Kanchanaburi: Death railway and Erawan Waterfall

IMG_20150711_165244It was time for another weekend away. My housemate and I decided to head to Kanchanaburi as we were recommended by several friends.IMG_20150712_113832

It’s easy enough to get there. After waking up early, we walked to the BTS to get a ride to the end of the line in Bang Wa, where we would get a taxi to Southern Bus Terminal.

I’m not sure I’ve ever mentioned the situation with the Thai National Anthem here. When it starts playing everyone stops as a sign of respect for the King. I love that Thais do this, and I will always stand still. We listen to it every morning at school and when I’ve been to the cinema but this was different. Two times in one day it happened in public: once at the BTS that morning and later on in an outside market. It feels like a flash mob in a movie, where everyone stands still for a minute and when it’s over people carry on walking. The faces on onlookers and tourists are hilarious as they are gob-smacked in confusion about why everyone has stopped.IMG_20150711_142753

Another thing that amused me on the way to the bus terminal was the taxi journey. Traffic in Thailand is dangerous and a little crazy. Seriously, there is no point having lines on the road as vehicles just drive in the middle and swerve from side to side.

Anyway, once we had arrived at the bus station, we found to a ticket then flocked onto our bus. We didn’t really have any plans, but some guys on the bus convinced us to hire out a motorbike to sight see as it was the easiest and cheapest way.IMG_20150711_142905

The guesthouse we were staying at was a Stone’s throw away from the bus station in Kanchanaburi. After checking in, the lady at reception sorted a motorbike for us, which was going to be a little scary for me as I’ve never driven one with someone on the back but you only live once. There was a slight issue with renting one. First I was picked up by a guy to take me to the shop, which was a mission away. Then he wanted to see my passport, which I didn’t bring, so I had my friend’s one but it was her old one with no Thai visa stamp. I was then trying to ring my friend and he was trying to ring the hostel, neither were picking up. He then informs me that the price I was given included the ride to the shop, which he still wanted to charge me. However, in the end, he wouldn’t accept the passport (which i can kind of understand) so he took me to another shop, which easily let me rent a motorbike.

After all that hassle I drove to pick up my friend before exploring Kanchanaburi and eating egg papaya salad from a local restaurant, which was packed with Thais (I always see that as a good sign). During the afternoon, we walked over the Death Bridge over the River Kwai: seeing skinny cows and the train station; explored the War Cemetery, Thailand-Burma Railway Centre, drove over the River Kwai, chilled by Chu Ka Done Pier and beach, which had incredible views and a fresh market with a whole dead pig’s face on show.IMG_20150711_155519

Kanchanburi is filled with history. In 1943 thousands of Allied Prisoners of War and Asian labourers worked on the Death Railway under the imperial Japanese army in order to construct part of the 415 km long Burma-Thailand railway. Most of these men were Australians, Dutch and British and they had been working steadily southwards from Thanbyuzayat (Burma) to link with other Prisoners of War on the Thai side of the railway. This railway was intended to move men and supplies to the Burmese front where the Japanese were fighting the British. Japanese army engineers selected the route which traversed deep valleys and hills. All the heavy work was done manually either by hand or by elephant as earth moving equipment was not available. The railway line originally ran within 50 meters of the Three Pagodas Pass which marks nowadays the border to Burma. The prisoners lived in squalor with a near starvation diet. They were subjected to captor brutality and thus thousands perished. The men worked from dawn until after dark and often had to trudge many kilometres through the jungle to return to base camp where Allied doctors tended the injured and diseased by many died. After the war, the dead were collectively reburied in the War Cemeteries and will remain forever witness to a brutal and tragic ordeal.

The film/book ‘The Railway man’ is based on Kanchanburi’s history and was filmed in this area for the movie.IMG_20150712_112054

In the evening, we grabbed dinner and snacks before relaxing in our uncomfortable bed with no cover in our hostel.

The second day was a busy, busy day. First, we headed to Erawan National Park with the 7 tier waterfall, which took around 2 hours on the motorbike. The journey was very easy to navigate and flat, which I was happy with as I had an extra person on the back. The Waterfall was incredibly beautiful, definitely worth a visit. I thought the hike was easy and anyone could do it even if it is just at a slow place. We  thought it would be best to hike up it first, then swim in the best tier at the end. It was extremely busy with tourists. Unfortunately, I have limited photos as we took most of the photos on my friends phone and it broke before backing them up.IMG_20150712_111832

The rest of the day, we drove to Sai Yok Noi Waterfall in the rain (just over an hours drive), then to Nam Tok train Station, which is hidden and hard to find. Unfortunately, we arrived too late to get the last train across the death railway but we did manage to find Kra Sae Cave and the picturesque view of the railway. From here, we rode the motorcycle back to the shop (another hour and a half) to drop it off, grabbed our stuff and hopped on a bus back to Bangkok. To add to the tiredness, my friend left her phone on the bus so we had to sort out that situation before collapsing on my bed.IMG_20150712_164845

It was a fantastic weekend and I would recommend going to Kanchanburi to explore the scenic views, history and the incredible waterfall.

0 Comments

  1. Willem Koenders

    Gorgeous!