Not far from Bangkok, but feeling like a completely different country, is a small city called Kanchanaburi. Most tourists come to gawk at (and clamor all over) the famous Bridge over the River Kwai, and maybe hike to a waterfall or two. I came to ride the remaining working remnant of the notorious Thailand-Burma Railway, built by Allied POWs and Asian forced labor under the Japanese during World War II. It’s a tragic story, one made poignant by actually visiting the sections where thousands of men died building the railroad in bare feet, with pickaxes and dynamite.
I caught the train north before the first blushes of dawn, riding to the end of the line in tiny Nam Tok. If you ride in the morning, you’ll be the only farang, surrounded by school children in crisp uniforms hopping a ride to school, locals visiting families, and farmers commuting to the day’s work. Fallow fields, sugarcane, and rice paddies stretch out to the mountains as dawn paints the day with promise and farmers wave to you as you chug past. It’s oddly cheery considering the history behind the rail line.
I also visited Hellfire Pass, the museum and memorial walk along a torn up section of the railway. Remnants of tools, metal spikes, and rail ties share the trail with scattered memorials to lost souls by families from as far away as Britain and Australia.
To view my photos of Kanchanaburi and the Thailand-Burma Railway, click on the link below: