Kanchanaburi AND THE ENDLocation: London
Weather: Warm for once
I got back to Bangkok and just missed the 1.40pm train to my final destination - Kanchanaburi. This town is reknowned for the Bridge Over The River Kwai and several other amazing attractions including Erawan, the most famous waterfall in Thailand - if you see a photo of a Thai waterfall it's almost certainly this one, allegedly. Anyways, after a long tuk-tuk ride from the train station to Bangkok's Southern Bus terminal (which is located a long way from the rest of Bangkok), I got a public bus to Kanchanaburi. I rolled into in the town late in the afternoon and checked into Apple's Guesthouse. This was a very nice place, very clean, good room + bathroom, although way more expensive than it says in the Rubbish Guide.
Anyways I decided to go for a walk and checked out the station, then got caught in torrential rain, but managed to see the Bridge Over The River Kwai - it was magnificent, even in the rain! I had dinner in a restaurant nearby and ended up walking most of the way back in the rain, narrowly avoiding being eaten by an unchained Rottweiler, I had to jump into the middle of a dual-carriageway to escape him.
The Death Railway and Hellfire Pass
The next day I got up bright & early and literally jumped onto the 6am train as it pulled out of Kanchanaburi station. This is the train that crosses the bridge! There is a special 10:30am tourist one which has Air Conditioning and costs 10 times the 6am price, but I much preferred this one, it had no windows for a start and was packed with Thais on their way to work in Nam Tok - the end of the line! After 2.5 hours we got to Namtok. In addition to crossing the bridge, the reason to go to Namtok was to see Hellfire Pass - a memorial to the prisoners of war and Asian workers who lived and died building the Thailand Burma Railway AKA the Death Railway under the Japanese. It was constructed to form a supply line for the Japanese planned invasion of India. They used Allied POWs and volunteer Asian workers under terrible conditions - fed on minimal rations of cups of rice and water they were forced to work incredibly long hours, weren't allowed any modern machinery, only hammers and picks to break through solid rock and proper medical treatment was denied. Approximately 14,000 British, Australian, Dutch, American and other Allied POWs and 80,000 Asians died building it - at 420km's long, that's 224 deaths per km.
As it happened, the only other westerner on the train was an American girl called Sharon who I ended up chatting to and got on very well with. Sharon and I went to Hellfire Pass on the bus and spent all day walking through the forest down the old railway track. It's incredible that they cut so many passes, literally through sold rock and mountains, with such minimal tools.
We got the bus back and I had dinner with Sharon and her American friends who were all doing volunteer work in Bangkok and visiting Kanchaburi for the weekend. They were a cool bunch to hang out with.
Next day Sharon and I went took the bus to the Erawan waterfall. It has 7 different levels and we went all the way to the top! In the afternoon I took the bus back and hired a motorbike to attempt to get to the Tiger Temple, a Buddhist commune which is apparently the only place in the world where you can stroke live tigers, many say they reckon the tigers are drugged, but you have to see for yourself, don't ya! As it happened though the minute I hired to bike, a torrential rain storm started and I couldn't hardly see the road, let alone drive 30km's to the Tiger place.
My Last Night Abroad
After a bit of hestition and thought, I ended up spending my final night in Kanchanaburi hanging out with Sharon and her friends and drank the night away at the various bars there. What was bizarre was somehow we chatted to the owner of one of the bars and Sharon and I were given a lift to some Thai restaurant around 2am and ended up eating rice and chicken with some Thai bloke who kept saying how much he loved the Queen of England - it was very funny.
For my last day in Thailand I got up early and just made the 7am train back to Bangkok! Shame to leave that place, it was quite wonderful, wish I'd had a week there. I rested my eyes most of the way to Bangkok, then got a Tuk-Tuk to Ko Sahn Road. I had a brief look at Wat Po temple - home of the Big Buddah - a giant Buddah statue in a huge temple complex, definitely worth seeing and then did some last minute shopping, before picking up my luggage from the Rainbow Guesthouse where I'd stored it and then took an airport bus to Bangkok Airport.
The Flight Home
Soon, it was adios Thailand and after 5.5 hours I arrived at Muscat airport, which is in Oman. Here some of my fellow passengers departed, but I stayed sitting on the plane. After an hour we took off again, this time we flew for an hour and landed at Abu Dhabi, the first real stop. The airport wasn't as bad as what I'd heard at all, yes, the ceiling is like a green goldfish bowl and there's not much there, but so what, it's a transit airport. After 3 hours of sitting around, it was like to boarding the final plane of my trip - the one back to Heathrow Airport - NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!! Was I crazy or something!! Well I suppose it was inevitable, but Gulf Air could have at least abided by their website and had seat-back entertainment instead of a big screen at the front like the dark-ages, especially for my last flight back home. After 8 hours we landed at Heathrow...and that was it! Got a big welcome home from the old folks and my sister and brother-in-law and soon I was back in boring old Wimbledon.
By JamesReed on 26.05.05 @ 07:55 PM GMT [205 Comments] [Archives]