The blog is not finished! But after the Theft (yes, capital letters), the want/need to update the blog took second fiddle to dealing with the Theft and just finishing the trip sans computer. Since being home, it's been hard to get that motivation to complete it. But I will. Ever so slowly. Please be patient!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Why You Should Ignore Online Reviews

Days 299-301, September 22-24, 2011

After nearly a week in Bangkok, it was time to get the hell out. While I was still planning on finding a place to settle down for a month, just to get out of that travel vibe for a bit, a part of me was beginning to wonder if I really needed it. And moreso, whether I have the time and money to do so. But I can’t worry about that yet!

I had booked a three day, two night tour through the hostel in Bangkok for a trip up to the north-west to visit a number of sights including the River Kwai and the Tiger Temple. My mistake came from reading some reviews of the tour company the hostel was using on Trip Advisor. Trip from Hell was how one person described it.

But that was not how I would describe it. Personally, after the three days were up, I’m not sure these people were on the same tour with the same company as I was. It began early enough: IMG_33716am. I hate mornings! Got picked up along with a number of other people from neighbouring hostels/hotels and taken to Khao San Road where everyone was given coloured stickers to wear to help differentiate who is on what tour. Some were doing only a one day trip, others two. A little musical chairs was played as they made sure we were all on the correct vans and off we went.

The first stop, after driving for a good three hours, was the city of Kanchanaburi and the Allied POW cemetery. The cemetery is the largest of five such in the country that holds the bodies of the thousands upon thousands of soldiers who died in the area building the so-called “Death Railroad.”

IMG_3409A few miles from the cemetery is the actual River Kwai and the Jeath Museum that explains(or tries to) what happened in this particular section. My brother would probably have been immensely fascinated as he’s probably watched every war movie imaginable, including The Bridge Over the River Kwai. We were given plenty of time to walk on the bridge, which had been rebuilt as a memorial after Allied airmen bombed it in a strategic attack against the Japanese.

IMG_3437To get to our next destination we actually got to ride on the train along the only part of the Death Railroad still standing, including a very dangerous curve on a wooden trussed bridge that hugs the mountain side. While the scenery was beautiful, it was hard to forget just how many people died building this railway. It still managed to be a very relaxing ride as the train was moving very slowly.

We arrived, piled back into the vans that had driven up to meet us, and were taken to the floating hostel where we would be staying, those of us that were doing the two or three day tour. I lucked out in that I had paid for a fan room and was given a room with A/C. A good meal followed and then a number of us were dropped off at a nearby waterfall to laze away the rest of the afternoon.

IMG_3501For me, the next day consisted of another waterfall, this one in a large national park. The Erawan Waterfalls is actually just one really long step waterfall, with six separate large steps that you could swim in. The group of us managed to climb to the fifth before we settled on going back down to the third to swim. While it was obvious that there were fish in the pools, I hadn’t been warned that the little ones are like the cleaner fish you put in aquariums. IE// they like to nibble. If you’re swimming, they don’t bother you as you’re moving. But the moment you stop and let your feet hang in the water, they attack. It feels so odd! And ticklish. I can only handle it for a few seconds.

IMG_3521One of my top things I’ve done so far happened next – The Tiger Temple. I understand there’s a little bit of controversy surrounding the Tiger Temple, mainly stemming from the fact that the Buddhist monks running it are not professionally trained animal caregivers. However, from what I saw, the tigers seemed quite well behaved and treated. They were not drugged from what I could tell and the monks seemed quite overly protective of the tigers. And considering they are using the money brought in from the tourists to construct a massive natural environment for the tigers(which is almost ready it looks like), I think they’re doing the best they can. And really, if you can’t trust a Buddhist monk with caring for animals(if you know anything about Buddhism),IMG_3513 then you can’t really trust anyone. They even have numerous people on hand who volunteer from many different countries who are trained animal caregivers.

The Tiger Temple is also home to a number of other animals that have been given to the Buddhist monastery from neighbouring villages. Deer, boar, cows, horses, and even a bear, call the place home. The abbot is like a Thai Dr.Doolittle!

IMG_3545My final day of the tour began bright and early as a bunch of us had decided to pay for an additional option: swimming with the elephants during their morning bath. I have never had so much fun in my life! Two people per elephant go on them and basically get tossed around as the elephant plays in the water. We got sprayed from the trunk, and tried to hold on as the elephant rolled over into the water. The whole “wash behind the ears” takes on a whole new meaning here! The six of us that opted for this had such huge smiles on our face afterwards.

IMG_3585Later that day, we got to go back to the same elephant sanctuary where we got to ride on the elephants through the neighbouring countryside. That was fun, though I had a hard time not holding on for dear life. It was a long ways to the ground should you fall off!

The last stop of the trip before heading back to Bangkok was to the Hellfire Pass Museum. During WWII, when Japan had conquered this area of Asia, the American, Australian, and other POWs were put to hard manual labour to construct the Death Railway(see above). The hardest, and deadliest, part was what was called Hellfire Pass – so named because during the construction in the blasted out rock canyon, the lights from the bonfires would make the whole area look like Hell. And considering what they were being put through, it probably was.

IMG_3611The museum was small but very informative. And descriptive. There is just so much about these parts of the war that I never knew. I was shocked, to say the least. And the short section of Hellfire Pass that we could actually enter was even more shocking knowing what was required of the men to create it.

I couldn’t help but think back to the reviews I had read, and to the person that thought it was the “Trip from Hell.” They were obviously on crack. And probably weren’t paying attention to anything. Hell is what those men went through. The tour I was on was absolute heaven.


  1. Reviews are a tricky creature. They are the written representation of someone's opinion.

    Read them for knowledge but don't hold them as "truth"

    Glad you went because you and I have both benefited.

  2. It's so true. A friend from home was having a blast seeing me get freaked out from the numerous horrible reviews. Now, everything that these people were complaining about happened on my trip . . . but I came at it from the viewpoint of working in the service industry. And everything made sense.

    For knowledge, yes. But reviews, and blogs, are all opinion based. Gotta take them all with a shaker of salt.