Stepping back in history, we headed to Kanchanaburi, made famous by the movie & novel “Bridge over the River Kwai”. This iron bridge crossing the Kwai Yai River is one of the main attractions & is part of the infamous Death Railway to Burma built by POWs working for the Japanese in hellish conditions during WWII. Some 16,000 POWs and 90,000 Asian workers (most of them enslaved) died during railway construction. The Kanchanaburi War Cemetery is the final resting place of almost 7,000 POWs from the United Kingdom, America, the Netherlands, and Australia. It is a very sombre, yet very peaceful reminder of what went on here. The graves are set up in straight lines with neatly kept lawns. Many of the graves of these young men, most in their mid-twenties, have moving personal inscriptions.
The Erawan Falls, composed of 7-tiers are contenders for the most beautiful waterfalls in Thailand. We read these are a must-see, great for a good hike through the lush jungle & refreshing for a swim. We certainly were not disappointed & really enjoyed cooling off in the beautiful turquoise waters once we finished the 1-1/2 hour somewhat strenuous vertical climb to the top-tier.
Next up was visiting Hellfire Pass in the beautiful Kwai Noi Valley. This area was once a dense jungle cleared by hand by POWs and Asian labourers who cut and blasted through rock by hand, in only 16 months, to clear the rail pass to Burma. The men were made to work at breakneck speed throughout the night by fire-light, hence the name. The “Death Railway” name arises from the torturing & killing of the POWs by the soldiers & the results from the extreme working conditions, disease & starvation. This 415 kilometre long rail line, connecting Thailand to Burma, was used by the Japanese as a secure route to move military supplies during WWII. A moving memorial depicts the atrocities & appalling the conditions the POWs endured. Our walk along a small portion of the pass was sweltering in the rough terrain; little wonder so many died in such horrific conditions.
Erawan National Park/Falls & the Hellfire Pass Memorial can be visited as day trips from Kanchanaburi, however we had heard it can be a hassle as local trains & buses are slow with inflexible schedules. We signed on with a local tour company that promised some additional attractions, plus an authentic, rustic floating raft guesthouse type of accommodation accessible only by water. To get to our pick up point we took the same death railway line & bridge over the Kwai Yai River & enjoyed the 1-1/2 hour train trip to the northern Nam Tok station.
And rustic was what we got!!!! Off the grid, our “all-inclusive” provided cold water only, paper-thin bamboo walls, no wifi, TV, etc. – you no doubt get the picture. Our 2-night stay however was very peaceful, relatively clean & our Burmese hosts friendly. We had a blast with the small group of guests staying there & will no doubt run into some familiar faces as we continue our journey.
Hanging out with tigers in the Tiger Temple, floating down the river by raft (with the assistance of old man river, aka Bob) & spending time riding an elephant were some bonus attractions we hadn’t planned on but included in our package. Again, a good time was had by all & we celebrated Bob’s birthday in style once again this year.
We are on the move again, heading to Ayutthaya, 2-hours north of Bangkok, by bus for 2-night stay before moving on.