I needed a break from Bangkok and wanted to go somewhere within easy reach of the city and coming from an island in the UK I have always felt that I have an affinity with water so chose to visit Kanchanaburi.
The driving distance from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi is only 78 miles/126kms but it took an hour to get across Bangkok so the journey time door to door was about two and a half hours. Once you clear the metropolis the dual carriageway is easy driving, although as ever with most Thai routes from Bangkok, they are improving them so there were roadworks.
Sadly Kanchanaburi is best known for the 1957 film The bridge on the River Kwai starring Alec Guinness and William Holden and the atrocities that occurred whilst the Japanese oversaw the building of the 257 mile/415kms railway line from Thanbyuzayat in Burma (now Myanmar) to Non Pladuk in Thailand.
Commonly referred to as the Railroad of Death or Death Railway was one of only eight steel bridges of the estimated 688 that were built. The rest were made of wood and local materials. The Japanese Railway Regiment forced thousands of allied POWs and natives to build the railway using what they could carry in their hands or on their backs from nearby camps. The barbaric methods without modern mechanical technology subjected each man to find their soul to survive.
Standing in front of a dense wall of jungle, miles of uneven terrain, mountains that needed to be blown apart with explosives armed with just hand tools, working 18 hour shifts – the Japanese felt no sympathy as they poked at the prisoners with bayonets when they struggled to continue. They used outdated equipment, such as an 10 pound hammer and chisel, carried supplies up and down uneven rock surfaces, faced fears of heights while standing next to cliff faces, and overcame the dangers of working around the clock despite illness and fatigue.
I remember watching the film as a kid so had to visit. The city has many memorials including the Death Railway Museum, a number of cemeteries, the Railroad of Death, Hellfire Pass as well as rivers, caves, waterfalls, and many other natural attractions.
One of the nearby waterfalls is seven tiered, emerald green and magnificent and can be found in the Erawan National Park (one of the most famous in all of Thailand), just a short journey from town centre. Deciduous forest covers 81% of the park, while the remainder is blanketed in evergreens, making the whole area a real haven for nature lovers. They even encourage visitors to swim in several of the plunge pools in the area.
Srinakarin National Park is another perfect choice for nature lovers near to the city. It is famed primarily for the spectacular Huay Mae Khamin waterfall, which crashes down towards the Khwae Yai River and is said to be the most stunning Thailand attraction. Adventurous visitors can visit caves in the park, whilst art lovers must see Tham Sawan and Tham Phra, where prehistoric paintings rub shoulders with a wondrous Buddha image. There are animals like leopards, bats and orioles are also reported to be in the park – so keep your eyes and ears open.
I used to think that it was because I was born on an island that I had an affinity with water. So I was lucky enough to stay at X2 River Kwai Resort, Kanchanaburi in what can best be described as a floating hotel suite.
It had floor to ceiling windows facing the river where you could access a terrace with table and chairs, a day bed and two kayaks. You could also get onto the roof where there were large day beds to view the green and verdant riverbanks and watch the odd boat trundle past.
The bedroom had a king sized bed, nicely appointed bathroom with separate shower and wc cubicles, a bathtub to soak in and the boutique styled hotel was perfect for couples or family groups and an ideal base to explore the area. Highly recommended.
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