Wake up to find out what my hotel calls an “American Breakfast”. This turns out to invovle toasted white bread with jam, fried eggs, mango, juice and tea/coffee. The mangos in Thailand are good, the white bread could be improved upon.
Tuk-Tuk to the bus station (80THB). Some words are exchanged between my tuk-tuk driver and someone at the bus stop and I am asked if I want to take a minibus. I agree. I realise now that based on my experience with the bus to Erawan Falls the next day, I am getting a faster and more comfortable ride than the bus would give me, for only 125 THB. Hellfire Pass is my destination this morning, and I am the first passenger dropped off. I’m not sure what the final destination of my minibus is, perhaps the Three Pagodas border crossing?
In WWII, the Japanese used forced labour (both POWs and civilians) to build a rail link to Burma. Hellfire pass is one section of the rail corridor where an interpretive centre and an audioguided hike along the rail corridor has been set up by the Australian government, free of charge. There are no longer any rail tracks along this part of the route, the British ripped out all the rail westward of Nam Tok at the conclusion of the war.
Unlike most visitors, I did the full hike, which is not as difficult as it is made out to be. I’m glad I’m not in a tour group – one arrives after me and the participants don’t get quite enough time to do the full hike and get the full experience. The audioguide has lots of stories told by POWs and the track has some nice views across the valley towards Myanmar. I also see my first monkeys of the trip, and after conversing with a local it seems that monkeys are as common in Thailand as kangaroos are in Australia.
I wholeheartedly recommend visiting this place.
After finishing Hellfire Pass, I bum a ride with a local to Namtok Sai Yok Noi waterfall. This seems to be a place more for children than adults. Though I must say, the chance to cool off under the waterfall is a great relief in this weather. Lunch is had here, from the other side of the main road.
There are two ways now to return by public transport, by bus or by train. I choose the latter (100 THB for foreigners), and walk to Nam Tok station, a walk which is not of any interest whatsoever. The train back to Kanchanaburi is more scenic than the bus, and on the more scenic portion of the trip I’m joined by some tour groups. The highlight is the section around Krasae Cave (you do get to briefly see inside the cave from the train) right next to the river. And the rest of the journey is enjoying riding through the countryside in a civilised manner, with the windows open as much as possible and no A/C in sight.
Back in Kanchanaburi, the train crosses the Khwae Yai along the famous bridge, full of tourists who have to get out of our way. There’s a station immediately after the bridge, which is where I alight.
Next stop is the JEATH war museum. This one got added to the agenda essentially because of the location, and being Thailand, entry is cheap. There’s a section dedicated to the 2nd World War, as you expect, but also some other stuff related to older history of Thailand. As well as some surprising exhibits like a section on the winners of the Miss Thailand beauty pageant. Because why not. The JEATH museum also comes with some nice views of the bridge over the River Kwai and the surrounding area as in the below picture.
Dinner is next, but that is beyond the scope of this blog. And Erawan falls beckons the next morning.