We signed in on a guided tour to see Bang Pa In, Ayutthaya and Kanchanaburi.
Ayutthaya was Thailand's capital during the 18th century. During its reign, they say it's as big and as beautiful as Paris. I could see why people say that. Although in ruins, we could still find many beautiful old temples there. It's just like the area to the west and north of Yogya where Borobudur, Prambanan, Mendut, Ratu Boko, Kalasan, Sari and other old temples are located. So Ayutthaya is very beautiful. I really like it. I sat in one of the old temple and just looked around. I think I could imagine how it was when it was still a capital.
We visited the royal family's summer palace, the beautiful Bang Pa-In. This is a huge complex with many buildings and gardens. Thereís a small lake in the middle and ponds. A truly beautiful place.
The buildings are exotic because they have many different architectural styles. They have different European-style buildings built side by side with Thai and Chinese-style. In the middle of the lake thereís a small temple-like shrine with a traditional architecture, but the bridge surrounding it has European style angel statues. Somehow the combination did not look tacky to me.
One thing I note here: if in Indonesia, Singapore or Malaysia we find a European style building, it must be built in the colonial time by the occupying foreign people. But in Thailand it wouldn't be a colonial building because no European countries ever occupy Thailand. The foreigners come and built the buildings for the kings!
Kanchanaburi's main attraction is The Bridge over The River Kwai, with a railway that was part of the Death Railway. The original bridge was actually already destroyed by an Allied bombing, but then it was built again by the Japanese after the war. Some of the original curving iron bridge structures were used, except the missing parts in the middle.
We came to the area in little wooden boats which ran as fast as they could. I clutched my camera hard, Didnít want it to be thrown into the water. I saw Julinda getting pale. She must be praying hard so that the boats wouldnít capsize. But we arrived there safely.
We then rode an old train with wooden windows through the bridge and the Death Railway for an hour up to almost the end of the railway near the Myanmar border. It was an interesting journey, although the scenery was very much like the scenery we would find in Indonesian rural areas. It was a profound feeling though, to actually ride on a railway that had claimed so many lives.
We had lunch at the end of the railway in a series of huts near the forests. Our guide told us that we could ride elephants to the forest and go to Myanmar from there. I looked at my friends with hopeful eyes but they all shook their head. No. Well, next time. Maybe.
On the train we talked about how Thailand achieved their success by developing their country based on their strength: agriculture. I think we should've done the same, instead of trying to pursue industrialisation (which had failed partially), I think we should've tried to make our agriculture side strong first. Now our agriculture is in a state of mess. It used to be that Thai agriculturists and farmers came to Indonesia to learn but now itís their turn to teach us. I heard that next year we will have Thai farmers and agriculturist come to Indonesia and help us plan and do technology transfer. The same thing happened in education. In the 60s and early 70s our teachers used to be sent to Malaysia to help building their education. Now we go to Malaysia to study. Embarrassing.
The other places that we visited in Kanchanaburi were the POW museum, built and kept by Buddhist monks over the site of a real POW camp, and a war cemetery. It was here that I saw several old people (I think some of them war veterans) shed their tears. I wanted to take their picture but I was afraid it would be impolite, so I took photo of one of the graves. From the grave signs I saw that many of these soldiers died awfully young. I am more convinced now of the futility of war. We just killed young people in it. And for what?
Bangkok, Wednesday 23 June 1999