Kanchanaburi

30 Apr

Following our week of rest and relaxation on Koh Lanta, Mom and I headed out for some mother/daughter bonding time in Kanchanaburi. We arrived to discover that Songkran, which in Bangkok had splashed to an end, was still going strong. The tuk tuk driver who brought us to our hotel told us, “Today nit noi (little bit) water, tomorrow MUCH water!” Indeed, he spoke the truth. Our cultural explorations of the area were postponed for a day to spend time being smeared with clay and drinking beer whilst soaking wet. Fortunately (or unfortunately?) the hot season was also in full effect. Getting thoroughly doused is rather welcome when temperatures have reached 102 F (38.8 C). There was a small parade through the main street of town with Songkran floats, a foam party with bubbles (courtesy of mass amounts of dish soap), and tons of little kids on the loose, who thought being allowed to daub clay on the cheeks of two farang was just hilarious. All in all, fun times.

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Once the Songran festivities officially ended, Mom and I set out to explore. Kanchanaburi is a small town in a province by the same name, west of Bangkok, along the border with Myanmar. The area is home to some amazing national parks with gorgeous waterfalls, and well as multiple historical attractions. The Bridge over the Ridge Kwai (pronounced Kwae, like “way”, kwai means buffalo) is in the middle of the town, and there are museums and cemeteries related to WWII. Super short history lesson: during WWII, the Japanese occupied Thailand, and decided to build a railroad across Southeast Asia to let them ship supplies to Burma (Myanmar) more easily, in the hopes that they would be able to invade British-controlled Burma and India. They forced thousands of western POWs and native laborers to illegally work on what came to be called the Death Railway. The Bridge is part of the railway, as is the Hellfire Pass, which Mom and I visited. Prisoners were forced to work overnight, cutting through solid rock, and the fires at night plus the horrible conditions inspired the name Hellfire. I sometimes find it hard to reconcile the terrible events that have happened in places with the amazing natural beauty that these locations how have; I felt this way in Cambodia multiple times, and I felt this way as we were walking in the area around the Hellfire Pass. In addition to the Bridge and the Pass, we took a short boat tour on the River Kwae, partly so Mom could enjoy the breeze, and partly to see more sights. We visited the Chung Kai Allied War Cemetery, where many of the POWs are buried, and the JEATH museum, a confusing acronym that is not a typo (as we first thought) but stands for Japan, England, Australia/USA, Thailand, Holland, the countries whose POWs were involved in the Railway building. The strangest part of our historical exploration was the WWII Museum, aka the War Remnants Museum, the most confusing, eccentric museum I have ever visited. It contains bits and pieces of every war Thailand has ever participated in, along with poorly translated descriptions, strewn about in no particular order, chronological or otherwise. (see random blue statues and a giant GI boot below) Love it.

Kanchanaburi Province is also home to the Erawan National Park, a large park that includes a beautiful seven-tiered waterfall. Supposedly, the rock formation at the top of the seventh tier resembles Erawan, a three-headed Hindu elephant deity the park and falls are named after. The first few tiers of the falls have a paved path leading to them, and they were super crowded with Thai families, picnicking for the day and swimming in long-sleeved swimming ensembles. The hike to the last few tiers is more strenuous, including some mud patches and scrambling over roots. These tiers were super crowded with Russian tourists, sporting speedos and tiny bikinis, taking a shockingly large number of waterfall selfies. The water in the pools was rather chilly, which was quite refreshing given the 100+ temperatures. Each pool is also filled with fish, the same kind of fish that spas around Thailand use to eat dead skin off customers’ feet (I call them feet fish). These feet fish were on the large side, and I tried to avoid getting an inadvertent pedicure! Despite the crowds and the feet fish, the falls were beautiful and we had a great day hiking around them. The other adventure of the day was our journey to and from Erawan; we rented a motorbike and yours truly drove the mama 65 km or so (with helmets) to the park. It was the longest I have ever driven, and the busiest road I have ever driven on. It was a little stressful at first, especially given the responsibility of Mom on the back, but it was also really fun. Adventure!

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One Response to “Kanchanaburi”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. River Kwai 10K | The Jacksons Take Thailand - September 23, 2014

    […] seen it yet. (For tons of Kanchanaburi photos, including said bridge read my previous post on it here.) Bridget snapped this view of the River Kwai from the bridge itself. I was amazed at how much […]

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