Tag Archives: Bangkok

Kanchanaburi and the River Kwai

Standard

My final post on our trip to Indo China before all my thank-you’s is our visit to Kanchanaburi and the River Kwai. Now there are plenty of organised tours to the River Kwai bridge from Bangkok but anyone who knows me will know that me and my fellow travellers don’t do organised, so it was decided in our planning stage of our trip that we would catch the train from Thonburi train station or Bangkok Noi (little Bangkok) to Kanchanaburi. As the first train from Thornburi Stn is 0750 it was an early start, so with taxi booked, guide book packed and camera charged it was off to catch the train, the day did not start well as I our taxi driver gave us the impression that he knew where he was going when in fact he didn’t and we started to get worried that we would not make it to the station on time but the aid of google maps on my phone we managed to make it in time. When we arrived at the station it was like something out of a wild west film, just a single platform a small ticket office with lots of street vendors around selling all kinds of street food, we purchased our tickets for the princely sum of 100 baht which is around £2 a bargain if you consider it is a two and a half hour journey to the bridge, we bought some street food and plenty of water for the journey and waited for the train.

Now the journey we were about to take was actually along the Burma Railway infamously know as the “Death Railway”.

extract from Wikipedia

“The Burma Railway, also known as the Death Railway, the Thailand–Burma Railway and similar names, was a 415 kilometres (258 mi) railway between Bangkok, Thailand, and Rangoon, Burma (now Yangon, Myanmar), built by the Empire of Japan during World War II, to support its forces in the Burma Campaign.

Forced labour was used in its construction. About 180,000 Asian labourers and 60,000 Allied prisoners of war (POWs) worked on the railway. Of these, around 90,000 Asian labourers and 16,000 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 and a smaller number of Canadians and New Zealanders”.

Our train journey like I said was around two and a half hours long and took us through some lovely countryside, the train made with various stops along the way. with food and drink vendors jumping on and off the train at the various stops selling their wares, the trains are 3rd class only but don’t let this you put you off taking the trip as they are clean and comfortable and somehow travelling on the train with the windows wide open drinking in the sights sounds and smells of the Thai countryside has a kind of romantic notion about it

We arrived at Kanchanburi and alighted the train, incidently the train carries on for another two hours to Nam Tok which is the end of the line, and after slowly crossing the bridge runs along the beautifully scenic River Kwai, passing at slow speed over the impressive Wampo Viaduct, It would have been nice to have done this leg of the journey but owing to time constraints it was not possible.

After a short walk along the tracks we approached the bridge the first thing you are confronted with are lots of stalls selling what can only be described as tourist trinkets, the bridge itself is a magnificent structure, the curved spans of the bridge are the original ones built by the POW’s, the two straight sided spans were built after the war as these spans were destroyed by allied bombing. The vista of the bridge spanning the river is amazing sight a very serene scene, and one cannot imagine that this was once the scene of so much suffering and heartache. One thing that did strike me that is that the area has turned into in some respects a slightly tacky tourist attraction but then I guess it is still fully functioning railway line and you can’t blame the locals from taking advantage of the no doubt many tourists who visit the area. Our next stop was the JEATH war museum which stands for Japanese, English, Australian, American, Thai and Holland (the nationalities of the POW who worked on the construction) now there are two museums in Kanchanaburi one is just a short walk from the bridge and the other is either a approx twenty-minute walk or a short taxi or tuk tuk ride away. The museum is somewhat dilapidated and not very well maintained and the displays of the photographs are looking very old and faded indeed on the whole quite disappointing. So after a full day in Kanchanaburi it was time to head back to Bangkok and as the only return train to Bangkok left at 14:48 we made the return journey by air-conditioned coach a great day was had by all, and in case your were wondering the cost of this independently organised trip including lunch was approximately £35 pound for three people, as opposed to around £35 each for an organised trip and on these trips you don’t get to ride on the train.

For information on train times to Kanchanaburi visit The Man In Seat 61 website for further details

Advertisements

Bangkok

Standard

Now anyone who has followed my blog on our recent trip to Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam will know that we have been back a few weeks now but I just want to add the last post of our trip, and that’s about our stay in Bangkok. After our truly magnificent trip we decided to stay in a very nice hotel that being the Anantara Riverside Resort and chill for the last three nights of our trip, but before we go onto that I must add to my very first post on Bangkok where our trip started.

