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