Kanchanaburi at its fantabulous river views

Kanchanaburi Travel Blog

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For my one night in Kanchanaburi, I opted for one of the guesthouses on the river. The restaurant has fabulous views over the river and has been a relaxing place to sit and type my blog while the sun went down.

I happen to be in town for the The bridge over the River Kwai Festival. The bridge was featured in a book and then a movie back in the 1950s. The area is known for the death of many Western POWs as well as thousands of local people who were forced to build a railroad for the Japanese during World War II. The death toll estimation was well over 100,000 during the construction of the "Death Railway" which was over 400 km long and connected the area to Burma.

I walked over to the festival and paid 200 baht for a ticket (tickets ranged from 100 - 300 so I opted for the middle). The bridge was lit up and changed from green, yellow, red, blues. In the river, there was something that shot water up like a fan which was used to project film images for parts of the show. It was all in Thai and incredibly loud, but I used one of the headsets so I could (barely) hear it in English.

At the beginning of the show, men in army uniforms marched along the bridge carrying flags of the countries from which people worked on the bridge and they marched along to the song that is played on Remembrance Day (sorry I can't remember the name of it) and lowered their flags. I always get emotional at these kinds of things, especially when I see the Canadian flag and I was happy it was dark and no one could tell haha

The show then described the history of the bridge using images projected from the river. There was then a bunch of fireworks indicating the bridge was completed. Apparently Japanese engineers had originally estimated 4 -5 years to complete the railway and it ended up being completed in about a year and a half. This was due to forced labour, horrific working conditions (18+ hours per day) and very little food rations (one bowl of rice and a glass of water per day in the 30+ degree heat). They also said that if you were too weak or injured to work, you received no food at all.

Then about halfway through, there was a re-enactment of the allies coming through and bombing it. They used fireworks shot at the bridge and then pieces collapsed and men on fire jumped off the bride. There was lots going on and lots of fires, explosions and the music and noises to go along with it. I was very impressed by the show and made for a very entertaining hour .. especially with men on fire!!

Afterwards I walked along the lanes of stalls set up. Unlike the fairs I'm used to with games and rides, this one was like the fair in Krabi, but much bigger. Apparently fairs are a good time to do some shopping. There were soooo many clothing stalls and then food stalls as well and I would estimate, everyone from the town and nearby towns. I saw everything from t-shirts, knockoff sneakers, jeans, fried crickets and grubs to rabbits and birds for sale. I eventually got lost and tried to flag a police officer to help me find my way. He didn't seem to understand and just stood there. I resorted to asking one of the food vendors, who then asked another guy, who then asked another guy. That guy pointed vaguely in the direction I was walking and off I went. I eventually found my way and by this time was very glad to get out of the fair and all the massive crowds.
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To travel between the two cities there are a couple options that don't include going to Bangkok first: A 350 baht private mini bus which takes about 3 hours or the public buses (two different buses) that take about 4 hours. I chose the latter which cost me about 130 baht and were more of an adventure than the mini bus. To make up the time, I left an hour earlier than the minibus, at 8am.

In my guidebook, it said that the bus station was down the road from where I was staying on Naresuan Rd. Because I knew I'd have an early morning and would be carrying all my stuff, I went for a walk in the evening to make sure I knew where it was. I walked up and down the street and saw nothing that looked like a bus station. In the morning, I asked the guy at the hotel and he said to walk down the street and catch the yellow bus. That sounded easy enough. So I started walking and then where I thought the bus station should have been the night before, there were about 10 different buses parked. So the "bus station" isn't quite a station if you're ever looking for it at night. And before you think I'm an idiot, none of the buses were there the night before!

Once again, I was the only westerner on the bus but it's easy to travel around. A lady (or man) collects money as each person gets on. The bus ride to Suphanaburi took about 1.5 hours. I had been reading on the internet that you're supposed to let the bus driver know you want to switch to the bus to Kanchanaburi so he can let you off in the right spot. I told the money collecting lady and she smiled and said "yes Kanchanaburi". I came to find out that the bus I was on goes to the Suphanaburi station and transfer to the bus to Kanchanaburi is at the same station. She must have thought I was weird telling her where I was going next. :)

These provincial buses collect people at random places along the side of the street or highways and sometimes, I wonder how people got to the spots they were standing in. Especially when we were driving along a long stretch of highway that was surrounded by flooded fields. People asked to be let off at specific spots so it's a very handy service.

On the bus there was a no smoking sign with a fine of 2,000 baht if you are caught. Apparently this doesn't apply to the bus driver because he was smoking as we were driving along haha

When I reached the bus station in Kanchanaburi, a lady came up to me asking me where I was going. I told her I had no accommodation but I wanted to be on the river. She suggested Sugar Cane Guesthouse, which was on my list of possibilities. For 40 baht she drove me there on her bicycle powered tuk tuk. The place is set on the river and I opted for one of the bungalows just back from the river instead of one of the rooms in the raft houses. I thought it would be cooler in the bungalow at night and it seemed nicer. I'm splurging tonight ... 300 baht for a hot shower (you could pay 250 baht for a cold shower, but I've had one too many of those already!).

The first thing I did was try out the bed and I couldn't feel a single spring! :)
photo by: wbboy29