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My Travel Story: A Year in Thailand Pt.19 (Kanchanaburi)
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    A Year in Thailand Pt.19 (Kanchanaburi)

    After Bangkok i headed west to Kanchanaburi. This is Thailand's 3rd biggest province and also, it's most western, boardering Myanmar (Burma). The town is where the River Kwai Noi and River Kwai Yai meet, to form the Mae Klong river. In the background you can see the most stunning mountain range that creates the natural boarder between Thailand and Myanmar. As with most riverine towns, Kanchanaburi is very tranquil, layed back and picturesque. Though it wasn't always that way...

    Kanchanaburi played a key part in WWII during the construction of the "Death Railway" and the famous "Bridge over the river Kwai" built by prisoners of war (POW) and asian laberours while under the occupation of the Japanese. In 1941, the Asia - Pacific war began (which later became a part of world war 2 after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbour in Hawaii, and invaded south east asia. Death Railway was a strategic railway route from Ban Pong in Thailand to Thanbyuzayat in Myanmar (then, Burma) to provide Japanese troups with supplies and munitions while fighting the Burmese and British. The rail road spanned for 415km (around 300km of which, was through Thailand) and passed through inhospitible jungles and mountains. Their ultimate goal was to occupy Burma and use it as their offensive against India. The land route was decided upon as the sea lanes between Singapore and Rangoon were littered with magnetic mines and they were also vulnerable to attack by allied forces. As a result, getting supplies to their front line troups in Burma was troublesome.

    Kanchanaburi was also the location of the great battle under the command of King Ramna I who defended the kingdom of Siam against an invasion by King Bodawpaya of Burma in 1795. The Thais were greatly out numbered with only 70,000 soldiers against Burma's 144,000. It's a very famous battle within Thailand and is remembered and known under the name of "The 9 Army Battle" and is revered as one of the major reasons why Thailand has managed to sustained it's national sovereignty until the present day.

    I stayed in Kanchanaburi for 10days. For the first few days i settled in and had a wonder about. I was within walking distance of the infamous Bridge over the River Kawai which was a part of the afore mentiond death railway. The iron bridge was brought from Java, Indonesia and re-assembled by POW under Japanese supervision. This was actually the second bridge over the river kwai, the first been constructed of wood, though both were damaged by allied bombings in 1944 and 1945. The iron bridge was repaired after the war. Also within walking distance was Don Rak war cemetery. The remains of 6,982 JEATH (which is derived from the countries involved in the construction of Death Railway - (J)apan (E)ngland (A)utralia (America) (T)hailand (H)olland) POW are burried here. Every year on ANZAC (Australian, New Zealand Army Corps) day on 25th April, a memorial is held here. Also on foot i visited the City gate and City pillar shrine and had an explore around the town as a whole.

    I then hired a bike and hit the day trips. Firstly i went to see the Giant Jamjuri tree. It's over 100 years old and it takes about 10 people holding hands to surround the base of it's trunk. Close by was Wat Tham Mungkorn Thong (Golden Dragon cave temple) which had steps flanked by dragon carvings each side leading to the cave and temple at the top. It also offered views of the surrounding area. After i went to Wat Ban Tham which had (more) steps leading into a dragons mouth. After entering the dragons mouth, the inside was decorated with murals. It had a cave with statues of various deities at the top as well as great views of the surrounding area. Just down the road from here was Wat Tham Suea (Tiger cave temple) though doesn't quite live up to it's name (no tigers), However, it did have a small cave at it's base and was probably the nicest temple, or temples i saw in Kanchanaburi. There are several temples and structures built in a mixed Thai-Chinese style. One of which offers amazing views of the surrounding towns and lansdcape if you climb to the top.

