With a heavy heart we left Bangkok for Kanchanaburi, the whole reason we were going here was for Russell's dad as it is the location of the Bridge over the River Kwai & has lots of history and war museums which is right up his alley. I think the most uttered phrase was, "your dad would have loved this".
It was quite an easy cheap journey from the Bangkok bus station, took 2 hours in a local mini bus & cost £2 each. When we arrived a tuk tuk driver grabbed us and took us to a hotel as we hadn't booked anywhere. The room was a little more than we said we would be happy to pay - it was £13 a night but it was an air conditioned room on a raft on a tributary of the River Kwai so it was really nice & it had a pool which is always a plus.
There's a few different trips you can do in Kanchanaburi, they all include the bridge over the River Kwai and the rest of the places you visit vary and you choose the one that best suits you. We chose the bridge, a cave with a Buddha in, the Death Railway, Hellfire Pass & Erawan Waterfalls.
First up was the waterfalls, there are 7 levels - the 7th being 1500 metres up. We decided to go right to the top. It was not easy. We ended up climbing rocks, walking in water, balancing on trees as walkways and lots of steps. I'd like to say it was worth it & it kind of was as we really felt like we'd challenged ourselves but the waterfall at level 3 was much better! We were boiling when we got to the top so went for a swim, I noticed Russell acting strange and climbing on a little rock so I asked him what he was doing, his reply, "the fish are biting me". Then they started eating me too. Turns out the fish in the waterfall pools are the kind you get in those fish spa's. I've always wanted to go to the fish spa but now I know how it feels I'm not so bothered.
After a rest & some free dinner of rice & chicken for me & rice & vegetables for Russell (oh and an illegal beer as
the place wasn't licensed to sell it so we had to hide it) we headed to Hellfire Pass Memorial. I didn't know anything about Hellfire Pass but once I heard the name I read up on it and it was definitely interesting to me.
Hellfire Pass is a memorial dedicated to the Allied prisoners of war & Asian labourers who died at Hellfire Pass building a railway from Thailand to Burma. The Japanese were fighting against the Americans in World War 2 and needed a more secure way of transporting goods than the sea as the sea lanes being used were very vulnerable. So the Japanese made the POWs build a railway, they also recruited Asian workers under false pretences, promising housing and good wages which is not what they got. There were 250,000 Asian labourers & over 60,000 British, Dutch, American & Australian POWs. The work started in October 1942 and ended in October 1943. I won't give a full history lesson here but it is very interesting & I would suggest looking it up if you're not familiar with it. Basically, these guys were made to break through rock using shovels, picks and hoes and carry away the rock in baskets. As time pressed on the labourers were forced to work at night with fire as light - this is how it got it's name Hellfire Pass as it looked just as you would imagine hell looking with fire and malnourished labourers & prisoners hammering at big cliffs. Of the 60,000 POWs working on the railway 12,399 (20%) died and between 70,000-90,000 Asian labourers died. The reasons for death were mainly malaria, dysentry, cholera and tropical ulcers. If anything the Asian labourers had it worse as they had no army doctors to provide basic medical treatment.
The museum was very informative with just the right amount of information, you even got a free audio tour so we took advantage of that even though we felt silly walking around with the headphones on.
On weekends tourists can ride a section of the railway, it's called Death Railway as it goes round a sharp bend on a cliff so that was the next stop after looking at a cave that was used as a hospital when the railway was being built. There is a Buddha in there now & it's quite nice. The ride on the railway was good, we only went 3 stops but the views were nice and they had kept the inside of the trail old fashioned which was a nice touch.
Last stop was the bridge over the River Kwai - fun fact - we say it wrong, it actually rhymes with the word way not with the word why. We were there for sunset & it was ok, it was a bridge. I guess it has it's history & a very famous film made about it but we weren't overly impressed. We messed about on some old trains while we were waiting to go back to the hotel.
The rest of the time in Kanchanaburi we spent round the nice pool. There are lots of nice restaurants & 1 or 2 late night bars. We both really enjoyed it & would definitely recommend it, its only 2 hours from Bangkok and like Khao Sok it's not overly polluted and there's lots of nature.