Daily Archives: December 20, 2005

A Trip to Kanchanaburi


For people who don’t have much time, a trip to Kanchanaburi is an ideal option. The province, which is the third largest in Thailand, is so diverse that there is plenty to see and do. The landscape has both mountains and plains. Natural beauty includes the waterfalls and national parks. There are also limestone caves, tranquil rivers, forests and reservoirs. You can go bamboo rafting, elephant riding, trekking into the forests and a lot more. The province is also historically important because of the infamous death railway.

You can visit Kanchanaburi as a day trip from Bangkok. You can even join day tours organized by the State Railway of Thailand. These are relatively inexpensive if your time is limited. But, I would suggest you go by yourself. The first time I went there, I went by train. Travel third class and you will have a great time with ordinary Thai people. However, the four or five times I have been back I have driven there myself. From Central Bangkok, it takes just over two hours.

I would suggest that you stay in Kanchanaburi at least two nights and three days. There is plenty of guesthouse accommodation down near the river which is quite inexpensive. Unless it is a holiday weekend, you don’t need to book in advance. We went during the last long weekend and had a little difficulty in finding a room. We ended up at a hotel. Most backpackers stay away from hotels as they think they are all expensive. However, sometimes hotels can work out better value for money if you are looking for a little more comfort.

What I am going to write about today is some of the tour options you have and places that are worth seeing.

Look out! There is a train coming!

Day One: Arrive in Kanchanaburi before noon. Find a guesthouse. We suggest either Jollyfrog Guesthouse or Apple Guesthouse. They both have onsite travel services and good restaurants. VN Guesthouse also has good reviews. If you are staying in a guesthouse on Khao San Road, just ask your fellow travellers going the opposite direction where they stayed. Consider renting a motorcycle for the day. It only costs a few hundred baht and you will be able to see more of the town in a short time.

Your first stop should, of course, be the bridge. Fight through the crowds of package tourists to step onto the bridge. Wow! This isn’t obviously the bridge in the movie. That one was wooden and was located about 50 metres downstream. It was destroyed by the Allies during a bombing raid at the end of the war. Notice the arches on this bridge are curved at the start and end of the bridge. The middle span is a different style. This is because the middle section was bombed by the Americans during the war and that part had to be replaced later.

After that little bit of nostalgia, you should now take time out to pay your respects to the prisoners of wars that died building the infamous Death Railway. The neatly attended cemetery is in the center of town and easy to find. On the western side of the cemetery, you will find the Thailand-Burma Railway Centre. I had never been there before and I found the place to be both modern and informative in telling the story about the building of the railway. It only costs 60 baht for adults (doesn’t use two priced system). I would suggest you go there.


The Kanchanaburi War Cemetery

If you are a bit of a war buff then there a couple of more museums in town you could visit. My old favourite is the JEATH War Museum. You can find this down by the river next to Wat Chanasongkhram. They have reconstructed the barracks of a prisoner of war camp. There are drawings and pictures you can look at. This was interesting when I first visited nearly ten years ago. But now it isn’t really comparable to the new one by the cemetery. There is also another museum next to the bridge, but again, this is only worth a visit for enthusiasts.

On the other side of the river, there is a quieter cemetery called Chungkai. I went there on a previous trip as I felt it was important to pay respects at all memorials in Kanchanaburi. The question is, where is the memorial for the thousands and thousands of Asian labourers that died? These far outnumbered the Allied prisoners of war deaths.

By this time you probably had enough. If you are staying at Apple Guesthouse then eat there. You can go to eat at their restaurant even if you are not guests. We did. The food is delicious. In town, you will find a number of travel services by the side of the road. There are plenty around so you can easily pick and choose. I suggest you book a tour now that you can go on the next day.

Day two: As this is your only full day, then I suggest you do a tour today. There are quite a few you can do, but one I did when I first came to Thailand included: elephant riding, bamboo rafting, swimming and walking at Erawan Waterfalls, and a scenic ride back on the Death Railway. The last time I did this it cost 500 baht. But, there is now a 200 baht entrance fee for foreigners at all national parks. This tour is now about 850–890 baht and lasts all day.

There are quite a few different tours you can join with different combinations. For example: Elephant ride, bamboo raft, hot springs, Hellfire Pass Memorial, Death Railway, all for only 490 baht. If you don’t want to do the elephant ride and bamboo raft then there is another tour which will give you longer at Erawan Falls for about 570 baht. Most tours will bring you back by about 6 p.m.

Wat ban tam

Walk through the dragon to some caves at Wat Ban Tam

Day three: This is now your last day. I suggest you rent a motorcycle for the day. Don’t forget to checkout by midday so you will need to split up your day. You have a number of destinations you could go in the morning. You can pick up a free map at the Tourist Authority of Thailand office on the main road. I would strongly suggest exploring the area around Wat Tham Sua. There are quite a few limestone cave temples that you could explore. Some you won’t find in your guidebook. However, the most popular is Wat Tham Sua. Climb to the top of the pagoda for some spectacular views of the surrounding countryside. If you are up to it, consider visiting Wat Tham Mangkon Thong which is otherwise known as the Floating Nun Temple. As the name suggests, you watch a nun floating in a tub of water! Skip it if you don’t have much time.

