Day 35: We were up and about early today to get packed up and work our way northwest to Kanchaniburi.
Bangkok has been a great experience, however after a week of constant noise, heavy pollution and packed streets and transport, we’re ready for a change and happy to be heading somewhere quieter.
We managed to miss rush hour on the sky train, which we were thankful for – the thought of trying to wrestle ourselves and our backpacks into heavily packed carriages wasn’t a good one.
We got off at Saphan Taksin station, then walked along the pier to find Wharf No. 1 to catch a ferry to Thonburi Station, where the Kanchaniburi train leaves from. The public ferry is a popular commuter boat and there was a constant flow of people getting on and off at every ferry wharf – our wharf was No. 11 so it took a little while to get there. It’s a very cool way to travel and a great way of sightseeing new and old buildings and temples along the banks of the Chao Phraya river.
Once we got off at Thonburi Station wharf and wobbled up the ramp with our backpacks, it was a quick 10 minute walk to the station itself, where we bought our tickets and then sat and read our books while we waited for the train.
Jim also grabbed the opportunity to weigh himself on the station luggage scales (meant for luggage only) with lots of people watching. No pics of that one – Lil was hiding her head in embarrassment.
We had 3rd class tickets – the only option available. While the train was old and the seats were a bit raggy, it was actually pretty comfortable. There was also a toilet on the train – though unless you were desperate, perhaps best to wait until later.
And as the sign says – Travelling by train is Train is Comfort, Economical, Fast and Safe.
The travel conditions on the back of our tickets warned that no pets or strong smell foods are allowed in air conditioned carriages. Had we wanted to take our pet dog or donkey with us we would have been fine, given our carriage had no air conditioning – just the blast of warm air coming through the open windows. Plus some small rusty fans whirring on the ceiling to help stir the air around a bit. Perhaps we’ll bring an animal along for the ride next time, just for fun.
The train left right on time at 13.55. The station master clanged the large brass station bell one minute before it was due to leave, the last passengers scrambled up the steps of the train, and we were off.
The train snaked its way slowly through the Bangkok suburbs, stopping at a few stations along the way, then gathered speed for the rest of the journey. Jim downloaded an app to check what speed we were doing – it felt a little bone rattling at times. The maximum we got up to was around 75 kmh – not quite bullet train speed, but by local standards, and given the state and age of the train, it was pretty impressive. We whizzed past spectacular scenery as we left the high rises of Bangkok behind, and soaked up the vistas of fields full of sugar cane and bananas, and vibrant green rice paddies.
Throughout the train ride, people got on and off at different stations and walked up and down, selling food from baskets and platters – everything from donuts to fried banana chips, pad thai in banana leaves, pork and rice in bamboo cups. Plus some odd looking fried meat pieces which may have been chicken, but may also have been something else entirely. We weren’t keen to find out.
We arrived in Kanchanaburi around 4.30pm, walked to our guest house then headed out to explore a bit of the town and track down some food and cold beers. On the way out of our room, Lil pointed to a slightly random print on the wall with a goofy quote: “The best part about being alone is that you really don’t have to answer to anybody. You do what you want.” The source of the quote? That well known philosopher, Mr Justin Timberlake.
We turned left when we left our guest house, walked for about a kilometre and around the next corner found ourselves staring at the famous Bridge on the River Kwai, built by prisoners of war during WWII. We had expected the area was going to be a mini Disneyland, and were pleasantly surprised to find it was pretty quiet and restrained with a just a few market and food stalls scattered about. Being low season helps too of course. The only street side entertainment was two little kids doing some music busking – we happily threw some money in their cardboard box as we wandered past.
The bridge is pretty impressive – we walked across it and back again, then headed to a bar by the water for cold beers and dinner, and to watch the sun set over the bridge.
Next to the bar, there were a few fishermen on the pier catching different types of fish, and occasional pieces of rubbish. A newly married couple wearing red dress and red suit also turned up to have some wedding photos taken by the water. The fishermen weren’t moving, so the couple squeezed onto a corner of the concrete pier, and we watched as the photo session got underway. We’re not sure whether wedding photography here is a little different, or whether the photographer was trying to be overly creative, but at one point the bride and groom were both lying down on the pier, with the groom lying on the bride’s dress train. And all while the fishermen continued to reel in their catch.
And then it was back to our guesthouse for an early night. Tomorrow we’ll head out to explore some of the local sights and immerse ourselves in some history of the local area. It will be fascinating and no doubt a little disturbing too.