My Intro to Thailand: Bangkok & Kanchanaburi

by Brian Carroll on January 22, 2013

Post image for My Intro to Thailand: Bangkok & Kanchanaburi I've never been much of a movie watcher in my free time (excluding rainy or hung over days). It's not that I don't like movies - I do. For me, it's more that I tend to feel that there is always something I should be actively doing rather than passively watching. In fact, I'd say in the past 10 years or so, I've probably managed one movie theater visit per year, if that. So with sparse movie experience of late, I was able to find a little silver lining during my 17+ hours of flying...a library of otherwise untapped movies, which made my flight time slightly more bearable. After a run of 4 movies, I landed in my first destination, Bangkok, Thailand – home of another movie I've yet to see, “The Hangover 2.” I had 7 days in and around Bangkok and I pretty much used the first few days to catch up on sleep and get a lay of the land. Sandwiched in the middle of my stay in Bangkok though, I made a sidetrip out to the town of Kanchanaburi. While not necessarily known as a hotbed for international travel, Kanchanaburi does offer a variety of tourist activities and is home to the Bridge on the River Kwai, made famous by yet another movie, that one being aptly named “The Bridge on the River Kwai” (I have seen this one).  Here's a few highlights/things I learned during my visit to Kanchanaburi:

Riding across the bridge on the river kwai

1. When riding as a passenger in a bus, minibus (van), etc..., I quickly found that it's best not to pay much attention to the actual driving going on. Thai drivers don't seem to have much fear for oncoming traffic when passing cars, which can be a bit heart-stopping at times (I hear Vietnam is crazier in this respect). Rather than get absorbed into that craziness, I found it more relaxing to just read during the trip (and hope I made it there in one piece). 2. As part of a day long tour that took us to various sites around Kanchanaburi, we took a train along the actual bridge that goes along the river Kwai. It was actually pretty cool and the scenery at points was pretty unique

Pretty remarkable. Carved out by hand.

3. During my tour, we also made a visit to what is known as Hellfire Pass. For those that don't know (I was somewhat familiar with the significance), Hellfire Pass was basically an area where WWII POWs were forced to work and build a railroad connecting Thailand to southern Burma (Myanmar), which would be a crucial supply route for the Japanese during WWII. POWs (and local villagers who were forced into working) were treated horrifically, with over 100,000 people dying in the construction of the railroad. The atrocities these men suffered were astonishing and it reminded me of a WWII related book I recently read, which I'd highly recommend (if you ever start thinking how bad you have it, this book will give you some good perspective). Anyways, these prisoners basically had to cut through a mountainous rock with rudimentary hand tools to create a passage way for the train. Getting a sense of he scope of the work and walking in the area where so many had lost their lives was a pretty surreal experience. 4. Thailand does have an association with the sex-trade, which was evident in my few days even in Kanchanaburi. For a  little town, it seemed there were a number of white, bald, 50+ year old men (I felt many were from the UK) who would basically drink all day and wait until nighttime to meet some nice thai ladies. It was my first time really seeing this at work. And I must say, I found it kinda funny to then walk down the main street at night alone and get stared at and called to by the Thai women in the bars. I felt like a piece of meat (or like I'd just walked through Shade bar in MB).

Swimming with the fishes

5. The town also had some cool waterfalls you could swim in like the one pictured here. When I returned to Bangkok, I stayed nearby Khaosan Road, which is the main backpacker hub in Bangkok. It has the feeling of Times Square going on with all the people, but in a bit more of a wild setting. It was a cool place to walk through and see so many other travelers, find some cheap souveneirs and even eat a scorpion if that fits your heart's desire (it didn't fit mine_. A couple cool things from my time in Bangkok: 1. The Grand Palace: This area of temples and buildings is something you have to check out should you visit Bangkok. The combination of size, attention to detail and overall ornateness was quite impressive. I spent an entire day touring the palace and visiting other monuments in temples in Bangkok with the help of a tuk tuk driver. This was a good way to do it, as I essentially paid $1 total for all my transportation throughout the day across the city! 2. The food in Bangkok and all of Thailand is spectacular. It tastes great, is extremely cheap when bought from food carts ($1-$3) and it made in front of you. A definite highlight I can tell for the rest of my time in Southeast Asia. 3. By random chance, I was able to meetup with a couple from the UK (Drew & Amy) who I had initially met at the steps of Machu Picchu back in October as part of the same hiking trek as some of my LA friends. From hanging out with them over a few days in southern Peru, I learned that they were traveling across the world and would be in Southeast Asia around the same time as myself. So when I got to Thailand, I shot them a message to see whereabouts they were in the world. It so happened that they were staying only a few blocks from me in Bangkok (crazy!), so we made plans to grab dinner and drinks and enjoyed a very pleasant evening. It was wild to think that I had first met them three months ago in South America and now here we all were, halfway across the world in Thailand, having dinner and drinks together. Following an eventful week around Bangkok, I hopped on a plane that would take me down to the beaches and islands of southern Thailand, and to yet another destination made famous by a movie, that being “The Beach” (a poor Leonardo DiCaprio movie that had amazing scenery and a pretty good looking actress). I was definitely looking forward to what this would entail

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Dustin January 23, 2013 at 6:06 am

Glad you are having fun dude! By the way, we are totally going to Shade in MB when you get back.


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