Kanchanaburi: a Bangkok Weekend Trip
After living six months in Bangkok, one starts to lose their mind a bit. It is not that living in this urban jungle of filth is horrible or anything – not with its sexpats, red light go-go bars, the backpacker refuge Khao-San Road known as Shangri-La to some, dipship-ville to others, glorious movie theaters and crazy online dating playgrounds – it is just one needs to get a little bit of serenity. A place where you aren’t in fear of being run over by some weird type of transportation 24/7. Most people who come to Thailand, at least on a brief stint, turn to the postcard worthy islands (if you can photoshop out a million tourists) or to do some elephant riding near Chiang Mai (hint: it is much better to volunteer with them than ride the poor guys), but if you want to just take a quick break and snag some peace of mind while absorbing a bit of living history – check out Kanchanaburi.
Kanchanaburi is only a 2 hour-ish bus ride, or 3 hour-ish train ride away. I recommend locomotive as you can take in the scenery and aren’t constantly feeling the need to vomit sitting next to that smelly backpacker while the van driver takes you on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. Sidenote – you can chain smoke off the back and bond with the railway police attendants onboard.
Kanchanaburi is best known for its famous River Kwai, which was made by the prisoners of war and forced labors of WWII. It is a relatively uninspiring monument to see, as it is a remake of the original (the allies blew it up in 1945 – America, Fuck Ya). But the scenery and ability to lounge on the floating barrages of restaurants and guesthouses on river make it worthwhile.
As a suggested day trip, since I am beaming with historical knowledge – lucky you – is to rent a scooter and check out the Rail Museum in town, then take your scooter and head up to Hellfire Pass.
Hellfire Pass is about a 1.5 hours scooter ride away and was one of the most difficult parts of the railway to make for the prisoners and forced laborers. They had to cut through rock without industrial equipment all the while coping with cholera, dysentery, starvation, exhaustion and oppressive Japanese handlers. It is estimated between 80,000-100,000 people died while constructing this railway for the Japanese.
Bring bug spray, as I got bit by a mosquito and it just about ruined my entire day.