River Kwai, Tiger Temple


grey River Kwai, Tiger Temple The morning arrives bringing with it more massage offers and a clear sunny day. Over my morning coffee I wait for my River Kwai and Tiger Temple Tour driver while daydreaming about the possibility of sharing a tour bus with a holidaying volleyball team, in my mind they are Swedish and female. They would place unreasonable demands on me throughout the day such as asking me to help rub suncream lotion on their backs while jokingly calling me Mr Sven or Kangaroo. They would throw their arms around my shoulder and tilt their heads in a flirtatious manner as we have photos taken near the tigers.  Strangely, Frank Sinatra’s ‘New York, New York’ is playing in the background. We all get along famously and meet out afterwards for a drink, dinner, maybe a dance…

The unfortunate reality is being shunted into the back of a Toyota Corolla with Noel and Mr Douna my husky voiced Tour Asia rep. I settle into the back seat and do up my seatbelt clutching at fading memories of my volleyball team. Noel, a gangly chap from Mackay with a thick Australian accent is my entire tour group. Mr Douna spends the next two hours pointing out handy facts in his husky voice such as, ‘the highway is heading south’, ‘that building wasn’t there last time’ and ‘that is a sugar plantation.’ Noel happily spends the time reading every sign he can find in English. He randomly chuckles to himself and mumbles, ‘What a place! Not like home.’ Fifteen minutes into the drive I give up and feign sleep. Three hours later I wake when our motley tour pulls up outside the River Kwai Museum. ‘You have half hour’ states Mr Douna authoritatively before settling against a shady tree for a snooze.

grey River Kwai, Tiger Temple

Noel sets about reading the first info board while I take off to explore the museum. I amaze at what the Australian troops endured during their time building this railway. Just as Noel is about to tackle the second sentence on the info board Mr Douna arrives to take us to the bridge proper, stating, ‘We see bridge now!’.

A plaque near the bridge says, ‘The bridge stands as a memorial to the pain and suffering of many.’ Remembering the photographs at the museum I wholeheartedly agree. In true Thai fashion we are accosted with vendors bearing all manner of trinkets and memorabilia. Noel bless him, buys up big and is forced to spend the afternoon shuffling about with numerous tea towels, a River Kwai snow shaker model and two pirated books under his arm. I do not find the bridge itself that impressive, it is the story of how it got there and the suffering these chaps endured that strikes me. A lone violin player standing midway along the bridge deepens the mood.

grey River Kwai, Tiger Temple

We move on to a buffet on the way to the Tiger Temple. Noel is mumbling about not wanting to go to Burma as we head closer to the border. By this stage I am tempted to slip Mr Douna 100 baht to shunt him over the border, Mr Douna gives me a look that suggests he would accept. Over lunch Noel treats me to an hour long soliloquy,

‘Ben, I think that the Australian fifty cent piece is unwieldy and not necessary in modern Australia. If you abolish the five cent piece you could make the ten cent piece the size of the current five, the twenty the size of the current ten, abolish the fifty and you would have so much more room in your wallet…also why is the two dollar coin smaller than the one dollar? Crazy politicians eh…’

I eat as he rants, making a mental note to request a friend shoot me if I ever lie awake at night worrying about these issues. Noel then gives me a detailed analysis of the bridges in Mackay and how the council has messed up where they put them, ‘Where is my Swedish volleyball team dammit?’ Finally lunch is finished but not Noel’s rantings, we move to our next destination.

The Tiger Temple is a Buddhist site where the monks raise rescued tigers. I am unsure if the monks have saved these tigers from the wild or hunters, they avoid the question when asked. The tour starts with a brief safety talk, the salient points being, ‘Don’t walk in front of the tigers, approach from behind and don’t look them in the face.’ When the talk finishes Noel wanders off muttering about not understanding these crazy Thai people. He immediately walks right in front of the biggest tiger in the park, crouches down in front, eyeballs it raising his camera and happily snaps away. Noel fails to notice that a crescendo in a tiger’s growl may mean, ‘Nick off’, not ‘I think you are nice, will you be my friend?’

grey River Kwai, Tiger Temple

Thankfully Noel is promptly whisked out of harm’s way by the not-so-friendly-at-this-point park staff, before asking me what he did wrong. Resisting the urge to say, ‘You were born.’ I slowly explain the safety speech to him again. Mentally I start drafting a document to the Australian Minister for Immigration explaining why, as a country, we shouldn’t admit to ownership of ‘the Noel’ and why he should safely detained on a small island somewhere. I avoid Noel for the remainder of the tour and enjoy wandering amongst dozing tigers in the shade and taking some photos which include one with a very cute one month old cub.
Back in the car I am treated to Noel commenting about the traffic and electrical wires, ‘Look Ben!  The poles here are concrete, not like home’ and Mr Douna ‘This is a farm, Ben, a farm!’ The Tiger Temple and Bridge over the River Kwai are both well worth visiting however I promise myself to be more careful when deciding on tours and to independently navigate sights in the future.

I would have much rather shared today with my Swedish volleyball team.


grey River Kwai, Tiger Temple

2 Responses to River Kwai, Tiger Temple

  • Ree Trebilco-Loane says:

    Just fantastic places, loved them all. My sister & I took private cars but still ended up in the middle of tour groups, ‘sigh’.

    • Ben says:

      Yeah, it is a really cool country hey see, the only thing is after a few weeks the heat really starts to wear me down!

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