Bangkok is known for its night markets, lady boys and shopping emporiums. A city jam packed with 6 million people there is always something to see or do. Because of this, few foreigners venture outside of Bangkok unless it’s for tours to see elephants or tigers. A 2 hour drive west from the city center and you’re in a completely different world surrounded by national parks, waterfalls, and rich in WWII history. With a weekend out of Bangkok, we were blessed with wonderful weather and unforgettable moments.
Day 1: Bangkok to Kanchanaburi
Our first stop is the town of Kachanaburi – famous for the Death Railway built in WWII by Australian and British POW. Walking along the train tracks in the heat of midday, we can only imagine the hard labor which went into building these tracks. The train still runs along this track today carrying tourists across the River Kwai. As the train approaches we quickly step aside to allow it to pass through.
In the afternoon we stop by the war cemetery and Death Railway Museum and Research Center. There are a few museums in this town but in my opinion, this is the only one worth going to since it’s the most well maintained and accurate. The museum gives an overview of why the railway needed to be built – mainly to supply materials and weapons to the Japanese soldiers stationed in Myanmar. It also provided a glimpse into the working conditions, treatment of POW and creates a vivid picture of how life for these unfortunate soldiers.
Day 2 – Kanchanaburi to Erawan National Park
If you want to know what off the grid living feels like I suggest mingling with the locals and keeping the pace easy.. We spent a night at a local farm/restaurant just 10 km from Erawan Waterfall. How did we get directions there? Google maps was inaccurate so we asked the locals every few km where we could find “Mr. Hey”. Everyone knew who we were talking about but trying to explain it in broken english proved more challenging. When we did find the place we were pleasantly greeted by Mrs. Hey. Our cute little bungalow had a comfortable mattress, mosquito netting and privacy. No wifi, no electricity (small battery generator) and no running water. Life moves slowly here and we really liked it that way.
Erawan Waterfall – 7 tiers of falls
Entry fee; 300 BHT + 30 BHT per car
Our main reason for visiting the National park was to see Erawan stepped waterfall. I think I’ve been living in Asia too long since I didn’t find this waterfall as impressive as the ones in Laos or Philippines. Go early (the park opens at 8:00 AM) to avoid the crows of tourist buses and locals. Dip your feet in the water for a free fish massage!
1 hour drive from Erawan is the Hellfire Pass Memorial Museum. This is the point of the deepest cutting on the Burma railway. Another great free museum and memorial to visit if you’re in the area. This is the first museum I had to take off my shoes to enter! It’s well maintained and after you visit the museum you can take a short walk to see the Hellfire pass itself. A lone tree grows between the now stripped railway and monument. The shadows of the trees eerily resemble that of the POWs skeleton like bodies.
Along the drive back into Bangkok we stopped by a local market – as in so local everyone spoke to us in Thai. It was all about pointing and handing them money at anything which looked appealing. What I loved most about this weekend away were those moments when nature captivated me. I felt inspired again captivated by rolling hills of greenery, cotton wool clouds, and endless blue skies.