Welcome to Kanchanaburi

Based on the recommendation of Claire, our Scottish friend that we keep on traveling with, we went straight from the Bangkok airport to the bus station to head to Kanchanaburi, a small town on the River Kwai. We only meant to spend a couple of days there, but the laid back atmosphere and our sweet hotel room that floated on the river and had a porch with chairs and a hammock extended our stay.

Kanchanaburi itself is a sprawling town but the touristic area is limited to a long street of bars, restaurants, shops, hotels and food cart vendors. It was walking down this street on our second morning that a guy on a motorcycle stopped and said, “can I say hello?”

Me, Carrie and Tut at the Erawan National Park
Me, Carrie and Tut at the Erawan National Park

Not wanting to deal with whatever he was selling, Carrie and I ignored him and kept walking. It wasn’t until he repeated his question and took off his helmet and sunglasses that we realized it was our couchsurfing friend Tut from Phuket. He had just quit his job at the timeshare company and was making his way to South Korea. What a small world!

Along with Tut, we spent that evening at the night market where we wandered around sampling lots of foods and looking at all the junk for sale. The three of us also treated ourselves to massages: Tut and I got our feet done while Carrie got a full oil massage from a Lady Boy.

The foot massage was quite nice and the masseuse used some form of dull pointed stick to access pressure points and kneed out knots that I had never experienced before. Very relaxing!

Erawan National Park in Kanchanaburi

One of the Erawan waterfalls in the Erawan National Park
One of the Erawan waterfalls in the Erawan National Park

Waking up early the next morning, we rented a motorcycle and, with Carrie on the back, followed Tut to the Erawan National Park: home of a beautiful seven-level waterfall.

Ranging in size and force, each level of the waterfall cascaded into beautiful blue pools perfect for swimming or other activities. One of the levels had a large mossy rock doubled as a water slide; we spent a lot of time there. Another highlight was swimming under a fall to get a massage from the water beating on our shoulders.

We could have spent hours at each level were it not for the little fish that bit the dead skin off of everyone’s feet when we stood still in the water for more than a second. More startling than painful, it still ensured that we didn’t stay at any one fall for too long. Fortunately, the crowds were not so bad and the higher up we went the fewer people we saw.


A monk's robe at the Erwan National Park, Thailand
A monk’s robe at the Erwan National Park, Thailand

All Aboard the Death Railroad

After saying goodbye to Tut, our next outing was a ride on the Death Railroad, which was named because of all the POW slave laborers who died building it during World War II. The trip started by going over the Bridge Over the River Kwai, which was made most famous by the old movie staring Obi Wan Kenobi himself, Alec Guiness. Carrie and I tried to watch it a couple of times before our ride but never made it past 10 minutes.

Death Railway chugged along for more than two hours, passing by streams, mountains and large caverns that had been dynamited out by the POWs. At some points the side of the train was literally inches from the face of the jagged cliff.

We crossed a handful of rickety wood bridges over deep chasms and even went through a few tunnels. When the train reached the destination, we quickly hopped out and got a bus back to Kanchanaburi, finding it  just a bit silly that on one of our few days of not moving around we spent our time on two unnecessary forms of transportation.

Most of the rest of our time in Kanchanaburi was spent relaxing on our porch, wandering the main street, catching up on some much needed writing and photo sorting and eating lots of meals from an delicious and cheap local restaurant where we befriended the entire staff. My favorite part was playing paper airplanes with their two year old daughter while waiting for amazing pad thais and curries.


Shaky wooden bridges are common on the Death Railway
Shaky wooden bridges are common on the Death Railway


It's amazing how close the Death Railway train car gets to the cliff walls nearby
It’s amazing how close the Death Railway train car gets to the cliff walls nearby