my ability to get back down without breaking either of our necks.
So we settled instead on taking in a dip in the lovely green-blue pool at the foot of one of the falls and then walked back through the national park with hoardes of butterflies flitting across our path as we walked.
The last place we visited was the controversial Tiger Temple. Controversial beause while the monks say that their tigers are tame because they've been reared by humans and are simply used to being around people, there are others who claim the animals are drugged and ill-treated and used only for money-making purposes.
I'm no expert, but I thought the temple appeared to have decent facilities, and the 'donation' asked for is supposed to go towards a new sanctuary for the rescued animals which we saw was under construction. We went to see the tigers in the tiger canyon, and were allowed into the tiger pit (for want of a better word) one at a time, escorted by two volunteers. One to hold your hand, ensure that you make no sudden movements and guide you round the tigers, and the other to take your picture.
I went first, and my guide carefully positioned me behind the first tiger who you can see in the picture - a young fellow, little more than a cub really, who appeared to be sleeping (or drugged? I don't know). I laid my hand gingerly on his back and waited. Encouraged by the fact that he showed no signs of wanting to eat me, I stroked his back, feeling his fur, rough and springy under my hand. As my guide took me from tiger to tiger, I got bolder, kneeling closer and stroking them with both hands. None of them seemed to mind.
Except one big fellow, stretched out on a rock with his pal. The guide led me behind the rock (they always position you behind the tigers) and I leant down and gave him a friendly scratch on his hind leg. THWACK! His surprisingly strong tail lashed me on my thigh and I nearly fell off the rock in shock. Thankfully, he wasn't interested in eating me either, and with my hand no longer on his leg, he seemed to have no futher objection to my hanging around. I wasn't so sure though, so I hurried on to the next tiger, and then scooted out of the pit. Moppet's Papa would later tell me that he got whacked by the same tiger when he tried to touch his paw. Maybe he was just in a don't-touch-me mood that day, who knows?
So in summary, we walked the Death Railway, bathed in the pools of Erawan, and managed not to get killed by an irritated tiger :-) Enough for one weekend, I think!