I arrived at Kanchanaburi after 8pm. I made sure to book a hotel in advance, as I didn’t like walking with my bag in the darkness aimlessly.
I booked My home guesthouse for 250 a night. I got a tiny little bungalow with only a bed inside. I honestly do not mind staying anywhere as long as it’s clean and doesn’t smell bad. I simply do not care about spartan furnishings or a modest size. The place was great for the price, staff helpful and knowledgable, location was as central as it could get. The only drawback was its proximity to many bars with loud music pouring until early in the morning. My bungalow was farther away from the noise, than the others, but still I had to use ear plugs a lot. Tripadvicer reviews said as much.
Kanchanaburi was a place, where I felt like staying longer, I settled on two nights, but could have easily spend there a few more days. There were so many things to occupy yourself with! I liked everything about the town – it was touristically developed, had a great share of historical significance and a couple of national parks nearby. It was also quite a pleasant town by itself, I enjoyed cycling around it, exploring its nooks and crannies. Kanchanaburi was actually quite a big deal, so many people chose it as their one-day-tour destination while staying in Bangkok. Many have learnt about the town from films, most recent one being “The railway man” starring Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth. The smarter ones probably read about it in books on the history of WWII. I belong to the first category. I am talking about the infamous Death railway here.
The Burma Railway, also known as the Death Railway, was a 415 kilometres railway between Bangkok and Rangoon, Burma, built by the Empire of Japan in 1943 to transport provisions and troops to Burma.
Forced labour was used in its construction. About 180,000 Asian civilian labourers and 60,000 Allied prisoners of war (POWs) worked on the railway. Of these, around 90,000 Asian civilian labourers and 12,399 Allied POWs died as a direct result of the project. The dead POWs included 6,318 British personnel, 2,815 Australians, 2,490 Dutch, about 356 Americans.
The living conditions of the labourers were utterly horrendous, they were plagued by diseases, starvation, maltreatment and enormous physical strain. I read somewhere, that they were given only 200gr of plain rice a day, but still had to work for 18 hours straight in blazing heat as well as in heavy rain.
The stretch of the railway around Kanchanaburi area is the most famous one, as well as the bridge over the river Kwai, that supports it. The bridge is the Eiffel Tower of Kanchanaburi and is always full of tourists taking photos on its background. It was also featured in the movie mentioned above. It is not completely original, however, as a big part of it was destroyed during the war.
There is a cemetery specifically dedicated to the POWs, who died on the railway construction. It is situated right in the centre of the town. The cemetery is very well looked after, the gra ss is regularly mown and there a little bush of flowers growing next to each and every gravestone.
I walked through the cemetery reading the engravings on the gravestones and that made me very emotional – all deceased were so young, many of them in their early 20s. I just imagined their poor mothers, waiting for them, while they were slowly dying in a strange land.
As soon as I saw pictures of Erawan falls, I knew I wanted to get there. It’s such a popular destination, that getting to the park is quite easy these days. The waterfalls are located in Erawan national park, as the name suggests. You can get there with a tour operator or by a taxi for 1500 baht. But also there is another option, such as a local bus at 50 baht one way. Not many people know, that you don’t need to go all the way to the bus station to catch it, it can also be stopped by the Cemetery. When I was walking to the bus stop, I saw a couple of tourists hailing a tuk-tuk, 20 min later we met again on the bus. The difference was, that they were sitting, as they got on at the bus station, and I was standing, as the bus was really full, when it reached me. The bus has a clear writing, that says Erawan park, and the trip takes 30-40 min. The entrance fee to the park was 200 baht. As usual Thais were understandably racist with the fees, as the entrance charge for locals was only 40 baht. I took the earliest bus at 8.30 am and it was such a good idea! The park was relatively quiet at that hour, but literally two hours later it was swarmed with hordes of tourist, big tour busses kept coming and coming. Coming as early as possible is a must. First of all you need to hike 2 km up a very narrow, rocky, steep path. The waterfall has 7 levels, and all of them need to be seen. You can swim in each of them, as they form refreshing picturesque pools. In some places the path is so narrow, that only one person can pass at a time.
Now imagine having several hundreds of people hiking next to you, and waiting to be let to pass, as some of the others are already coming back down. Although the rocks and the muddy trail are bad as they are already, they get much worse, when so many tourists drip water from their wet bathing suits all over them, after having had a dip at one of the levels. A good pair of walking shoes or secure sandals are advised, it also gets very slippery.
The waterfalls were absolutely gorgeous and stunning. Now that I look at the snaps I’ve taken, they seem photoshopped.
The water in the pools was very clear but full of generously sized fish, still it didn’t stop anyone swimming next to them.
After hiking all the way up I was really looking forward to having a nice swim at the 7th waterfall. I already new, that there was fish in there, that could bite a little, but was nothing to be afraid of. As soon as I got inside my feet were attacked by hungry little monsters. It didn’t hurt, as they didn’t even have teeth, still the sensation was so weird, that I screamed and hurried back to the shore, almost breaking my legs in the process on slippery rocks. It looked, like I was just being silly, since so many guys didn’t mind them at all. I believe the fish belonged to doctor fish group, the ones they use for fish pedicures at beauty salons. They feed on dead skin cells, using suction like little hoovers, their saliva also moisturises the skin. I had it done myself, but the ones at the waterfall were bigger, therefore the suction was stronger. If you think about it, it is kinda awesome, to have a swim in such a beautiful location and have a beauty treatment at the same time. The other levels had fish as well, but it was just big fish, that swam next to people without any interference. Since it was a Saturday there were loads of locals with the kids, swimming and generally having good time.
I took a bus back at 12pm, the park started to get too full for my liking. The bus was absolutely empty. The last two buses were due at 2 and 4 pm, and I was wondering how all these people were going to fit in.
If you happen to be in Kanchanaburi, than I can’t recommend Erawan park enough. It is such an amazing place to spend a day with a family or a group of friends, or by yourself.
The thing I noticed in a few places is that Thais liked painting white dogs. May be they consider wight to be too plain, and try to jazz it up a little. That’s the made-up dog I saw on the street.