    The following day was a big one. I left at 6am and headed to Sangkhlaburi which is the north/western most district of Kanchanaburi and boarders Myanmar. 250km or 150miles away from the town of Kanchanaburi. On the way i passed "Hell Fire Pass" memorial museum. This is a museum dedicated to the people who died during the construction of the most grueling section of the Death Railway, dubbed "Hell Fire Pass". It involved around 60,000 POW and 270,000 asian labourers. Collectivly over 100,000 of these died. The reason the toll was so high was because of diseases such as maleria, beriberi, cholora and tropical ulcers, lack of proper food, inadequate or no medical treatment and also, the brutal treatment from guards. Despite all this, they still had to work 18hrs a day with basic tools trying to clear dense forest and rock for the railway line to be laid. This was done manually via metel taps and sledge hammers used to "drill" holes into the rock so explosives could be laid. Once the debris of razor sharp rock had been cleared by hand, the process was repeated. Working the punishing and long hours well into the night with the bonfire light flickering off the cutting that was been worked on is what gave the place it's name, Hell Fire Pass. (Entry free but doonation of any amount appreciated). Continuing on from here and standing right on the boarder of Thailand and Myanmar is the 3 Pagoda pass. These 3 miniature pagodas stand as memorials to a pass, which was a strategic military route for both Thais and Burmese and also the favoured inasion route by Burmese soldiers during the Ayutthaya period. Death Railway also passed through here, though after WWII, this section of the tracks were torn up. (i was lucky and was allowed through without my passport, if you plan to come here you should have your passport as you pass through a boarder check point). Close by was Mon bridge (AKA Uttamanuson Bridge). This is the longest wooden bridge in Thailand at 850 metres long and joins Sangkhlaburi to Mon village accross the Songkalia river. From here i chartered a long tail boat (300B-500B depending on if you want to see just the ruins or a longer tour - price negotiable) to take me to the "Old" Wat Wang Wiwekaram which is now refered to as Muang Badan (Underwater world). It's name stems from the fact that the temple is partly submerged from the construction of Vachiralongkorn dam in 1979. It was great to see, and a really nice boat ride too. Upon entering the ruins, i was met by children from Mon village selling flowers and insence sticks for 10B (20pence). I told them i didn't want any flowers but gave them 10B to take a picture of them. After visiting here i went the short distance to the "New" Wat Wang Wiwekaram which is built on the banks of the river. Nearby, there was a football field with some teenagers playing a match. Very un-english of me, but i can't stand football, though it's huge in Thailand. However i did hang around and watch the match for half an hour or so, mingled with the many locals that turned out to watch the game and got some food from one of the many vendors around the place before riding the very long distance back to Kanchanaburi.

    The next day i was beat. So opted for a relaxing day. I went to the World War II, JEATH and art museum located near the the river kwai bridge (40B entry). There are many war museums around Kanchanaburi, they're all pretty much the "same, same but different" but i chose to see this one as it was home to the remains of the original wooden bridge over the river kwai. While a lot of the displays were WII related, it also had information and the history on many different aspects, ranging from military dictators from arounf the world to thai history and arts and crafts. It also has some great views of the river kwai, it's bridge and a mountain range as a back drop. After here i went on a train ride along Death Railway. After the war, some of the track was torn up, other parts submerged in lakes and others just left to rott in the jungle. Thailand however, does continue to service a small section of this line which, despite it's cruel past, runs through a very scenic landscape. The line begins at Ban Pong district and ends at Namtok station in Sai Yok district crossing the bridge over the river kwai during it's journey. There are a few caves and other attractions a short walk from some of the stops (namely Tham Krasae (Krasae cave) from Tham Krasae station and Namtok Sai Yok Noi (Sai Yok Noi waterfall) from the Namtok station, which is the terminal station) After arriving here i walked the short distance to Sai Yok Noi waterfall which was beautiful. Then i grabbed some food and returned back the same way. A great, yet relaxing day out. (the train is 100B each way and i asvise to get on at Kanchanaburi station like i did, as 3minutes later at river kwai bridge station, is where the train fills up with tourists, so get a good seat early.) Namtok Sai Yok Noi is free entry and there's a 7-eleven and some food stalls bang oppisite)

    I thought i'd seen the last of the Khmer ruins after i'd left Isaan. However, there was one more to see in the form of Ku Mueang Singh (City of Lions). (Entry a bargain 100B + 20B for bike) It's situated in the site of a historical park and the grounds of the old city are 800 metres wide and 1500 metres in length. It's believed to be the western most outpost of the former Angkor centred Khmer empire evident by the city layout and it's arcitectural design been the same of that during the reign of King Jayavarman VII of the Khmer empire (1177 - 1237). The site includes the main building or Prasat which still stands as well as ruins of 3 other structures or monuments. It has a small museum with an exhibition hall displaying objects, pottery, tools and religeous statues found in the area. Some are replicas, while most the originals are displayed in the national museum in Bangkok. Also within the sites grounds was an open excavation site displaying the skeletons of 2 females dating back to over 2000 years ago. Ancient pools and the old city wall and gates were also to be seen. I really like the Khmer ruins and this was one of the nicest i've seen. After here i headed to the 9 Army battle Historical park which wasn't too far away from Mueang Singh. This park is in the grounds of where the great battle of 1795 took place when King Ramna I defended Thailand from a Burmese invasion. Within the building are sand tables displaying battlefields and diagrams that depict the battle and the strategy used. This is explained in detail by a man dressed as King Ramna I. However, Speeches are given in Thai only, so after having a look around the place and walking to the watch tower and seeing landscape on which the battle took place i left. (Entry free but can give donation if you want)

