As the gateway to Southeast Asia, Bangkok has the important job of welcoming travellers from all over the world to the region. Midway through my time in Thailand, I found myself returning here, temperatures had began to soar and with the air in Bangkok becoming humid and sticky. I decided a teeny change of scenery was needed and stumbled across a half-day trip to a peaceful town called Kanchanaburi.
In all honesty I entered into this excursion completely blind, I hadn’t heard of The Death Railway nor was I aware of the movie/book. What I expected to be a quiet day by the river, quickly turned into the most humbling experience I had in Thailand.
After a muggy- slightly hungover, 2 hour mini-bus ride, the first stop on the itinerary was the JEATH museum located on the bank of the Mae Klong River. It is a small, yet deeply moving testament to the suffering of the Thai-Burma Railway Prisoners Of War of WWII.
You are first invited to watch a 10 minute video which introduces you to how the POW’s lived their daily lives in captivity while building the Thai Burma Railway. This information is especially valuable, if like me you had no preconception of the subject.
To give an insight to what life might have been like, parts of the museum containing framed art and newspaper clippings, are built completely from bamboo in the same design as the buildings in the actual camps.
Unfortunately tourist photographs are prohibited in parts of the museum.
The acronym JEATH stands for the primary nationalities involved in the construction of the railway: Japanese, English, Australian, American, Thai and Holland. We later travelled to the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery. The most upsetting/ humbling moment was seeing the graves of men my own age, which made me reflect on how lucky I am, and how the hardships I’ve faced are really nothing compared to what these men had to endure.
After a pretty sombre morning, we headed over to the infamous Bridge over the River Kwai for lunch, ticked another meal off my “Foods I have to try whilst in Thailand” list, and explored the town centre of Kanchanaburi.
If I had known more about Kanchanaburi prior to booking the tour, I would have loved to have travelled to the Hellfire Pass.
Tips for the Kanchanburi – Nam Tok Train:
- In order to get the best seats it is best to catch the train from the Kanchanburi Train Station, rather than the station at the River Kwai.
- Sit on the left-hand side when travelling towards Nam Tok.
- Sit on the right-hand side of the train on the journey back to Kanchanaburi.
- It will take around 2.5 hours to reach Nam Tok and so it may be worth popping into 7/11 prior to the train and picking up some cheap snacks and water.
Unfortunately time was short, as I had an overnight train to catch. If I have the chance to return to Thailand this will definitely be something I would like to do.
Instead I took a stroll across the bridge and found a charming Chinese-Buddhist temple, full of colour and life.
Total Cost For Day Trip (1172 THB/ £25)
- Private air-conditioned mini-bus return journey (Bangkok – Kanchanaburi)
- Entrance fees to museums
Mine was an impromptu visit, I’m sure if you looked into it you will be able to find an even cheaper way!
With a laid back atmosphere and plenty of stuff to see and do, Kanchanaburi gives a glimpse of life in Thailand outside of the tourist spots.
However, it has a haunting past that draws a thoughtful crowd. Do a little research before-hand and it will make your time there more meaningful