I arrived in Kanchanaburi yesterday morning. I took a train from Bangkok 2 hours northwest to the town infamous for its role in World War II. In an effort to link Burma and Thailand, Japanese forces made Allied prisoners-of-war construct a bridge, The Bridge over the River Kwai. Working long, hot days and under brutal conditions, over 6,000 prisoners of war died. The bridge is still in use for trains and a bit further north into the mountains is Hellfire Pass, one of the worst sections for construction. The town is also a popular hub for access to Erawan National Park and Erawan Waterfalls, just an hour and a half north.
I’m staying at BlueStar Guesthouse and sharing a tiny bungalow stilted above the riverside marsh with a German backpacker, Simon, for only $100 baht each (just under $3)! He’s at the end of his trip and has a girlfriend back home, so he’s a bit burnt out and not the most positive to be around.
I spent yesterday taking it easy. I caught up with some friends from home, hung out by the river, and eventually made my way 2 km up the road to the Bridge. While it was humbling to visit such a historic and haunting site, I was a bit distracted by the bus-loads of tourists and groups taking smiling, goofy selfies. TRUST ME, I’m all for a good selfie (just check out my Instagram) but it just felt odd at a site where so many died.
Anyway, today was a bit more fun! I took the first local bus (which was packed to the brim) to Erawan National Park, known for its 7 tiers of waterfalls and pools. I hiked my way to the very top waterfall, number 7, passing the others as I climbed. It was the most beautiful of them all, with pure, crystal blue pools and cascading water over smooth white rock. I sat at the top for a little, watching others jump, swim, and sit in the water. It was actually very entertaining, as there were fish that are dead skin cells off your body. Now, this sounds luxurious and glamorous, and beautifying. But watching the fish swarm people who would them scream and jump at first nibble made it much less appealing. But alas, in the vain of peeling away dead skin cells and my conviction it would rejuvenate my skin making me some Olay face wash model, I jumped in! “If I stay in motion, they probably won’t bite,” I thought. It took everything in me to just relax. And wait. And not ten seconds later, I was just another victim, letting out a quick scream and jumping around. It was a crazy weird, and sometimes painful, feeling to have fish nibbling on your body when and where you least expect. So yeah, I’ve come to the conclusion that my skins not so bad.
In addition to number 7, number 4 and 5 were also my favorites. The fifth waterfall is probably the most iconic Erawan Waterfalls picture, while the fourth had two natural slides in the rock. There were a ton of locals there, picnicking and playing in the water. It was a lot of fun but I left around 2 pm, to avoid the crowded buses at closing.
Back at the guesthouse, I decided to go for a run. And I will swear by it over and over (so much that I’ve got a blog post about it coming soon) that running, along with biking, is the best way to see a town or city. I made my way off the beaten path and up some local roads. I passed a local farmer coraling about two dozen cows in the middle of the street to their stable. A bit further, I stopped in front of a farm and watched the sun set over the distant mountains. It was one of those surreal experiences, witnessing life in a foreign place, without annoying tourists. And going on a run allowed me to see that, a moment not written in Lonely Planet or suggested by my guesthouse receptionist. And it also made me feel a little less guilty for the fried pork and noodle soup I had for dinner.
Tomorrow, I’m off to Ayutthaya, the ancient capital city of Thailand before the Burmese sacked it in 1767.
La gonnn! (Byeee in Thai… I’m learning!)