MATT: Kanchanaburi is a bit like being back in Phuket Town. A really nice Thai town which, apart from a short strip of falang bars, is for Thai people to live and work in.
Our accomodation is the very nice "Ploy Guesthouse" which has huge rooms with lots of nice, dark wood furniture. The people are super friendly and can't do enough to help. The only downside is the breakfast is just a couple of bits of toast and a cup of tea...but it is served on a very nice terrace overlooking the river...and they have a ping pong table - sweet!
Kanchanaburi is the site of the "Bridge Over the River Kwai" which is probably, along with associated WWII stuff, the main tourist attraction of the area. There are also some nice National Parks, Wats and waterfalls nearby - but it is mostly the railway and bridge that make the area famous.
The bridge is the famous part of the Thai-Burma Death railway built by the Japanese in WWII at the cost of about 50,000 lives of British, Australian, Dutch and American pow's and about 100,000 Malay and Burmese conscripted labourers. The stories of hardship and mistreatment are all pretty grim - but there are some good museums in the town and very well kept cemetaries which pay tribute to the dead. The Thais apparently feel very guilty about what occured on their soil.
We visited the bridge on a day of cycling around the town and local countryside - and were lucky enough to see a train rumble across it - narrowly missing the assembled tourists who are able to wander about the track and bridge. It wouldn't happen at home - that's for sure - you can stroll over the bridge, but there is no footpath, so you walk along the track with nothing to stop you pitching over the edge into the river below. Typically Thai...no warnng signs or safety rails, just the freedom to do what you want and die trying if you want to.
We spent the next day visiting the Erawan waterfall - which apparently means Three Elephants...as the top of the waterfall looks like three elephants...apparently. It took about 2 hours on a government bus to get to the park where the waterfall lives. The waterfall itself has seven levels, which takes about 2 hours to climb to the top of through the forest...it is a very nice, if sweaty walk. The good bit is that most of the levels have big, deep, cold pools to swim in - and though a litle crowded with Thais and tourists (and fish that nibble at you) are really, really nice.
So after two days of exertion it is time to chill a bit - and after checking out of the hotel, we go for our first Thai massage. Kel has found a nice spa place in the countryside near Kanchanaburi town. They come and pick us up from the hotel and after about 15mins we arrive at a really tranquil garden with a pavillion in the middle, where we are welcomed by the owners - a British couple (the guy is originally from Linlithgow...small world) and their Thai staff. They give us a menu of the various treatments available and we both opt for a Detox package. This is a Thai massage, salt scrub and about half an hour in a herbal steam room. We pay 1000bhat each (about £20) and Kel informs me that the equivalent back home would cost about 120 quid each...so not a bad deal.
My first Thai massage is quality! We both leave feeling energised and with all the aches and pains knocked out - a sense of relaxed well being. We'll need it...we are back on the bus to Bangkok about an hour later....