Greetings everyone! 😀
This past week has been full of excitement, as I had a visitor fly in from Kuala Lumpur. She’s an English teacher at a language school in Malaysia, who came to Thailand for a little ‘sanuk’ or fun in this land of smiles. 😀
Now one of the benefits of being a woman in Bangkok is the plethora of ladies nights, where girls can eat cheap and drink for free almost every night of the week. 🙂During her visit, we decided to check out Above Eleven‘s swanky rooftop bar, since they were celebrating their four-year anniversary, meaning an open bar with free mojitos and mai tai cocktails. Cheers! 😀They host ladies night every Wednesday, with drink specials, a salsa band and lots of Latin dancing. 😀The girl’s night out gave us a chance to catch up, since we had all been teachers together in Istanbul, and now we were reunited in Asia. Regardless, the venue alone is enough of a reason to visit. Just check out that view! Anyway, after the work week was done, we headed north to the city of Kanchanaburi, a place I had visited once before to volunteer with elephants.
Kanchanaburi has so much to offer, which is why I went back a second time around. 🙂
To get there we took a train from Bangkok, departing on Saturday morning from the Thonburi station. Wow! I ❤ Thailand. Where else can you take a 5-hour train ride for only $2.50? Budget travels, for sure. 🙂The train station was rustic, with vintage rail cars that looked as if they hadn’t been updated since the line was built. Funny English translations. 😛
Before we hopped on the train, we grabbed a traditional Thai breakfast of stir fried rice with egg and pork. Dogs hanging near the train station. 😀At 7:50 AM we left Bangkok from Plafrom 1, bound for Nam Tok station in Kanchanaburi. 😉The interior of the train was clean and comfortable, with spacious seats, bathrooms, food vendors, and more importantly, it was light and breezy, with cooling fans and wide open windows. As the train chugged along the tracks, we were able to relax and savor the views of country fields and farmland.Now riding the railway through Kanchanaburi is not only cheap and comfortable, but historically significant, as it was built by POWs during the second world war.
Riding the Death Railway
The death railway was built for Japan’s Imperial Army, as a way to transport troops and military supplies between Thailand and Myanmar. Sadly, it was aptly named, due to its construction using forced labor, which took the lives of over 100,000 prisoners of war.
When we arrived in Kanchanaburi, we crossed over the River Kwai Bridge, a well-known site along the death railway. Oddly enough, the River Kwai is actually the Mae Klong River. It was misnamed River Kwai in the famous war movie, “The Bridge on the River Kwai”, then renamed as such after the success and international recognition the film brought to this site.
Nam Tok station is the end of the existing rail line. From there we went to visit the museum and memorial site, Hellfire Pass, which is where most of the forced labor occurred. To get there, we paid a street vendor’s son 11 USD for the three of us to ride in his air conditioned truck. It was a 25-minute ride, and the cost was cheaper than public transport.
Now our experience at the Hellfire Pass memorial was both eye-opening and educational. We were able to walk the four kilometer trail, and most notably a site called Konyu Cutting, a section of the death railway carved out of the steep mountain slopes. The memorial site provides visitors with complementary audio guides, where you can hear the survivors’ stories as you walk along this massive man-made wonder. This particular portion was coined “Hellfire Pass,” as it was where the most gruesome accounts of slavery took place. POWs, both emaciated and overworked, chiseled away through the night, using only primitive tools and navigating by the light of a burning flame. I found this quote at their museum to really stick with me, so I thought I’d share it with you all.I felt overall that both the educational Hellfire Pass museum, and the well-kept memorial site showed a deep respect for what these men and women had endured. It’s sad to see such an area of natural beauty plagued with the memories of such inhumanity and injustice. Never forget.
Anyway, after our visit to the museum, we waited at the ‘bus stop’ for a ride back to Kanchanaburi. Transport cost back to town was only 2 USD and the Hellfire Pass site was free, making this a very budget-friendly day. While in Kanchanaburi, we stayed at Bluestar Guesthouse, the same accommodation used during my previous visit. 🙂
For dinner, we checked out On’s Thai-Issan restaurant, specializing in vegetarian cuisine.
The atmosphere was cozy and welcoming, almost like eating in someone’s home. 🙂
And as for the food, all I can say is, Yum-o!
For starters we had pumpkin hummus. What a genius idea! 😀
Warm chickpeas blended with nutty cashews, sesame seeds, ginger, chili, cilantro and garlic, served with slices of cool cucumber and tomato. *drool*Next was tempura fried vegetables, with a warm peanut dipping sauce. Yes! Yes! Yes! 😀From there, we had larb Issan, which is a combination of vegetables and tofu, mixed with a salty sweet sauce of chilies, cilantro, mint, fish sauce, soy sauce, raw sugar and lime. I even tasted a hint of cinnamon. Perfection! 😀
Lastly, we tried stir fried morning glory. Morning glory is a native vegetable, similar to spinach, that is cooked with mushrooms, tofu, and carrots, then seasoned with garlic, soy sauce, oyster sauce, and chilies. So delicious!
Now despite its small size and remote location, Kanchanburi is completely underrated, as it will surprise most visitors with its chic cafes and restaurants. The perfect example was our last stop of the day at Library Cafe.
Library Cafe has a modest book collection, elegant decor, microbrews on tap, and a cafe menu with tempting desserts, like this chocolate drizzle crumble. On Sunday we visited the seven-tiered waterfall and national park, Erawan Falls.
To get there we took a bus for 2 USD and enjoyed the 1.5 hour journey, which dropped us off directly at the visitor center. How convenient! 😀We noticed lots of rules upon entering, including one on proper bathing attire. This one seemed a little humorous, but I guess they want visitors to enjoy the park in peace, without guitar melodies. 😛The first three tiers of the waterfall were easily accessible, and we found many people swimming in their pristine emerald pools.
The next four tiers were quite steep, and our trip to the seventh tier took around 45-minutes uphill. The water at this level was a milky sky blue due to the calcified mineral deposits. In the pools are numerous fish that feed upon dead skin, giving visitors a mini fish pedicure. 😀
Little did I know these fish were like small sharks and began to attack my legs upon entering. 😮So much so that I slipped and fell into the water waist deep. At least it cooled me off after hiking in the hot sun. Hah! 😛
Luckily, my friends learned from my mistake, and decided to slide in more gracefully. 😀
Overall, we enjoyed our visit to Erawan National Park, and due to the 9 USD entry free, I would recommend staying a day or two if possible. The national park has a campground, and plenty more trails to hike. 🙂
For us, our weekend was coming to an end, so we needed to head back to Bangkok.
Now this weekend, we’ll be venturing to the wild beach city of Pattaya and the adjacent island of Koh Larn. Stay tuned to hear all about it.
Until then. Enjoy your week everyone! 😀