After driving out through the sprawling surrounds of Bangkok – the Los Angeles of Asia? – we came without seeming to pass through any countryside, to Talad Rom Hoop, the food market famously situated on active railway tracks. The train is not running at the moment due to track works, and even when it is, it’s a small local line), but there was a real sense of claustrophobic lack of space, the very reason the market has spread to the tracks.
From there to the Tha Kha Floating Market at Amphawa, where we rowed along the canals to see palm sugar being produced at a family factory before enjoying lunch at a restaurant overlooking the market. A further stop at Nakorn Pathom to see the tallest stupa in the world standing (127 metres), and to sample a popular regional dessert, khao lam, a mixture of sweet sticky rice neatly wrapped in a bamboo tube and steamed.
Kanchanaburi is the site of the famous Bridge on the River Kwai and on the route of the Burma Railway. Walking over the bridge at sunset was a bit emotional for me, as was visiting the Death Railway Museum the next day. In the early 1990s I was involved with Richard Davey’s theatrical production A Bright and Crimson Flower, which told the story of the Australian POWs who survived this second world war atrocity, and whose story to that point really had not been widely told.
According to Soon (and I have no reason to doubt her), Thais are constantly amused by our pronunciation of the bridge and the river, as promulgated by the famous film starring Alec Guinness. ‘Kwai’ (as rhymed with ‘why’) means ‘water buffalo’. The proper pronunciation of the place concerned is ‘Kwa’ (as rhymed with ‘car’).
For dinner, Soon took us to a local outdoor food market. The highlight was chicken stir-fried with basil – brilliant. The cost was about TB150 each, including drinks. The braver among us (including your humble correspondent) tried a few local snacks. like fried grashppers.