Thursday, October 25, 2007

A weekend by the River Kwai - II

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!


aargee said...

I would have screamed on top of my voice if something like that would have happened...but good.. you people were so close to Tigers. Btw, in your earlier post you were saying about tucking in your tummy.. though in the snap I feel you are too very slim :)

Shyam said...

Oh wow, you stroked a tiger (and nearly got one by the tail, i gather!). :) I've gotta tell my MIL this, she's crazy about tigers! Tho it will probably mean a trip there for her 70th b'day or something! :D

DotMom said...

interesting fact to know about the brige on kwai! i love the movie. the falls look like they are out of LOTR (the name too)

I can't believe your touched the tiger? How does the fur feel? Is it soft like a lamb or more rought like I don't know a buffalo? And you look awsomely thin :)

Suki said...

You are NOT flabby or chubby by any stretch of the imagination!

The waterfalls look really beautiful. Hope I can go there some day - holidays in Thailand work out cheaper for a Kolkatan than trips to South India, or so I've heard!

I am a bit worried about the tigers, though. Can't help it... isn't it unnatural for an animal not to react when touched? They usually have a positive or negative reaction!

Just Like That said...

That belly sure don't look like no jelly to me! You fibber, you!
And I would never have dreamed that you went stroking a tiger, make that tigers(!) from what you said in your last post. Girl, you certainly live life kingsize! ;-)
But yeah, I remember seeing a tv show on them sometime ago.

Cantaloupes.Amma (CA) said...

The waterfall area looks so serene ... absolutely divine !! Was the water warm as well? (the water in west coast US is ice cold :( )
And if you were upset with the owner's wife's shapes ... still wondering what to say !!!

kodi's mom said...

you are absolutely braave! I am not sure if I would have done all that given how much I love my life post KM and everything, and even if I did I wouldnt be posing with the smile that you seem to sport in that picture!
did Moppet see you touching the tigers? her reaction?

Shruthi said...

I have always wanted to stroke a tiger! Or a lion, a leopard, or a polar bear. I am oh-so-Jealous!

Btw, Moppet is adorable.

Sue said...

And that is your idea of a do-nothing weekend, huh? I wonder what you guys do when you're feeling adventurous? Climb the Everest?

Glad to hear you all had such fun. :)

Terri said...

So tiger cubs aren't as cuddly as kittens? They sure look cute though. And what jelly and what belly?

Moppet's Mom said...

Aargee: I know, I gave a little yelp myself! :-)

Shyam: Really? Although if she's really passionate about tigers, she may prefer to see them in the wild - on a safari type thing maybe.

Dotmom: Me too! And that's exactly what I said when I heard the name Erawan! The tigers fur is not soft - it felt a little rough and springy. Maybe the fur near the belly is softer, but i didn't venture there :-)

Suki: If you plan your Thailand holiday sometime within the next year, you can be sure of a place to stay in Bangkok!

And yes, I have mixed feelings about the tigers as well - the tigers that we are allowed to touch are once that have been raised at the temple, and are completely used to human beings. In fact, they probably don't even know they're tigers! I didn't see any sign of the animals being neglected or ill-treated, and I appreciate their concept of an animal rescue sanctuary, but the tigers are obviously raised in a manner that make them absolutely unfit to be released back into the wild. I don't know if that's such a good thing....

JLT: Live life kingsized, I wish! Fact is, mine is the most routine life you can imagine - the occasional lively weekend is the only thing that keeps me sane! :-)

CA: The water was pleasantly cool, perfect for a refreshing dip.

K's Mom: I don't think she could see clearly from where they were asked to stand. She saw the pictures later and didn't seem particularly impressed!

Shruthi: Thank you!

Sue: LOL! It just sounds packed - actually it was spread out over 3 days and quite relaxed.

Terri: I think the real babies might be, the half-grown ones I saw weren't quite so cuddly.

And to all of you who've made comments about my chubbiness (or perceived lack of it) let me clarify - the jelly belly does exist - you just can't see it all that well in this particular photo with the angle, and the fact that I'm wearing black! :-)

Why do you think that was the chosen photo?! It had nothing to do with the tiger, I can assure you!

Poppins said...

OOhh that sounds thrilling ! The only wild animal I've ever touched is an alligator. A tiger, boy even if they ARE drugged, it would scary.

Did moppet have a go as well? The waterfalls ate different levels sounds like a place in Maui (Hawaii), I didn't know that there were so many nice things to see around Bangkok. Hmm.

Parul said...

Looks like you guys are having a fantastic time, MM! Very nice account.

I have been meaning to visit that Tiger Temple ever since I watched a documentary on them on NGC or something.

Have fun and careful on those falls!

mnamma said...

It does sound so thrilling Moppet's Mom. And you were brave enough to go and pet the tigers first and then got whacked by its tail :) Nice pictures.

noon said...

Wow wow wow! You petted tigers!!! Now you can casually throw that in in a party convo! ;) And yes woman - what jelly? Where? In the sandwich you ate there? Belly? Hahn?!!! You look super slim and cool petting away tigers n all!

ddmom said...

Look at you girl, slim and trim. Where is the tummy to be tucked in?

You are brave to pet the tiger. I am scared to touch even a cat, those with big eyes, and there you are posing with a smile. Way to go!

choxbox said...

Petting tigers - wow! The closest I came to anything like that was a chance to pet an anaconda (or some such) in the Singapore Night Safari (or was it the zoo?) which I promptly refused!

And hey from which angle exactly are you not slim?!

Collection Of Stars said...

WoW! That was one heck of a narration - enjoyed myself :)
I read a story by a POW about the Bridge on the River Kwai recently - very sad.
I would never never have gone near a tiger however tame it was - you are brave.
AND you are super slim - could not locate the jelly belly :)
Glad that you guys had a nice time :)

Orchid said...

boohoo...where is my comment?

Shobana said...

I would have screamed the hell out of its hiding place (wherever that is). No, No...I wouldn't have stepped into the tiger pit in the first place let alone, stroking them and screaming. **SHIVERS**

But I am glad for you and hope someday I can go there and get B to stroke the cats. As for me, I'll just take pics and be happy with that.

Just Like That said...

hahahaha couldn't help laughing at all the indignant comments. I see that the jelly belly figures in nearly every comment. Now are you convinced theat you are trim, or rather that us others out here have more jelly in their bellies than you? LOL!

Rohini said...

Cool trip. And stop fishing for compliments - you look as slim as they come in that tiger pic...

Fuzzylogic said...

That sounds like one hell of a trip MM!As much as exciting it sounds to pet a tiger it did make me feel sad to see such majestic animals being so tame. I blame all that perhaps on that documentary I recently watched on NG about how fast these majestic creatures are disappearing.They are soo beautiful!

Loved the name of the waterfalls,it did ring the LOTR to me too:)I have always been fascinated about the bridge on river Kwai it was nice to see the pics of it and hear the true account of it.

Ahem about the much talked about jelly belly part!can I say please let me have one which can look as good as this:)

karmickids said...

Sheesh. And she's a liar too. And a brave liar. *rushes off to mirror to check which angle to be photographed in to camouflage pudding jelly belly given that she already always wears black*. Tigers too. *Wah*

Moppet's Mom said...

WAH! I give up! Now someone convince my husband that my jelly belly doesn't exist too, and life will be perfect! :-)

Anonymous said...


From what little I can see of your face, your chin and teeth, you look like Tanushree Dutta! Let me know if you do.

-delurking for the first time