I wasn’t up in time to get the early train to Kanchanaburi, which would have got me there in the morning, but got the second one arriving late in the afternoon. It was too late to start sight seeing, but next morning would be a rush, as I had to catch a train out at 2:45pm. That evening was spent having dinner at a guesthouse which also ran a cookery school (the food was a good as you would expect) and watching football at a small convenience store that had put a temporary bar up in front of a TV.
I’m not sure if the Lonely Planet had the scale wrong on its map but it took me 20 minutes to walk from my guesthouse to the Bridge over the river Kwai, which would suggest it was over a mile away, not the 600m indicated. The bridge itself was mobbed and despite the fact that it was a railway bridge one track wide you could walk across on planks between the rails. Every 30m or so was a bay at the side where you could get out of the way if a train came. To be honest a train coming was the least of your problems, the plank path in the middle was narrow and to pass people coming the other way required one party to place one foot either on the rail or the sleepers. Not originally designed for passengers the bridge is not really enclosed, meaning a slipped foot could easily send you falling through to the river below, a knock out blow to the head on the way through a small mercy. Despite my part time phobia of heights I made it across the bridge and back again.
My extended walk here meant that there was no way I could stick to walking and see everything I wanted to. I hired a scooter for 3 hours costing 50 baht (80 pence) and set off for the allied war cemetery outside of town. Only 3km out of town and I was the only person and this well kept memorial. Most of the graves here are British, but I also noticed a significant number of Dutch. Each person had a simple stone declaring their nationality, regiment, date of birth and date of death. Many have a simple message from the persons family and reading these the loss of a real person to a real family is made clear. As I walked the length of the cemetery I noticed something even more poignant, the graves of unidentified people with a simple inscription you can read below…..
I then set off for the real JEATH museum, a recreation of a Japanese POW hut, filled with pictures donated by survivors and families of survivors of the death railway. One of the museums near the bridge has also started calling itself the Jeath museum, including official looking signs on the street, but the Lonely Planet had warned me about this scam. It’s a great collection of photographs, drawings and paintings covering the construction of the railway and the conditions of the prisoners working on it. What seems to be forgotten here, and by the world at large, was that far more locals were killed building the death railway than Western POWs. Despite this it’s a great place to visit. I then went to the two cemeteries in town, one for the Allies and one for the Chinese. The Allied cemetery was similar to the one out of town, just much busier as it’s more accessible to the tourist hoards. The Chinese next door is a contrast, as every grave is different, most being very ornate and colourful.
That was all I had time for if I was to drop off my scooter, grab lunch, my bags and make it to the station. I was glad I had visited here, its a place with a recent tragic history but the key sights are presented with dignity. You are left in little doubt about the coast of war.
The train at 2:45pm was the start of a long journey. 1.5 hours later I’d to get off at Nakhon Pathom and wait for a couple of hours to catch the overnight sleeper train to Surat Thani. At 6am we arrive, however the station is 14km away from town so its onto a local bus. Once there a ferry ticket to Ko Pha Ngan is easy, however the various ferries leave from piers outside of town so its onto another bus to get to the boat. A 4 hour boat ride brings us to the island, but on the south west corner, not the south east where I want to be. A shared taxi takes me to Had Rin, famous for the full moon party but not where I eventually want to stay. However I need to get a feel of the place and am looking to avoid travelling any more so I grab a room for the night near the pier. Had Rin really is a busy little traveller community but next day I’m off somewhere better.
I found something close to paradise, an island beach only accessible by boat, surrounded by palm trees, full of fine sand leading to turquoise water. Along the back of the beach in the hillside are a series of wooden bungalows, small bars and restaurants. There is nothing to do here but chill, enjoy the sun and sea, whilst noting that every girl here is gorgeous. At one end of the beach a raised wooden walkway leads over the rocks and up into the hills. First stop is a great restaurant with a fabulous view and great food. If, however, you continue you find yourself on a rough trail through the jungle to a second beach, even less developed than the one before. At the back of this is a superb little bar, though it was closed the first time I tried. They had had a party two days before and the staff were still recovering; my kind of place.
Anyway I’m here for a couple of weeks but as there is no mobile phone signal, no phones, no internet, no roads….. etc etc I’ll not be posting much up for a while.