So, let’s begin by talking Elephants. In the beginning, all I wanted to was to see elephants. Cruelty-free elephants. Elephants that were close to Bangkok. Elephants up close. So, when one of my best friends suggested Elephant’s World in Kanchanaburi and swore to me that it was, and I quote, “the best goddam experience of her entire life” I felt that it was enough of an endorsement to make the trip there. But, I thought, if I am going to travel allllll the way to Kanchanaburi then I’m going to get some bang for my buck. What better way to travel than to take the Death Railway.
So I checked out all the information about Kanchanaburi, including a very informative post by The Trading Traveller, and it seemed like there was a lot of great stuff…Kanchanaburi would not disappoint. However, the process of getting there, to begin with, was a little confusing.
I started my journey two days before at the central station Lamphong to check out tickets. I was directed to the special office for dealing with bumbling English speakers and patiently waited my turn to talk with an assistant. I told her I wanted to book a ticket to go to Kanchanaburi and return two days later. She looked at me sadly, with only a hint of frustration in her eyes. She had clearly had this conversation before.
“Kanchanaburi only can go one day.” She sighed. About twenty minutes later and with much interpretation on both sides I discovered that the Thai railway only does Trains to Kanchanaburi at the weekend. Not only that but that they are a sort of organised tour that goes and comes back in one day. Ahhhh…”But can I take the train there and then take another back on a different day?” She shook her head. Obviously frustrated by my lack of understanding of what she had just explained.
“But can I take the train there and then take another back on a different day?” She shook her head. Obviously frustrated by my lack of understanding of what she had just explained.
“Wait,” She plodded off and returned with a slightly larger, slightly more mature Thai lady, who also spoke slightly better English. She explained the same thing to me again. I repeated my question. Finally, after another two attempts, she understood and explained that yes we could take this tourist train to go and another to come back. However, on the way back there was a train which came to Bangkok but only arrived at another station Thonburi. The woman warned me that it was very VERY far and that maybe I didn’t want to travel to a place so far. It would be very inconvenient. There may be taxis or boats involved. She didn’t really seem as if she had ever been to Thonburi station. She stared me down: it was obvious that she was impatient for me to make my decision. The ticket cost 100 bhat. It seemed like a bargain. Sold.
So, In short, the “Thai tourist day trip” runs on Saturdays and Sundays. It has 3rd class non-air-conditioned seats, although some seats have more padding than others as they were originally classified as 2nd class. I didn’t use the toilet – I’m pretty sure there wasn’t one but the train stops at enough places if you are in desperate need of pee pee. It’s aimed at Thai tourists, who on the day I travelled seemed to be mostly students rather than westerners, but anyone can use it. There is no English instructions or information on the tour. Just a man with a megaphone (yes a real life megaphone) who shouts the stops in Thai and gives you some information in Thai. For the foreigners, he says how much time you have at a stop only. The itinerary looks like this but make sure you pick up an itinerary in the train station as it can get a bit confusing.
06.30 Depart from Bangkok Hualamphong station, Saturdays & Sundays only.
07:40 Arrive at Nakhon Pathom, 40 minute stop to visit the great Chedi (cone-shaped temple).
09.26 Arrive atKanchanaburi, 5 minute stop for breakfast.
09.35 Arrive at the River Kwai Bridge station & stop for 25 minutes.
10.00 Depart from River Kwai Bridge station, cross the Bridge & head along the River Kwai via the impressive Wampo Viaduct.
11.30 Arrive at Nam Tok station.
11:30 Arrive at Nam Tok Sai Yok Noi. This is the only train to run beyond Nam Tok to the end of the operational line. Time to see the scenic waterfall.
14:25 Leave Nam Tok Sai Yok Noi.
14.25 Leave Nam Tok station head back south.
15.53 Arrive at Kanchanaburi station and stop for 60 minutes for a visit to the war graves or if you are staying in Kanchanaburi you can get off here.
16.53 The train leaves Kanchanaburi.
19.25 Arrive back at Bangkok Hualamphong station.
I would thoroughly recommend this trip to anyone who is spending a bit of time in Bangkok and who wants to do a short trip for cheap. More to follow on the theme shortly.