Rewind the clock 5 months… as much as we might not like to admit it, we both spent several hours each day sitting on a sofa, staring at pane of glass watching shows about storage locker auctions, historically inaccurate families and cooking…. fast forward five months again, we find ourselves sitting on a seat (much less comfy mind), staring at a pane of glass…. but this time, instead of passing time watching TV, we are watching mountains and rivers roll by, people working in their rice paddy fields and a giant Buddha statues glinting from hilltops.. it was at this point that we knew our decision to travel was the right one. This was our experience on the death railway….
I really should add at this point there was more to the death railway than looking out windows, otherwise the 5 hour round trip might have been a little tedious. The journey provided some spectacular views of the thai countryside, and certain portions of the track have been built into the most improbable places like through hillsides and on the side of cliff faces, all making for an enjoyable journey, however, this particular train track has a rather sad and gruesome past, hence the name “death railway”. Whilst being built by allied prisoners and forced asian labourers during the second world war, it is said that one person died for every railway sleeper that was laid. Being a long track this total was a little over 100,000. If you would like to know more about its history click here. There is also a very good museum in Kachanaburi that went into the history of the railway and the people that made it. If you ever find yourself in the area its well worth a visit (However if your scared of mannequins like El, maybe stay away).
The railway has another major draw for tourists as the home of the “Bridge over the river Kwai” as written about in the book by Pierre Boulle, and featured in the movie starring Alec Guiness, however at no point does anyone mention that the movie was filmed in Sri Lanka, or that the Author of the book got the name of the river wrong as he had never visited ( the Thai authorities simply changed the name of the river to Kwai for the tourists…brilliant! Always willing to chase down the tourist dollar even fifty years ago). We joined the throngs of tourists on a sunday afternoon and walked across the bridge, mainly to impress Ella’s Granddad, who loves the film. It was an undeniably impressive experience as the steel arches spanned over the water below and the gold topped temples sparkled from the distant mountains, but we did find it slightly strange to watch mainly Thai tourists taking photos and buying souvenirs on their happy family day trips, with the sad history of the area all around them.
After taking in all the history and trying to stay out of the multitude of peoples “selflies” on the bridge we returned to our accommodation in Kachanaburi, which was one of the highlights of the stay. We were lucky enough to stay in Tamarind Guesthouse in one of their raft house rooms which floated on the river. Cheap, clean and with a beautiful view of the distant mountains we felt we’d hit accommodation gold! Another highlight of the accommodation was at the end if its drive was the cheapest bar in all of Thailand (we think). Yeah you had to sit on a bucket on the road but the drinks were 15p!
The other big draw for tourists to the area is the nearby Erawan waterfalls, seven tiers of beautiful clear water which is perfect for swimming in. We set of early by public bus to explore the falls with our lovely Polish neighbours, Orla and Renata, and we weren’t disappointed. The pools were crystal clear, and after a quick one hour climb to the 7th tier we were greeted by a wonderfully cold and refreshing swimming hole to cool of in. We especially liked the sixth pool as we had it all to ourselves, apart from the fish who like to nibble the dead skin off your feet. National park outing and spa…two for one!.
We ended our stay in Kachanaburi with a few more 10 baht drinks, sitting on buckets by the side of the road with our new found friends, while judging some young Canadians dressed in revealing neon and eating tosted sandwiches from the 7-11. Pretty perfect evening for me (El)!
Stay tuned for the next exciting instalment…SPOILER…there will be lots of ancient ruined temples!