Finally! The day had come. It felt like forever but it was here, this was no ordinary day, today was the day when the old man and I would be flying out to Thailand, to attend a specific ANZAC ceremony in which dad and I felt deeply proud to attend and also, to experience another country’s culture and way of life. It was about 12:30pm when we left the little humble town of Dumbleyung, with one last check of our bags, making sure that we had absolutely everything we would need. We were off! As we approached the city of Perth the butterflies came, a few questions popped up into my head like “would we like Thailand?”, “would I like the food?” and “how would I know if I saw a lady boy?” but they soon disappeared as we pulled into the airport. It was 4:30pm when we started to board our flight and were greeted with a friendly ‘Sawatdeka’ (Thai word for hello) and shown to our seats. As the plane’s engines roared into life I had to take a deep breath and pinch myself, this was our first trip overseas, and as I could no longer see the Australian shoreline I decided the best thing to do would be to go to sleep. As we were beginning to land I woke up, I peered out the window and caught my first glimpse of the country’s capital city, Bangkok. The sheer size of it was daunting and also captivating. The local time was about 10:30pm and as we walked wearily off the plane the first thing that hit me was the sheer heat and humidity - it felt like I was in a sauna! After meeting up with dads friends and one tough and stubborn negotiation with a taxi driver we were headed to our hotel, upon arriving the energy that I had when disembarking the plane had now gone, as I walked into the room I took a good long look outside my window then collapsed on my bed and fell asleep.
April 21 and 22, 2018
We headed to breakfast and once greeted sat down to a large western style buffet breakfast, I ‘wolfed’ mine down and got seconds as it was the first food I had since Perth. After brekkie we met up with Dads friends and were going to get a few things figured out such as money and communication. As this was dad and my first time overseas we were clueless and luckily for dad’s brother, Greg were able to finally get it done. After all this technical stuff was done we were finally able to do what we came here for – holiday! The time was roughly 2:30pm and the plan was to catch a Tuk Tuk (a three wheel motorcycle taxi) to the river where we would join a tour and visit various floating markets. As Uncle Greg had been here before he knew some of the local people and recommended as a Tuk Tuk driver who he called ‘Chicken man’ as ‘Chicken man’ pulled onto the curb you could tell he was a character, as he ushered us in his ‘taxi’ he asked where we came from, to which dad said Australia, he laughed then said Kangaroo and we were off. As ‘Chicken man’ darted and zipped through traffic I thought for sure we were going to be in an accident, he was mad, he could tell we were holding on with our lives so he decided to put the Australian national anthem on and go faster - it was an experience! When we finally arrived to our destination, and our heart rate could finally slow down, we thanked him and tipped him to which he gave us a hug.
We boarded our boat and we headed down the river. The amount of buildings and various shrines that you could see from the river was astonishing, we went passed a large group of people who were clearing land using nothing but simple hand tools. We also noticed a window cleaner who was several stories above ground and was only wearing a simple harness. We arrived at some floating markets and were told to shop around for 30 minutes while our boat driver ran some errands. The amounts of shops that were in this market was amazing, everything from homemade muesli, to coconuts to kebabs was being sold. A short 30 minutes had passed and it was time to get back on the boat, we cruised the river for another hour and got to admire all of the buildings, one in particular had a huge painting of the king on it. It was about 5:00pm when the cruise finished. We made our way back to the hotel and then headed out onto the streets and noticed that it was only getting busy during the evening so we found a quiet bar where dad and his friends had some drinks.
The next day was very similar, I would get up to the noise of dad making a ruckus, and then go to breakfast. After breakfast we met up with our group only to find that no specific plans had been arranged, we were free to do anything we wanted. We thought for a while and decided the best thing to do was grab an information booklet and see what was on offer. After debating on what to do we both decided that the Bangkok safari park was the place to be, we called ‘Chicken man’ and after getting a few things sorted were redirected to ones of his friends who had a suitable vehicle that could get us to our destination. The trip to the safari park was pleasant as our driver spoke English well. Once we got there we got on another bus that would drive us through some of the animal enclosures. After the bus ride we got to walk around the rest of the park, arriving just in time to see the dolphin performance - watching dolphins that were to trained to jump on command and carry their trainers through water was amazing! After the show and walking through the rest of the park it was time to go it was roughly 5:00pm when we caught a taxi back to the hotel.
April 23 and 24, 2018
Monday, our last day in Bangkok. The plan today was simple; make sure you are packed and ready to go before 10:00am. Dad and I did one last thorough check of the hotel room and decided that it was all good. We carted our luggage to the foyer where everyone was waiting, we did a quick head count and were off. We ushered a taxi and asked if they could take us to a place called, Thonburi after a quick negotiation we were gone. We were leaving Bangkok behind and Kanchanaburi was our new destination. Bangkok was certainly an experience in which I saw how other people lived and worked and how their way of life is different to ours. After arriving in Thonburi and catching the train (which was very scenic), we were in a quiet less populated area that was known as Kanchanaburi. We caught a Tuk Tuk to our new hotel which was the pong phen guesthouse, and we were greeted and given our room key. After exploring the new hotel it was time for dinner, I ordered my first Thai dish, Pad Thai - it was very nice!