    The final day with the bike i headed to Erawan National park. (200B standard entry fee) This is the home to Erawan falls which has 7 main tiers (i say main tiers as there are more, but the trek to the top passes the 7 best) These are in the form of... (1 been the bottom tier, 7 been to top tier)
    1. Lai Kuang Rung
    2. Wang Macha
    3. Pha Namtok
    4. Oke Nang Phee Sue
    5. Bue Mae Long
    6. Dong Pruk Sa
    7. Phu Pha Erawan
    It gets it's name from the fact the 7th tier looks like the 3 headed elephant, Erawan in thai mythology. It was a great day out. I began by trekking straight to the top tier before making my way back down to the bottom, stopping off at each tier to take photos and have a swim and relax. They have a type of cat fish, similar to the fish that give you a foot spa massage and eat the dead skin off your feet, except they're a little bigger at Erawan and have a bit more bite to their bite. While they don't hurt or harm you it did freak a few of the girls out who wern't aware of them. The nicest tiers for swimming in were the 5th and 2nd. At the 2nd waterfall you can actually swim through the water on the left side and enter a small natural cove that leads to the right side which you can then jump out of, through the waterfall and into the deep pool. A great day out.

    I've just been chillin' the last few days. Kanchanaburi is a great little town. The road i'm staying in is full of guesthouses and massage and bars. Also just accross the road is the railway station which hosts a night market every evening. Although you only have to walk 15minutes or so towards the bus station, south of town to see the Kanchanaburi behind the tourist scene which is full of markets, stalls and vendors and has internet half the price as other parts.

    The plan was to goto Hua Hin after Kanchanaburi, back in the south of Thailand. However, it's actually cheaper to get the train from Kanchanaburi to Bangkok, then, again by train, travel from Bangkok to Hua Hin. As opposed to getting the bus to Hua Hin from Kanchanaburi. So, i'm going back to Bangkok. Just for 3 - 5 days to see a few new friends i met on my last visit. I'll then head to Hua Hin from there.

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    Bridge over the River Kwai (day)

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    Bridge over the River Kwai (night)

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    Don Rak war cemetery

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    Giant tree

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    Wat Ban Tham

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    Wat Ban Tham

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    Re: A Year in Thailand Pt.19 (Kanchanaburi)

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    Wat Tham Seua

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    Wat Tham Seua

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    Hell Fire Pass

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    Hell Fire Pass

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    3 Pagodas pass

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    Mon Bridge

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    Kids of Mon Village

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    Underwater World (Old Wat Wang Wiwekaram)

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    Underwater World (Old Wat Wang Wiwekaram)

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    New Wat Wang Wiwekaram

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    Football

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    Views from Death Railway

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    Re: A Year in Thailand Pt.19 (Kanchanaburi)

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    Death Railway

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    Sai Yok Noi waterfall

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    Worldwar II, JEATH and art museum

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    Worldwar II, JEATH and art museum (original wooden river kwai bridge)

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    Worldwar II, JEATH and art museum

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    Worldwar II, JEATH and art museum

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    The 9 Army Battle Historical Park

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    The 9 Army Battle Historical Park

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    The 9 Army Battle Historical Park

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    Ku Mueang Singh Hitorical park

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    Ku Mueang Singh Hitorical park

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    Ku Mueang Singh Hitorical park

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    Re: A Year in Thailand Pt.19 (Kanchanaburi)

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    Mueang Singh Historical park

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    Mueang Singh Historical park

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    Mueang Singh Historical park

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    Erawan National park

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    Erawan National park (Tier 1)

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    Erawan National park (Tier 2)

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    Re: A Year in Thailand Pt.19 (Kanchanaburi)

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    Erawan Falls (Tier 3)

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    Erawan Falls (Tier 4)

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    Erawan Falls (Tier 5)

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    Erawan Falls (Tier 6)

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    Erawan Falls (Tier 7)

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    Erawan

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