A few weekends ago, my British lad Adrian and I ventured northwest to Kanchanaburi for a city break. The area is most well-known for the infamous Burma Railway, commonly referred to as the Death Railway. We decided that we wanted our trip to include a peek into that dark history, as well as a visit to some of Thailand’s best waterfalls.
While a train ride was tempting, we decided to take a minibus from Victory Monument. Once we got to the bus station in Kanchanaburi, we were kind of herded into a teeny tiny bicycle rickshaw to head to our weekend home, P.Y. Guesthouse, that Adrian found on Agoda. I LOVE this guesthouse. The owners are incredibly kind and helpful, lent us their motorbike for the duration of the trip, gave us snacks and drinks without asking, and had tons of random dogs running around. Food and puppies. You’d think they knew me.
We arrived in the evening, so dinner was first on the agenda. We snacked on fried morning glory and garlic chicken at a restaurant on the river. Doesn’t get much better than watching the sun set over a body of water with an ice cold beer…especially after being cooped up in a stuffy van. We walked by the night market in town to get dessert (roti cones!) but headed back pretty early. I had the grandiose idea that we would wake up and be on the road before sunrise, so early bedtime – but if you know me, you know how that went down.
Saturday morning had us stocking up on snacks and iced espressos (next time, I’LL go for snacks…Adrian chose the weirdest things for a hike) and riding the motorbike for almost 2 hours to the Erawan waterfalls. Have to say, my opinion of motorbikes has completely changed. I HAVE TO HAVE ONE. Such a free feeling – I can’t stop smiling as we zoom past rivers and under thick tree canopies. There are seven tiers of waterfalls that make up the Erawan waterfalls, each unique to the next. We decided to quickly acknowledge each tier (read: photograph) on the way up but try to get to the top tier to swim before the crowds. Turned out, we didn’t need to worry. The hike kind of weeds out the most obnoxious of tourists, but it was still nice to get a head start. Be warned: the fish are large and they definitely are not afraid of you…
After spending the day hiking, swimming, GoPro-ing, watching monkeys and photographing our every move, we decided to head home – because I made a prediction that it would rain before 4 o’clock. Without a cloud to be seen, Adrian took my bet. Unfortunately, kind of for both of us, he lost. It started to pour on us as we rode the motorbike back to town. I was still smiling.
Dinner was at the night market that night – the cheapest noodles, fruit smoothies and a cup of ice cream for the walk home. Always always always go where the locals go. There are lots of cool places to eat on the Walking Street (and in some cool historic buildings, to boot) but you really would be missing out if you didn’t throw yourself into the crowd and pick up some of the most delicious Thai food a few coins can buy (we had noodles for 25 baht…that is less than a dollar). Some people may be a little apprehensive, and I’ll be honest, I have had some issues with the food, but usually it’s just the spice, and I do it to myself. Just say “pet” (spicy) and make the international sign for just a little! and you’ll be just fine. And maybe stay away from any funky meat.
We tried for sunrise on Sunday again and only caught a glimpse. We tried! Our first stop was the River Kwai (pronounced “kway.” The other pronunciation actually translates to “buffalo” in Thai, which is an insult to one’s intelligence, really. You may see it spelled Kwae here.) We walked the length of the bridge, being mindful of the lives it took to create it. Definitely make sure to wait on one of the platforms for the train to come by. Once that cleared all the people taking selfies and planking across the tracks, the bridge was quiet and allowed for some reflection. Hard to be so excited about all that beauty when you know the price.
We grabbed more iced coffees on the Walking Street and tried to form a game plan for our last day. We decided to take the motorbike to some caves a little farther out…and failed. We somehow got lost (?) but ended up at a huge, quiet resort right on the river. We sat down for the nastiest “American” breakfast of my life (fed all of mine to the dog) and watched the train cut through the mountain across the river from us. Despite our failure, the motorbike ride through some of the most beautiful countryside I’ve ever seen was nothing to be mad at. I love traveling with people like Adrian. Mai ben rai is what we like to say these days! No problem.
If I visit Kanchanaburi again (likely), I would definitely visit one of the many war memorials or museums, and of course hit some different waterfalls or caves – there are SO many. Many people might suggest visiting the Tiger Temple, the monkey school or an elephant trek while you are in this area. Please reconsider these activities, as they lead to mistreatment and unnatural lives for the animals involved. There are many other opportunities to witness animals in either their native habitats or rehabilitation centers that do not profit off of them. Plus, who really wants a photo with a drugged up tiger anyway?
This was waterfall #6 I believe…our favorite one. The best swimming lagoon with fish that were a bit smaller than those in waterfall #7…it’s funny when the babies nibble your toes, not so much when the big ones bite your butt.