Exploring Hidden Thailand

Kanchanaburi Province
  |  Gorp.com
Death Railway Bridge
For history buffs, the name Kanchanaburi may conjure up images of the Death Railway Bridge immortalized by the book (and later film) called The Bridge Over the River Kwai. Four kilometers north of the province's eponymous capital city, a railway bridge spans the Khwae Yai River. During World War II, the Japanese occupying force used prisoners of war and local coolies to builde this bridge and the 415-kilometer railway that ran over it between Thailand and Burma. More than 16,000 POWs and 100,000 local laborers are thought to have died in the process. The morbid details of the Death Railway Bridge are memorialized at a railway museum, two Allied War Cemeteries (in Kanchanaburi just north of the city, and in Chung Kai across the river and to the southwest), and the JEATH War Museum.

The national parks in Kanchanaburi Province are home to seven major waterfalls, the three most attractive being Erawan, Huay Khamin, and Sai Yok. The city of Kanchanaburi, a three-hour bus ride from Bangkok, serves as a transportation hub for the province.

My otherwise idyllic trek to the top terrace of Erawan Falls was tainted only by the fact that I hadn't worn my bathing suit under my shorts, and I was unwilling to forgo the chance to take a dip in Erawan's refreshing waters. My options were to bare all in the water and let my entire body serve as a salt-lick for hundreds of little flesh-nibbling fish, or to risk flashing one of the many Thai families that were using the trail that day. I decided that there were certain parts of my body that I just would rather not offer up to the, um, pecker fish. So, I hope the wide-eyed boy, who thankfully couldn't immediately bring himself to explain to his mother what he had seen, will forgive me for the inadvertent flash of cheek he saw as he passed me by.

So if you go to the waterfalls, change beforehand. You'll spare yourself — and your trailmates — some anxiety, and you'll enjoy Kanchanaburi's finest natural attractions in peace.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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