The Death Railway and the Bridge over the River Kwai (Part 2)

Nam Tok Sai Yok Noi

The Bridge over the River Kwai

After what seemed like never ending hours on the train we were making our way through the virtually uninhabited countryside to our destination: The bridge over the River Kwai. You could really feel a sense of civilisation slipping away and it was all too easy to imagine the conditions of the soldiers who had lost their lives building this railway. The train was sweaty and hot and the vegetation outside thick with mosquitos and insects.

The Bridge on the River KwaiI couldn’t help but think about my grandmother. She had always been there to encourage me and listen to my travel stories. I often thought about how she would react and tried to bring something back to her from my travels. However, this was something different. I had watched the movie with her. She would have been super impressed and patiently sat through my photos in a way that no one else in the world did. It made me feel a little melancholic as the train pulled to a halt just in front of the bridge. Once again, the sergeant major with his megaphone had explained a lot of things. Just that I hadn’t understood any of them. We all got off the train and had some time to cross the bridge on foot and take pictures from the bridge. There were several small children putting on “shows” dressed as cats in order to earn money from the swarms of tourists who were obviously crossing this bridge every day.

Bridge over the river kwaiAfter crossing the bridge on foot the train continues over the bridge and I have to say that it is quite a thrilling ride. The train begins to head upwards into the jungle and you begin to feel like you are in a place which is more and more remote. The sheer drop which you can see on the left side of the train is enough to make you feel a little worried and if you have a fear of heights more than a little nausea. We were heading to the end of the line.

On this last stretch, my seat companion had decided to be brave and speak to me. He was a University student from the North of Thailand who was studying in Bangkok. He was from Isan a region in the Northeast of Thailand which had its own dialect and cuisine. He explained that most of the people who lived there were farmers and that he had moved to Bangkok to study because he felt that in Bangkok he had more opportunities. We had some fun practicing Thai with the very basics which I had learned i.e just the numbers and he attempted to teach me some useful phrases. Suddenly the microphone man started up again. However, this time I had a translator!

“The conductor say there is no water in Waterfall. We stop here one hour then go back.”

“No water?”

“Yes, No water. Waterfall is dry.”

Our last and final stop was Sai Yok Yai waterfall which is part of Sai Yok national park. Supposedly these waterfalls are beautiful but I really felt like on the particular day that we went there we didn’t really fully get to take advantage because there wasn’t a drop of water to be seen. The park wasn’t very well signposted either and while somehow the Thai tourist managed to contract motorbikes to take them to the caves we didn’t manage as we couldn’t figure out exactly how it worked and how not to get ripped off. The surrounding area is pretty but thanks to onslaughts of mosquitos and a threatening storm it seemed like a good idea to head down to the local restaurants and get something to eat.

Papaya Salad (Tom San)
Enjoy this picture of my sweaty self enjoying the best Papaya Salad I ate in Thailand

My travelling companion had suggested I try Papaya Salad (or som Tum) I’m not sure how I have avoided eating it until that point but as I always say you should try to do things in the appropriate place and I felt like not trying Papaya Salad at that moment in time would be like sacrilege and then….well…YUM. While the little restaurants that lined the side of the park looked a little run down and dirty they certainly delivered the goods with some excellent food. Bellies full we headed back to the train to make our way back to Kanchanaburi where I planned to stay the night and go and see the elephants in Elephant World Park. A word of warning – it was a really long day and when finally the train arrived in Kanchanaburi I was more than relieved. I would imagine that if you were heading back the same day then it is a really long day. Prepare to spend a lot of time on the train and consider combining the trip with some other things in Kanchanaburi to break it up.

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