I had another long weekend ahead of me for Teacher's Day. Kanchanaburi is only about 2.5 hours by bus from Bangkok, so I thought it would be a nice place for a long weekend getaway. I was looking forward to visiting and hiking some gorgeous waterfalls just outside of the city. I really had only the slightest notion of the history of the town when the trip was planned.
Getting there was pretty seamless. Jamie and I took a taxi to the Sai Tai Mai bus terminal in Bangkok, paid 110 Baht for our ticket and within 30 minutes we were on our way. When we arrived we simply jumped into a songtow (pickup truck with benches in the back) which took us directly to our hotel. We stayed in a floating room right on the river, simple, but perfect. And you couldn't beat the view. Honestly, if we had done nothing more than relax on the porch and take in the view all weekend that would have been okay with me. The town actually had a bit of a night life, the main road running through town was lined with bars and peppered with these pop-up 10-baht whiskey spots. Our room was less than a 2 minute walk from the commotion, but on the river you couldn't hear a thing. It was so peaceful. That's not to say that we didn't partake in a night of libation. :)
We found out that the waterfalls and hiking were a 1.5 hour bus ride outside of town, and once we were in relaxation mode all of that just felt like a lot of work. Instead we decided to checkout what Kanchanaburi had to offer. We had both heard about the famed Bridge of the River Kwai, and it was only a 20 minute walk from our hotel, so we decided to give it a go. It's a pretty touristy spot at first glance, but as you get about half way across the bridge the crowd seems to dissipate, and you can take in the enormity of the structure. Its been rebuilt since its original construction in the 1940's, but there is still an air about the place that is heavy with devastation. We had taken a look at boat tours of the river from our hotel but they all seemed too expensive, at 700 Baht or more, so as we crossed the bridge we decided to check with a boating company ourselves. When I say boating company, I use the term very lightly. It was more like a sign next to an empty boat rack toting long boat rides with some sightseeing stops along the way. The woman told us it would be 700 baht for a boat, which again seemed too expensive, tho waay less than the 700 baht each we would have paid at the hotel, until a lovely Thai woman approached us and invited us to share her boat with her group of 4. So, between the 6 of us we got a long boat for about 140 baht each. Not so bad. The ride down the river was gorgeous. We got a new look at the bridge, visited a POW cemetery and got some more information about the history of the rail line, and did a little bit of hiking up to a temple/cave. It turned out to be a really wonderful day, and I am happy to have had the chance to take in a bit of the history of the country I am living in.
Aside from that we sepnt a whole lot of time relaxing, which was exactly what I needed out of my long weekend. Kanchanburi is a beautiful little town, filled with friendly people, and I am looking forward to going back soon, this time to check out the waterfalls, because they do sound magical.
I should mention that our ride home was not nearly as seamless. Instead of the general "safety" of a songtow, we took a motor bike with a metal seating attachment back to the bus station. During the short trip we were cut off by a songtow driver and then nearly had our cart run straight into the back of a Mercedes when our driver was not paying attention. Our bus back was also a little sketchy and much slower, but we arrived safe and sound.