Make sure you are back at your guesthouse to checkout. Have lunch here then head out towards Wat Pa Luangta Bua Yannasampanno which is better known as the Tiger Temple. It costs you a 300 baht donation to see the tigers. But you not only have the opportunity to have your photo taken as many times as you like, but you also help contribute to building a better home for the tigers. Make sure you go there after 1.30 p.m. as this is the time the tigers are taken out of their cages for their afternoon walk.

An elephant and a monk at the floating nun temple

There are other places you could see. But, you have by now seen all of the major attractions. There are other national parks, like Sai Yok, you could visit. Also, there is Prasat Muang Singh which is a temple complex dating back to the 12th Century. You can even do longer treks where you can stay overnight in remote villages. Then there are the raft houses where you can spend your time going up and down the river. Endless possibilities. I am already planning my next trip which will probably be next year.

Like I said before, Kanchanaburi is a very big province and there is more to see than what the average tourist gets to visit. Later this week I will tell you about the major destination I visited during my recent trip there. Kanchanaburi city was only two hours from Bangkok. It took me more than six hours to reach my final destination at the far end of Kanchanaburi Province.

My Own Top 10 Thai Blogs

The ancient capital of Ayutthaya

To bring in the one year, and nearing 100,000 words of thai-blogs I thought I would take the opportunity this week, with the gifted advice of the webmaster once again, to write up a three part mini-series on my own ‘top-ten’ blogs of the year.

But before that, I would first like to thank all the readers for turning thai-blogs.com into the biggest blogspot about Thailand on the Net. I pride myself in that thai-blogs has risen to the top without having to succumb to the same old ‘Thai girlie bar theme’ which plaques other related blogspots and especially forums.

So, how did I get started at thai-blogs? Quite simply I had been a regular at thailandlife forums for a while and after writing up a successful topic starter entitled ‘Dos and don’ts…of dating a ‘proper’ Thai girl’, it was Richard the Webmaster himself who invited me to post at thai-blogs. The rest of the story is history.

It wasn’t exactly easy composing such a list but I finally chose the ones, which after having been written, gave me the inspiration for future blogs along the same lines. Others in the list either accidentally brought in a whole load of new readers or were chosen by myself personally as being some of my better work. Some of the blogs on the list may surprise a lot of you and especially the one which I have chosen at number two which turned into one of the most talked about ex-pat stories in my hometown of Suphanburi and even made the rounds in the backpacker community. Literary scared the wits out of a darned lotta people.

So here it is:

10) The Story of N’Candy

I hadn’t been around at thai-blogs that long and was still wondering to just how many folks out there were actually reading my quack-wack blogs. The pretty horrific story of the birth of my daughter, was my ‘foot in the door’ at thai-blogs – N’Candy struck a chord with a lot of the readers and I was delighted with the warm response I received. Even this year, on meeting up with a few of the folks here at thai-blogs, one of the first things I was asked was along the lines of….“So, how is N’Candy doing?” Since I wrote up that blog, not much has changed and Candy is still in Ayutthaya with her grandmother. I’m still planning to take charge of her this coming school year and put her into kindergarten here in Suphanburi after I heard through the grapevine that Candy’s mom hasn’t even been bothered to return home and visit her for the past three months. Now, let’s not get too personal here Steve! Oooops… The story of N’Candy made the list in that it was the first blog that had me realize the scope, numbers, and kind-heartedness of our readers. It was also my only truly ‘personal’ blog which wasn’t witty in anyway!

9) The Funnier Side of Teaching

This one made the top-ten as it was the first blog to reveal the real ins and outs and a behind the scenes look at teaching. Unfortunately, it wasn’t read that much when it originally made the main page which was a kind of a pity, as I felt at the time, that I had really let loose a few of own pretty confidential ‘teaching stories’. It was also the first blog that helped inspire other quite personal insights and loads more blog-stuff on teaching in Thailand. After a good response from some readers who either commented or mailed me saying that they’d like to read other privatey kinda stuff, I continue to keep up with that style of content til this day.

8) Working Undercover

It had originally been entitled ‘Doin The Bust’ but I changed that to ‘Working Undercover’ after advice from the Webmaster. It was the first and only blog that ‘really’ spilled the beans! I had to stick this into my top-ten of the year just for ‘originalities’ sake. You’re gonna find it hard trying to come across another such story on the Net. It was a completely true story which told the time of being employed by a film firm, on a part-time basis, to help bust counterfeiters knocking off dodgy DVDs on the streets of Bangkok. That was one blog which I dug out of the archives as I had originally written it up to sell off to a Bangkok based publication. We argued a bit over the length of the story and the low fee offered and eventually, I never did bother selling it to them. My longest blog to date and was spiced up even more after the webmaster stuck in headlines along the lines of ‘I was an undercover cop!’ Not my finest piece of writing but the story is a pretty unique one…to say the least!

7) The Ghost Eater

I had been having a bevvie at the local shop near my school, when the owner ‘Mrs. Auntie’ pointed out to me a fascinating story in the Thai Raj newspaper about this ex-convict who had been arrested and immediately freed after he had been caught eating the remains of a local grannie whose body had been rest to lay in the woods before her cremation day. After reading that, I just had to write a blog and the result, in my opinion, was pretty good. It reached my top-ten as it had me realize how much of a treasure trove of Thai stories there were, which had never been translated into English. The Webmaster cottoned onto the potential of such stories straight away, and now , 8 months later, I am currently working on translating other weird but wonderful stories for my latest ‘Thai Stories Section’ at learningthai.com.

Will be back with some more…very soon.