Weekend Getaway: Kanchanaburi

kanchancover
kanchancover

Inspired by the movie The Railway Man, we decided to go on a weekend excursion to Kanchanaburi ~ a mountainous town to the west of Bangkok, deeply etched into World War II history. You may recognize the name from the well-known war movie The Bridge on the River Kwai, which immortalized the area and its many reminders of the brutal war.

riverkwai
riverkwai

{ Bridge over the River Kwai }

The original bridge (it was rebuilt in 1945 because it was so badly bombed during the war) was built by Asian forced laborers and Allied prisoners of war throughout the Japanese occupation of Thailand during World War II. They were also forced to build the railway that runs over the bridge, linking Thailand to Myanmar, which is now known as the Death Railway for the shocking number of prisoners - almost half! - that died while working on the project.

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kanchan9

If war memorials aren't your thing, it's easy to avoid the more depressing parts of Kachanaburi with the wide range of activities the area offers, including waterfalls, caves, hot springs and more.

On our first full day, we decided to get the best of both worlds and rented a bike to explore Hellfire Pass and a few of the natural wonders along the way. Located in a thick forest along an old highway road, Hellfire Pass is the worst part of the Death Railway, where nearly 80,000-100,000 prisoners died. Today, you will find bursts of vegetation coming to life through the same rocks that took the lives of so many.

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hellfire
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kanchan11
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kanchan5

Unfortunately it started raining when we left Hellfire Pass so we didn't make it up to Erawan Falls like we originally planned. Instead we stopped off at the very underwhelming Saiyok Noi Waterfall and its surroundings on our way back to Kanchanaburi's city center.

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kanchan15
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kanchan3

The next morning, we hopped on the train and followed the route of the Death Railway to a stunning viewpoint overlooking the train tracks and the expanses of the River Kwai  ~ but not before posing with this awesome rainbow-colored kiddie train, of course.

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kanchan16
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kanchan18

We rattled along the rickety railroad tracks for miles, taking in the lush, green scenery all the while. I tried to imagine what was going through the prisoners' minds back in the 40's as they watched the unfamiliar landscape whiz by before their eyes. With its large stretches of jungle, forest and large, leafy plant life, Thailand often looks prehistoric ~ as if a triceratops could be spotted munching on some greens at any moment. I'm sure it looked like another planet to the men primarily from Australia, Great Britain and America.

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kanchan13
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kanchan12

For the most scenic views of the remaining railway, we stopped off at the Tham Krasae cave. You can actually walk out along the railway for some amazing photo opportunities. I couldn't believe the view from the top, but I was so scared of slipping and falling on the slick tracks that I spent most of the time watching my feet!

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kanchan14
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kanchan10
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kanchan8

The rain started to pick up as we made our way across the tracks, scaring the life out of me but adding to an already unforgettable experience. It may have rained for most of our stay in Kanchanaburi, and the bulk of the town's history is anything but sunny, but I'll always look back on our trip fondly.

kanchan
kanchan