I was itching to explore the next day so dad and I got up out of bed, enjoyed a nice breakfast after and meet up with our group. They gave us some information on things we could do and see, they mentioned the bridge on the river Qwai and straight away I knew that was the place I wanted to be. A short Tuk Tuk ride later we were there. The bridge on the river kwai. Wow! I had to stop and take a minute to look at it, it was amazing. We wandered across it and looked at the river below, we took photos and looked at the shrines nearby. Ater experiencing the bridge we noticed that there were some markets nearby by and as we still had a couple of hours before it got dark we decided to have a look, these markets were not as interesting as the floating markets in Bangkok but nonetheless were still intriguing. We shopped and looked around for a couple of hours before deciding that it was it was time to go back to the hotel. Once we were back we had a shower and cleaned ourselves up then headed out to a bar, though not staying out late as we had to get up early for tomorrows Anzac day dawn service at 4:00am. I was so excited and nervous for tomorrow and the fact that I was going to see Hellfire Pass and attend a ceremony there was overwhelming - I barely slept!
April 25, 2018 – ANZAC Day
Bleep, Bleep, Bleep. The phone alarm went off at 3:00am and I was already wide awake - today was the day. Dad and I were both up and were getting ourselves ready, we headed downstairs to where our group was already waiting and hopped into our taxi to Hellfire Pass. The taxi driver said it was roughly a 1 hour drive to get there but we were all so excited it didn’t matter. I can remember halfway through the car trip thinking what it would look like and how many people would be there?
We arrived through the front gate and the sheer numbers of vehicles that were there was amazing! People from all different nationalities and cultures were there. We followed the crowd until we were at the beginning of the stairs ‘Hellfire Pass Walking Trail’ a sign read. I couldn’t see much but what I could see was spectacular! I saw tall green trees all around us and forest with a mountainous terrain in the distance. We were at the bottom of the stairs and on the actual trail now, I noticed the width of the track and observed the surroundings we walked. We then reached what they call the ‘cutting’, a large man made break in the rock which made way for the trail. As it was still dark we used our bamboo lights to see the grand size of the ‘cutting’. The size of the rock was phenomenal, and to think that it was achieved only through the use of man power was daunting and also emotional. The number of lives that were lost making this was scary to think about, the intense hardships and acts of cruelty that the allied Prisoners Of War (POWs) would have experienced making this was unbelievable. I couldn’t help but feel sad, I looked at dad and he was feeling the same thing, we gathered around a special plaque and the ceremony began.
There were solders from the Australian Defence Force as well as the Thai Royal Army. Halfway way through the ceremony the Scottish bagpipers started to play, the amount of noise was amazing! After the bagpipers had finished, it was time for the laying of the wreaths the last wreath was on behalf of all the POWs. Two men who had served in the Second World War were laying it.
After the dawn ceremony had finished we had our chance to take photos, I quickly snapped a few then met up with dad and left for a coffee and a snag. At about 10:00am and after a quick 5 minute ride later we’d arrived at the graves of fallen soldiers, where a large crucifix statue stood in the middle. Dad and I wandered around looking at the graves and noticed how young all these men were - we saw a grave of a soldier who was 17, the same age as me!
We took a seat and the ceremony began, it was very similar to the dawn service but this time I could actually see the faces of the people. A few ex-soldiers spoke with dignity and pride in their voice, and as I looked around many people were crying. After they had finished it was time for the laying of the wreaths and the last post. Once the last post was finished that concluded the ceremony, everyone that attended was invited to a complimentary snag and were allowed to purchase drinks. Once I grabbed my free snag and dad got his drink we noticed one of the ex-soldiers was sitting around talking to people, so we too went over to say hello. As we walked up to meet him the first thing I noticed was this small blue bucket that was filled to the brim with Heinekens – it was at this point that I knew this bloke was going to be a character!
I introduced myself to which he replied ‘G’day nice to meet you I’m Neil McPherson’ then dad came over and introduced himself as well. We talked about where Neil calls home and he said around Albany, we then went on to chat for another 20 odd minutes when dad asked if he knew Joe Pearce. Neil said that he did not know Joe during wartime but had met him and Tom and Anne after at a ceremony (similar to the ceremony we’d attended today). We thanked him for talking to us and let others mingle with him. I felt so privileged that I got to speak with a war hero and I will never forget what so many sacrificed to protect our country.
On our car ride home I couldn’t help but think about all the sacrifices that the Australians made – I felt immensely proud to be an Australian. We arrived at our hotel I at roughly 8:00pm and went to bed - I was absolutely buggered!
April 26- 29, 2018
The last few days I spent in Thailand went in a flash, the next morning I woke up with a bad case of ‘Bangkok Belly’ I was confined to the hotel room as I did not trust myself to go out. The next day I was feeling slightly better and we got up early to catch a 3 hour taxi from Kachanaburi to Pattaya. We arrived in Pattaya and had some time to settle in our new hotel, the time was 6:30 and we headed to the bar, after a few drinks and a good meal we headed back to the hotel. Today was the last day of our holidays, the main focus would be to go shopping. After a quick breakfast we were out and about and our group knew some good shopping centres. After spending a large chunk of our money on DVDs we headed to a different centre for clothes. Once all the shopping was done we headed back to the hotel to get ready for a night at a specific pub, (which our group highly recommended) a nice ‘homely feel’ English style pub! We had a juicy steak and a few drinks and left at 10:00pm ready to wake up by 2:00am for our flight home.
Overall I really enjoyed visiting Thailand, I got to experience another country culture and way of life and the fact that it was both dad and my first time overseas made it even better! I enjoyed every part of our holiday but the Anzac ceremony and in particular meeting a true blue Anzac was by far the most enjoyable part! It was a shame that I got sick but as the say…there’s always next time.
Thank you and I hope you enjoyed reading about my experiences!
Article by Rohan Morris