Kanchanaburi – third visit

I kinda like this small town, which is good as there’s not a huge amount there and this was my third trip to see it. As on my second visit, we opted to get the train there as it’s quite a scenic journey although it’s a second class (fan / hard seats) carriage the whole way there and the weather was hot to say the least.

We got a taxi from the hostel which cost us a lot less than we were expecting. Until we realised he’d dropped us at the wrong train station. On the right side of the river, but nowhere near where we wanted to be. The station guard wrote the correct station name down for us in Thai and we flagged a tuk-tuk to take us to the right one. This looked a lot more familiar! Thonburi is the one you want, should you be taking the trip yourself.

We picked up our tickets from the incredibly friendly ticket guy (100 Baht – around £1.35). There were quite a few tourists kicking around, but nobody seemed to be talking so we kicked out heels and realised we were getting hungry. Leah went off to look for some pineapple or something while I tried to guess what country some of the other white people were from.

This being more “locals” territory, Leah came back foodless. No 7-Eleven, no ice-packed trolley laden with fruit so nowhere really to pick up snacks from. So I thought I’d take a stroll around the market. And came back with 4 juicy rose apples and a bunch of bananas, which cost less than they would have on the street in Bangkok. The market staff were very friendly, I think enjoying the novelty of a foreigner buying from them – I was certainly the only white face wandering around outside of the station.

The train left with only a slight delay and chugged its way west. The folk sitting near us were French backpackers and one of the girls really wasn’t doing well in the heat. Leah struggled a bit, but we swapped seats so she got the breeze coming in the window. Fortunately, we arrived in Kanchanaburi before the French girl gave out completely and her companions – I hope – were able to get her some shade and water.

Hopping off the train we had the usual cyclos waiting. Not too many, really. I guess most people travel by bus. We looked around for a taxi and asked one woman if we could jump in her share taxi for a few Baht. She refused the money, but said we were welcome as the taxi had been paid for and was going to her guest house. She didn’t even flutter when we said we were already booked in elsewhere – “It’s very close”. Cool.

So we hopped on board, were driven for around five minutes and arrived at the paid-for destination. We asked the driver where Sam’s River Rafthouse was and he pointed up the road. “Very close! You need taxi tomorrow, you call me?” and gave us his card. We promised that we would if we needed one. Maybe 50 yards up the road we came across the Rafthouse – close indeed!

It was a lovely place with friendly staff who got us settled in quickly. When you’re inside the rooms, you’d not believe you were floating on a river. Very sturdy, well-decorated and with nice bathrooms. We even had aircon.

After the early rise and the trip, we were a little peckish to decided to eat where we were staying. The menu was pretty varied and the prices good. The chicken fried rice I had was huge for the amount I paid, and rather tasty. Appetites satisfied, we walked the short distance to the Allied Cemetary for a look around. As ever, the place was beautifully tended with staff watering the grass and clipping the flowers. Somehow it always manages to be serene despite passing traffic.

The stroll into town proved to be rather warm and it took us a little while to find a 7-Eleven to get some drinks from. Outside, a small boy was rooting through the bins for the empty plastic bottles. I guess he gets money for recycling them. I handed him my empty bottle and he gave me a deep wai of thanks which almost broke my heart. He popped the lid back on the bin before the staff chased him off and walked away with a couple more bits of plastic.

Somewhere along the way, Leah spotted a bar with a sign saying “air conditioned” so we had to pop in to get out of the heat. Over a beer we got chatting to an American guy. Ex-army and now ex-US, he’s set up home in Kanchanaburi and knows the owner of the bar. His passion is motorbikes and he spends a lot of his time on the roads in the countryside, or at the bar. Everything he buys in Thailand he now buys for cash. No credit, no owing money. Nice retirement! We got free sandwiches with our drinks, too.

The other main “attraction” in Kanchanaburi is the Bridge Over The River Kwai, and we located a taxi to take us up there as it’s quite a distance north. Leah’s not good with heights so I had fun making the planks wobble as we walked across and back (I’m mean like that). We paid a quick visit to the nearby museum then strolled back towards our residence, stopping for dinner at a random restaurant then drinks at the Jolly Frog.

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