Travels around Thailand: Chapter 3 - Kanchanaburi and getting around by train

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'Death Railway' trackFor a place with such a miserable past , Kanchanaburi  is beautiful and I walked some of the old “Death Railway” track ,which is devoid of rails now, I stepped to the edge of an embankment to get a better view down over the valley and trod on a snake which scooted off at the same speed as me but thankfully in a different direction! Stopping in a small shop for a drink I explained with drawings the snake that had terrified me, “oh“ said the lady “a ten pace snake” which on further enquiries was how many final steps you take once bitten. I have learnt subsequently that you have 2 hours to get to a hospital with nearly all snake bites and all village hospitals carry antidotes. Oddly enough the Thailand Tourism Information leaflets tell you to take, if possible, the snake that bit you with you to the hospital. The images that conjures up are endless.

6 inches clearance at 50 mphWhile in Kanchanaburi I took the train that still runs on the original track laid down by prisoners of war. It’s a good hour’s journey over scary wooden viaducts on a narrow gauge railway that rocks and pitches alarmingly when going at a pace. I stuck my head out of the window as in days of my youth and just caught a glimpse of something in my peripheral vision and quickly drew my head back in as we went past a bridge with less than 6 inches clearance at 50 mph, needless to say an edge of caution followed.

The train finished at a small village so I just stayed on and was put asleep on the return journey by the train’s motion. I normally take the train all the way from Bangkok now as its less stressful than driving although a taxi from Bangkok costs only £40 for there and back.

Using a straw as the train rocks and rolls so muchOvernight train journeys are great fun and so cheap. An overnight sleeper from Bangkok to the far north taking 12 hours is less than twenty pounds depending on class. On my first journey I found the buffet car, it had wide open windows and served delicious fresh cooked food on a very dodgy looking gas wok. The beer was kept in a cool box and the only way to drink it instead of wearing it was to use a straw as the train rocks and rolls so much. The staff are always happy despite the long hours they work. The service stops at 11.30 pm as the staff all sleep on the floor, they are up and about at 5.30 in the morning and nothing can beat a cup of tea with the fresh morning breeze buffeting  you through the open window, the only down side is using a straw!

•  Read Chapter 1: The first visit 
•  Read Chapter 2: Bangkok and beyond
•  Read Chapter 4: Travelling around Thailand
•  Read Chapter 5: The road from Nan to Chiang Rai
•  Read Chapter 6: Mai Hong Son and higher mountains
•  Read Chapter 7: Encounter with a monocled cobra

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Other Members' Thoughts - 4 Comment(s)

  • coolonespa
    over 7 years ago
    Thanks Steve. Sounds interesting but I pretty sure my wife isn't going to be up for this. We did the Caledonian from London to Fort William & she wasn't that keen on that, so I think this may be a step too far.
  • Biffo
    over 7 years ago
    The sleeping was bunks made up from the table and seats plus one that was lowered down higher up with curtains for privacy. I have also been in the ex Japan railways cabins with four to a compartment. I don't figure to sleep much on the train as they stop quite a lot through the night so just laying down and dozing works for me. The other thing to note is that the toilets are the basic footprint type on one side and the European type on the other side. It's all an experience.
  • coolonespa
    over 7 years ago
    Just to prompt the alert message.
  • coolonespa
    over 7 years ago
    What was the sleeping accommodation like? Was it shared or can you get a cabin just for two?
    When we took the train there was a school party on board & some highly energised guide dressed in uniform strutting up & down the train making them all laugh & keeping them entertained. Sadly the language barrier meant it was lost on us, but we enjoyed the atmosphere.