June in Thailand: The Death Railway

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One of the main things to see in Kanchanaburi is the Death Railway. I took a day tour out that included the Death Railway and the Erawan Falls. Oddly enough, the first stop before seeing the Death Railway was a little pit stop in the middle of nowhere for tourists to feed wild monkeys. I found it a bit disturbing because it makes monkeys dependent on people for handouts and also quite aggressive to humans, particularly when they’re holding on to shiny things like chocolate bar wrappers and water bottles. I just stood aside while everyone else emptied their pockets of food and took opportunistic snaps of the monkeys including this one with the cute googly-eyed baby.

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Onward to the Death Railway. Thousands of Allied POWs died during WWII to construct this railway to help the Japanese forces travel overland faster.

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Despite its sad history, the scenery was lovely. The tracks followed the bend of the River Kwai.

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Where we were dropped off, a little way beyond the station platform, was a small dark cave with with a Buddha image. Perhaps it was to provide peace to those who perished there.

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The Death Railway is still an active train line now, with not just tourists using it. We clambered onto the old-school train to find seats among the locals. There were all sorts: school children on their way home, vendors lugging their wares, regular people on the commute.

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And we pulled out of the platform into more of the verdant countryside.

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It’s funny how tourists pretty much took over the train, everyone was leaning out the windows trying to get a good shot and also trying not to take pictures of the cameras.

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I took the opposite tack and just went ahead to capture all the tourists doing their thing. It’s interesting how tourists only occupied the front few cars and became sparser and sparser down to the last car.

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The view was a lot prettier than I expected, with the clouds against the pale blue and the trees silhouetted against the river and far hills.

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It was such a lovely sight.

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June in Thailand: Kanchanaburi

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Kanchanaburi was my first stop out of Bangkok. It was also the first time in my trip where I was completely without a plan. Previously in The Philippines I had something of a schedule to keep to so I could make my way round the islands and meet my friends in time. Here, I only had to make my flight back in three weeks, there wasn’t a particular plan except a vague idea to stick to land activities and head north to the hill tribe area.

Kanchanaburi was the best place to be. It had such a laidback backpacker vibe and was firmly on the beaten track, as evidenced by the many cheap bars set up for smelly backpackers like me. Later that night I’d be sitting on the road downing the cheap local moonshine called sang som and going slightly upmarket with 50 baht shots of 100 Pipers whiskey (extra 20 baht for coke mixers).

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The touristy part of town was right on the infamous River Kwai, including of course the bridge. It was rather over-touristed, as expected in that part of Thailand and supposedly not even the “real” one.

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Still, the back of town was much nicer. My guest house had a lovely view of the river.

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The view was just amazing in the morning, it was so still and placid the clouds and blue sky reflected beautifully where there weren’t lotus pads and flowers. What a great place to start backpacking in Thailand.

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