When I finished this post I said we were going to visit Wat Arun, Wat Pho (the home of the reclining Buddha and the Grand Palace, first Wat Arun or the Temple of Dawn, it’s named after Aruna, the Indian God of Dawn. and is situated on the Thonburi side of the Chao Phraya River. In the centre is a tall tower surrounded by four smaller towers a truly magnificent spectacle, “Top Tip” climb the very steep steps up the tower to get some fantastic views from the top of the Chao Phraya river.

Next on the agenda was a visit to Wat Pho or temple of the reclining Buddha, Wat Pho is named after a monastery in India where Buddha is believed to have lived. Buddha is 15 m high and 43 m long, The 3 m high and 4.5 m long feet of Buddha are inlaid with mother-of-pearl. They are divided into 108 arranged panels, displaying the auspicious symbols by which Buddha can be identified like flowers, dancers, white elephants, tigers.

Next up the Grand Palace. The Grand Palace is a complex of buildings at the heart of Bangkok, Thailand. The palace has been the official residence of the Kings of Siam (and later Thailand) since 1782. Rather than being a single structure, the Grand Palace is made up of numerous buildings, halls, pavilions set around open lawns, gardens and courtyards. Its asymmetry and eclectic styles are due to its organic development, with additions and rebuilding being made by successive reigning kings over 200 years of history. Just a few tips when visiting the Grand Palace, firstly as we walking from our hotel to the palace a few random people who innocently asked if we were we lost or where we were going promptly told us the Grand Palace is closed in the morning but they can take us on a tour of the city for a cheap price, but don’t be dissuaded by these offers as the Palace is definitely open in the mornings to everyone not just tour parties like we were told. There are public address systems notifying visitors of the various scams around the palace. Another tip when visiting the palace, shorts, sleeveless tops are not allowed to be worn inside as a mark of respect as I found out when reaching the entrance, but don’t panic as you can loan trousers and shirts free of charge, you just have to pay a small refundable deposit, and this is where the second scam kicks in as we approached the main entrance just as we were about to go in I was confronted by a chap who noticed I was wearing shorts, he then gave me a pair of ridiculous trousers with a hideous flowery pattern and said that would be 100 baht please for the hire and if it was not for my eagle-eyed travelling companion a certain J Duggan who read the large sign above the chap hiring the said trousers detailing the free loan of the said items at the ticket office, which incidently were neither ridiculous or flowery, the bare face cheek of it.

There are many other sights and things to do in Bangkok, like taking a trip to one of the many roof top bars especially at night offering magnificent views of the city, we chose the Vertigo bar, and although the views were stunning the bar and restaurant were nothing like the picture on their website. Another tip if you visit the Vertigo bar, the dress code is smart casual and no shorts which I knew about in advance but although I was dressed smartly, I had sandles on, I was refused entry unless I donned a pair of ridiculous shoes which they will loan you free of charge I looked far less smarter than what I was originally wearing. Another must do is to take a trip on the very reasonably priced river taxi for some great vista’s of the city from the Chao Phraya River.

Grand Palace Bangkok

Standard

Today we visited the Grand Palace, a truly spectacular place and a must see if your in town. Now I can go on enthusing with superlatives, but I am not, just go and see it for yourselves and make up your own mind, but what I will talk about is some advise if you are visiting the palace. Now if you visit most temples in Thailand or a lot of other countries for that matter, you need to cover up i.e. no bare arms and legs, and the Grand Palace is no exception, but a thing to note is that they will loan free of charge trousers, blouses or sarongs with a 200bht refundable deposit for anyone who turns up for an impromptu visit, the reason I mention this as outside the main gate there are vendors willing to hire you any of the above items at a cost of 30bht right under a sign telling tourists that they are free inside. That’s cheek for you. Next think to watch for is that a lot of nice smiling friendly people will approach and tell you that the palace is closed until later only open for organised tours, this is to get you to go with them on one of there’s. There are public address systems around the perimeter wall informing people of the prospective scams in English I might add, so listen out for them. So we ignored all the scam artists as we had come well prepared, and just walked in to the main entrance, paid our money 500bht this was 10:45 when all the nice friendly people outside were telling us it was closed. luckily we did not encounter the long queue’s like a fellow blogger did on the day before our visit. A brilliant day was had by all concerned.

20130307-194622.jpg

20130307-194702.jpg

20130307-195046.jpg