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Cast adrift on the River Kwai


Four years ago, I joined a coach load of tourists in Bangkok about to head-off north west, for a full day tour of Kanchanaburi, the River Kwai, the World War 11 cemetery, a trip on a train, a 15 minute race along the river in a ‘long-tail’ boat, all followed by a leisurely meal of Thai delicacies at the well-established River Kwai Village Resort, situated alongside the river bank.

The entire tour was a success, despite spending over four hours in the coach.

Last week, whilst again in Bangkok, I thought it a good idea to repeat the tour and compare it with what I had experienced last time.

The first major difference, was that the coach had been superseded by a modern Toyota people carrier, which meant threading a way through the city and its crowded road system was much easier and quicker.

I, along with six others, had booked through a local company named Jack Holiday Service. Both the guide and driver were first class, knowledgeable and pleasant.

Bridge over the River Kwai

pic: ianb888/flickr

The tour took the same format as before, giving us plenty of time to take-in the sights, click our camera shutters and cogitate in silence as we strolled between the immaculately kept rows of graves, noting just how many men that lay there were so young when their lives were brutally cut short.

With the ‘tour’ part over, we were driven to the Village Resort for what I had explained to my fellow passengers, would be a great lunch, served by smiling Thais, as we looked down at the fast flowing river.

Never will I allow myself to be proved so wrong again.

We were ushered along into what I realised was a greatly expanded restaurant area and then ran into a hoard of hungry and impatient folk, 90% of which hailed from what used to be the USSR. Gone were the small, round tables, where guests could chat quietly whilst eating – they had been replaced with long, trestle-like tables, where conversation was limited to the persons sitting alongside. The noise and babble was certainly not conducive to relaxed socialising.

Then there was the food! Yet again a dramatic change. No individual Thai dishes for one to sample at will, no beautifully decorated bowls, no freshly prepared ingredients, no pots of delicately flavoured tea, no service except for a few young men touting for guests to buy drinks (at an extra cost, of course).

Instead, the entire area had been turned into what one could best describe as…’an army canteen.’

pic: allpointseast/flickr

Along a couple of tables, buffet-style metal trays held a very limited range of cooked and uncooked food. Carbohydrate was certainly in evidence…spaghetti – pasta – bolognese sauce – chips – rice – so-called ‘fried chicken’ and a few other unidentifiable dishes. Dessert offerings were limited to cubes of weak jelly-like ‘wobblies’ and some squares of cake.

Add to this, the fact of dozens of adults pushing, shoving and shouting in their efforts to secure a place at the front of the queue – plus many of their errant children demonstrating their ability to show-off to the staff…and I reckon readers can picture the scene accurately.
My fellow travellers were appalled at such uncalled for behaviour. That it was as bad as the food tasted, said it all!

Visit the River Kwai and it environs by all means, but do insist that you dine at a venue which is at least traditional and serves authentic Thai dishes.

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