A little slice of Kanchanaburi is sometimes all you need.
Anyone who lives in a city will know that sometimes it gets too much. The hustle and bustle, the riff raff and the never ending sound of horns and honks. Add a lovely layer of heat and humidity and you’re ready to get out, and likely to be in an Asian city of course. We love Kanchanaburi and here’s why.
You can take a taxi for as little as 2000-3000 baht (£50 for us English folk) or you can go more traditional and get the third class train from Thonburi station at around eight in the morning. We have done both and each have their merits. The day we got a taxi is quite a funny story, actually. We had originally booked a mini van from Mo Chit to save the baht. As we were leaving our condo quite early on a bank holiday Friday, we thought a taxi to the station would be more direct. Stumbling onto our road, we managed to flag down one of those big taxi cars and said “Mo Chi ka” to the driver. Of course, this driver spoke very good English.
“Where you go?”
“Kanchanaburi” we said, in chorus.
“Why no taxi?” asked our man.
“Too much money” I said, suddenly feeling a bit embarrassed and really tight.
“No, no, 1900 baht. I take you.”
Surely this was a little joke? But no no, he insisted.
“What? You can take us now… to Kanchanaburi?”
“Yes. I give you good price. 1900 baht. Only two hour”
Looking at each other with a little smirk on our faces, we took up his offer and settled in for the leisurely ride. Ah, a nice big taxi all to ourselves. We left at eight and arrived just after ten.
By comparison the train takes three and a half hours, but the views along the way showcase the Thai countryside in all it’s glory. This is by far the more scenic route, not to mention more local, costing a mere 100 baht for one way. Any way you go, it’s a relatively short trip out off all that riff raff of Bangkok.
Once arriving in Kanchanaburi you can walk along the active train track to cross the river Kwai, which is actually pronounced ‘kw-air’, like ‘square’. The history that surrounds the construction of the original train track is fascinating, but tinged with sadness. If you are up on your history you will know about the prisoners of war and the death railway. I am ashamed to say that I had no idea. After leaving Kanchanaburi I am now a walking wealth of knowledge about this period in history. Travel certainly makes you wiser and another reason why we love Kanchanaburi.
One of our favourite things to do in Kanchanaburi is to rent a moped and go exploring. The scenery is very liberating. Travel by moped is part of life here and luckily I have employed a very good driver who enjoys being in control for once.
It has not all been plain sailing though. Once my driver got lost and wheeled me into what we later found out was one of the most important pilgrimage sites in the area, ‘Wat Phra Phutthaba’ (Temple of the Budda’s footprint). Yes that is where we ended up, surrounded by monks and their family of little dogs, yapping at my ankles. Awkward does not cut it. We quickly mounted our moped and did one huge U-turn.
The scenery helped to ease our uncomfortable twangs.
So did the sunset over the River Kwai upon arriving back to our guest house. This photo is unedited. If only I knew how to photoshop that warning sign. However, another point for Kanchanaburi; health and safety is present.
The best adventure of Kanchanaburi? Driving all the way to the Erawan waterfall; a seven tiered waterfall that you can swim in and wallow in the natural beauty. Gaining our sense of adventure as expats, we decided to bike here on our hired moped. It took forever- there and back. The ‘back’ resulted in glugging a large bottle of Singha each in a matter of minutes. I would recommend a taxi or a tour.
We visited in rainy season, but at other times of the year this water is dazzling turquoise. The murkiness made jumping in really difficult, especially as the pools are teeming with those little fish that just love eating dead bits of skin. After half an hour of ‘will I, won’t I’, a huge yelp shattered the peace and quiet as my five foot ten body plunged into the pool. After gathering a bit of an audience it was really quite the spectacle. What made it even more exciting was the continued screams as the fish, which happen to not be so small, starting nibbling my feet, elbows and toes. A quick scramble up on the slippery rocks made for a temporary safe haven. The Thai locals were cool, calm and collected, bathing in these waters like it was just another day at the office.
Unfortunately the rain started to come down and we only reached the fifth waterfall. Apparently the seventh tier is something of true beauty. Next time?
If you want culture, Kanchanaburi has that too. On our second visit, we wandered around temples. Our Canon camera had the best time of it’s life, but the selfie-sticks were swinging around in the thousands and put our Canon in the backseat of modern technology.
If you want to climb to the top, take the stairs. If you want to be lazy and put Thailand’s health and safety to the test, go up on the little train pulled up on a large bit of fraying rope… Risk takers we are. We took the train.
The choice of guesthouses and hotels are abundant. We have stayed in mid to high end places as well as ‘cheap’. However, compared to Bangkok the cost to stay in Kanchanaburi is “cheap cheap”. The pool at our mid to high end hotel was the cherry on the top as it looked over the River Kwai. Despite staying in rainy season, we had blue skies. ‘Rainy season’ no longer fools the Harts. This was the perfect end to our second Kanchanaburi trip. Will we go back for a third time? Most likely. Kanchanaburi, we think you are pretty cool and we look forward to chilling with you again soon.