Bangkok has so much to offer: gargantuan malls, VIP movie theaters, restaurants and more restaurants, rooftop lounges, museums, and Buddhist temples galore. Everything is accessible and the hardest part of the day should simply be deciding which to choose. Life should be easy, but in reality we struggled most with getting a breath of fresh air. People are everywhere—majestic temples so overrun with tour groups there is barely room to walk, streets so congested that traveling a single mile can take an hour, constant peddling (and grabbing) from massage parlors and enthusiastic sales pitches by suit tailors, and coughing. So much coughing. Pollution is a problem here, but cover your mouths people!
After Bangkok, we were in need of a vacation from our vacation. It sounds terrible, I know. But it was time for us to get off the beaten path. Time to see some of the country. Off to Kanchanaburi.
On a Monday morning we hired a Grab (SE Asia’s version of Uber) for the Thonburi Train Station. During this trip, we learned (the hard way) there is a “train station” within the “Thonburi” district of town and that there is also the “Thonburi Train Station” in an entirely different (and far away) section of town. We had plenty of time though, so no worries. For 100 baht per ticket, we hopped onto the State Railway of Thailand open-air train destined for Kanchanaburi.
Face masks strapped on, we enjoyed the dusty views as we passed small towns and vast fields of sugar cane, papaya, and coconut. This beautiful 3 hour journey north of Bangkok, however, comes with a dark history. Known as the “Death Railway,” thousands of Allied POW and civilian workers lives were lost constructing the line during Japanese occupation in WWII.
We arrived and the scene couldn’t have been more different. Skyscrapers gone. Lines of tuk tuks replaced with a lone truck taxi. Smog clouds cleared revealing blue skies. For 3 nights, we stayed in Kanchanaburi proper at a resort along the river. Bicycles included, our exploration radius expanded to the bulk of the city. Albeit incredibly spicy, we savored the salad consisting of backyard-grown lettuce at All About Me.
We also took in the views of the infamous railroad bridge over the Kwai Yai River and reflected on those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.
Moving deeper into the country, we arrived at another riverside bungalow about an hour and half bus ride north.
When boarding, we were sure to show the driver something written in Thai by our Airbnb host. Fingers crossed, we are fortunately dropped off at the right location.
This place is easily one of our favorites. Kayaks, bicycles, scooter rentals, on-site breakfast and dinner. Alex, the on-site assistant was there to see our every need. He took our food orders, handled the scooter rental, and was even there on our porch to wish us good night and good morning. That may sound almost creepy, but he is honestly one of the kindest people we have ever met.
Still avoiding the crowds, one day we rented a scooter and bypassed the popular Erawan Falls opting for a lesser-known falls further north. The extra hour drive was well worth the effort as we had a portion of the falls entirely to ourselves. As Christine says, “We own these…” waterfalls! Seven tiers of falls cascade hundreds of feet with each level resembling large oval emerald colored glassy tabletops with legs of water. The place is truly amazing.
Enough said though. Kanchanaburi is exactly what we were looking for. We spent 6 nights off the beaten path and wished we could have stayed longer.