A day in Lat Ya (Kanchanaburi province)

After wondering whether we’d made a mistake in coming all the way out here to what felt like the middle of nowhere we woke to discover that our hotel is actually a tranquil resort set right on the banks of the River Kwai. A buffet breakfast of Thai food and some interpretations of Western breakfast as available in the restaurant overlooking a quiet bend in the river. I was grateful for the toast with jam given my stomach’s delicate situation.
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Not knowing what to expect from the day, we started to walk into the town that we discovered is called Lat Ya. Close to our hotel we came to the Shinto Memorial Garden to commemorate all those who lost their lives on the Death Railway. The garden was a moving tribute to the Allied soldiers and local labourers who perished in that terrible time. Open to the public this garden is maintained by a private group of people who are not funded by any government and to whom no donations can be made. I felt deeply moved during our stay in the garden. It really brought home the important role that all sides in a conflict play in bringing peace. It is only when there is acknowledgement of wrongs and forgiveness of pain that all can be at peace in a place that has seen such violence.
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With no real destination in mind, we wandered the streets of Lat Ya. The township is relatively small and straddles a major highway through Central Thailand. It’s nestled in a basin between some mountain ranges so the days here have been hot. This town is in the midst of a transition from traditional housing and street shops to modernisation. There’s a large Tescos supermarket next to a new strip of shops that will probably open in the coming weeks. Near our hotel there is a new apartment building and an artist’s impression showing modern strip shops underneath. There are some large mansions in the side streets and shiny new mid-sized cars and SUVs in the driveways of even the more modest houses. But it’s still traditional at the same time with shrines, shops selling flowers and incense, and roadside food stalls.
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There is also a large Wat complex here that appears to be a school. As in so many other places we’ve been to this week, the gardens are immaculate and delicately designed to give colour, shape, structure and calm. Speaking of immaculate and delicate – Paul stopped at a barber shop for a haircut. Watching the barber work was like watching Mr Miagi from The Karate Kid meditate. He moved slowly and deliberately, making sure not to leave any stray hairs as he clippered Paul’s hair off. After the head hair was cut, he tipped the chair back and used a straight blade to shave Paul’s face, ears and nose hairs. And all for the grand sum of 70 baht (less than $AU/US3).
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We ended the day with dinner at our hotel. We weren’t sure what to expect but the setting was pretty, the menu had both English translation and pictures, and the prices were the same as we have been paying at street-side restaurants. My stomach was still feeling unsettled so I opted for French fries instead of rice (you know how it is after food poisoning, anything that even remotely resembles that which you ate immediately beforehand becomes totally unpalatable regardless of whether it was the culprit or not). The vegetables were amazing, the chips perfectly crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, and the garlic pepper beef delicious.


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