Days 16-18 Kanchanburi

So I awoke in my 4 bed dorm room of the love hostel I’d seemingly been taken to quite early in Bangkok and I was sharing with 3 girls. 2 of them were immediately off to Siem Reap in Cambodia and the other girl was tired after a night out. Obviously my interactions with the 2 girls off to Cambodia were quite brief but the girl not going to Cambodia seemed really fun and explained she also quit her job to go travelling. We joked around for a little bit and I went to have a shower. When I came back she was dozing in a very ladylike position…

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I’d decided on my long journey that I’d travel on to Kanchanaburi from Bangkok.

Kanchanburi is a small town about a 2 hour train journey from Bangkok. It’s a town that has a lot of history relating to World War 2 when the Japanese forced commonwealth soldiers and locals to build a railway from Thailand to Burma (Myammar) in incredibly harsh conditions resulting in thousands of deaths. It was dramatised in the famous book and war film ‘Bridge on the River Kwai’

I’m not a historian so I’ll leave that to better people, but it’s well worth reading up on if you come to visit here because it’s such a sad and powerful place.

Anyway, after having some spring rolls on Khao San Road, I headed to the small Thonburi station in Bangkok to get my train to Kanchanburi.

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The train wasn’t busy and I saw a few other westerners. It only cost 100baht (£2). Quite fortunately I got chatting to a Dutch man that actually lived in Kanchanburi and I asked him where I should stay as I hadn’t booked anywhere in advance. He very nicely suggested I stay somewhere called the Jolly Frog which turned out to be a great choice I think and then said he could give me a lift there. Result.

So when the train arrived, I waited with my new Dutch friend and his friend picked us up in his pickup truck to take me to the Jolly Frog. There wasn’t enough room in the truck itself for both of us and he had a wardrobe standing in the back of the truck so my new friend was clinging onto the wardrobe for dear life. Quite a scene.

Anyway, I arrived and had a choice of a dorm or a private room and I chose a private room. This just seemed like the kind of place I wanted to explore alone due to the nature of everything. There’s a time and a place for socialising and drinks but this didn’t seem that kind of place.

This was my private room which cost 230baht (Around £4) per night…

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It was basic but did the job. The surroundings at the Jolly Frog were lovely though…

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Anyway I’d arrived late so settled down, had a cheap meal from the restaurant at the Jolly Frog and went to bed.

The next day I headed out to see ‘the bridge on the River Kwai’ so walked about 20 minutes through the town to it.

I’d arrived quite early so it wasn’t too busy but by the time I left it was very busy. Trains do still run on the tracks and I caught a train the next day that went on the tracks there to Nam Tok.

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Disappointingly the bridge is really just mostly a reconstruction now so I headed to the nearby museum. The Jeath museum by the bridge is a little disappointing also and has random bits and pieces but isn’t a coherent display of anything as such.

Luckily when I headed back towards the hotel, I found that there was a proper tribute to the brave people that died building the railway.

The Thailand-Burma Railway Centre is excellent and provides a lot of interactive information about the building of the death railway to Burma. After visiting this, I made the short trip to honour the fallen servicemen at the war graves.

I felt really quite emotional coming here. The place is beautifully maintained by the Commonwealth Graves Commission and is such a fitting tribute to all those who lost their lives tragically in the horrific events that occurred.

I felt incredibly sad walking quietly among the graves and reading the inscriptions on the plaques. Words cannot describe the power of this place.

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The next day I headed out on the same train as before but further along the line to see Hellfire Pass.

Hellfire Pass is a part of the long railway line forcibly built by prisoners of war that had particularly harsh conditions. It’s called Hellfire Pass because of the sight of seeing prisoners working at night by torchlight, grossly underweight and was said to have looked like hell.

It was quite far out of town so I had to get the train to Nam Tok and from there, find my way on the 25 min drive to Hellfire Pass.

Unfortunately I wasn’t so lucky on the train and there was a large group of children and old Asians there were having a day out…

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Eventually I got to the train station and found a nice little coffee shop to have a drink and some cake. The woman there was lovely, and she spoke perfect English. I asked her how much it should cost to get to Hellfire Pass from here (400baht) and so when I went to negotiate for a taxi I didn’t get ripped off which was nice.

Hellfire Pass is basically the chance to have a giant trek around the forest where the prisoners were forced to construct the railway. You can choose how far you go and I ended up walking around 6km on this very hot day.

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I think it’s a really nice place to come and see, and they have a visitor centre before you start walking to give you some information. The only thing I would say is that some parts of it are just like walking through a forest and you probably need the audio guide to provide context to where you are walking.

It turned out that there were no taxis at Hellfire Pass to go back to the train station and catch a train back to Kanchanaburi, so I had to figure out Plan B.

Before I’d left, I had read some information saying there was a bus that runs all the way back to Kanchanaburi. However there wasn’t much public information on it so I asked at the visitor centre and they told me it should come every 30 mins from the road opposite.

Having found what I hoped was the bus stop, I waited for bus 8203 and one passed me about 30 mins after I started waiting. Unfortunately it just kept driving and drove straight past me, so I had to wait another 50 mins before another would pass, and this time a couple of Thais were waiting for it also and managed to flag it down.

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With the aid of google maps on my phone with a Thai SIM card I managed to get off at the right place and walk back to the hotel.

In the evening I went and found a nice Italian Restaurant. For some reason I felt a kind of warm attachment to the place. I’m not sure if maybe it was because my days in Kanchanaburi had been tugging at emotions but let me describe it to you.

I went into the restaurant and there was no one else in there. It appeared it was being run by a single mum who was trying to look after 3 small children and I guess I just felt what a hard life she must have. Looking after the children whilst trying to run a restaurant business to provide for them.

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Anyway I ate my meal and gave a heavy tip for her and one of her children came running after me to thank me for eating with them which was so sweet.

And the next day I got ready to head back to Bangkok and decide where to go from there next…

 

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