After a return to Bangkok for a second time in under a week we were both looking forward to a break from the smog and heat of Bangkok. Kanchanaburi was just the ticket. It’s a small town with a rich history located about 4 hours west of Bangkok.
Neither of us knew why it was a popular tourist destination until we looked it up in the guidebook. The only reason we had thought about going there was because a couple of Ozzy guys (Ben 1 and Ben 2) had mentioned that they were going there and we thought that it was a good idea to head out that direction too.
A little about the history
Upon further reading we discovered that this was where the infamous “Bridge over the River Kwai” is located and the town and played a key role during World War II when the town was under Japanese control. It was here that the Japanese used Allied Prisoners of War to construct the bridge and the infamous Burma railway so they could transfer arms and munitions. Over half of the prisoners of war that was working on the project dies here due to malnutrition, accidents of mistreatment. A peaceful and well maintained war cemetery marks the final resting place of many of the POWs. There are also 2 war museums in the town (1 better than the other) that detail the history of the town.
Biking around town
Kanchanaburi is quite a small, flat town and the best/easiest way to explore it was by bicycle. We rented a couple of bicycles for about 100 baht and, after a shaky start, were soon cycling around town like seasoned pros. We cycled up the main area and stopped at the Bridge over the River Kwai. From here you were allowed to walk across it on the tracks. Thailand doesn’t seem to worry too much about health and safety and allows as the bridge had a lot of holes that you could easily fall through if you weren’t paying attention. Little did we know that a train actually still runs across the bridge and we were soon met by the sound of a Trains horn as it moved slowly towards us. Everyone had to step aside onto one of the platforms while the train made its way past, inches from where we were standing.
After our cycle adventure we decided to sign up for a tour the next day and then head out for a few drinks in the evening. The few drinks consisted of the 100 baht (2 quid) challenge which simply meant trying to get drunk for under 100 baht. The main reason this challenge came about was because there is a street bar in Kanchanaburi that sells Thai Whiskey and coke for 10 baht. The challenge was on, and judging by the hangover the next day we were successful.
Waterfalls, Elephants and Bamboo Rafting
Both of us were feeling slightly weary the next morning after the drinks the night before and we had to get up at 7 to meet Roman ( a German guy we had bumped into the previous day) for breakfast before he caught his bus to Chiang Mai. After a good breakfast we were ready to face the 1 day tour of the surrounding area.
First stop was the Erawan waterfalls. These waterfalls featured numerous tiers that included plunge pools and crystal clear water that you could swim in. The only problem was that each of them included quite a trek up to them, not fun with a hangover. On the way up we witnessed a few of the native monkeys having some fun in the trees and keeping a close eye on the tourists and locals bags of food. After reaching the 4th or 5th level we decided to reward ourselves with a dip in the water. The water was refreshing and great for the hangover but the fish, however, were not so nice. Everytime I remained relatively still I could feel lots of fish having a good old feast on my legs and arms. It was a bit unnerving at the start but I soon got used to it.
Next stop on the tour was Elephant riding and Bamboo rafting. This was something that I was looking forward to doing on the trip but also a bit nervous doing at the same time. When we arrived we could see all the elephants waiting for their afternoon walk. Donna was worried how were were going to get up onto them, but fortunately, there was a platform that meant we could step straight onto the elephants back and onto the seat. Little did I know that the seat was a privilege that only Donna would experience. I was soon told to slide down from the seat and onto the elephants head with my feet positioned directly behind his ears. Initially I was petrified as the elephant started off and I felt that I was going to fall off at any moment but after a while I got used to it. The elephant was slow and steady and I could feel her shoulders move with every step she took. As she walked her ears would flaps against my legs. Donna also seemed to enjoy the trip after the initial fear that she might fall off. Once the walk was over we were given the opportunity to feed the elephants some bananas. All in all an excellent experience and something that I would like to try again on a proper trek.
After the elephant trek we had the opportunity to do some bamboo rafting but the experience was slightly disappointing because all this entailed was sitting ontop of a raft and floating down stream.
It had been a long day on the tour and we were both suitably smelly and couldn’t wait to get back to the guesthouse to get a shower. We met up with the two Bens and a German couple that evening and went for some food and a few drinks.
You can view all the pictures from Kanchanaburi by clicking here.