Nothing like an overcrowded bus to Kanchanaburi from Bangkok. Good thing I got there early. Some poor souls had to stand in the aisle during the 3-hour ride.
Should I mention that I love the name of this state/city? Kanchanaburi, Kanchanaburi, Kanchanaburi. It just rolls off the tongue beautifully.
Apple’s Guesthouse embodies the very essence of what a riverside retreat should be. The rooms are spacious, bright and utterly charming. Frangipani trees were everywhere and it just smelled like serenity. Oh, and did I mention the amazing view of the River Kwai from the lobby?
So, me being a Thai-cooking nooblet, I signed up for Noi’s cooking class. She’s one of the owners of Apple’s (the other being, of course, Apple) and wonderfully friendly and open. She took us to the Kanchanaburi market and conversed with the stall owners all around us, letting us sample Thai delights I can’t really name (but that I really enjoyed tasting!). I swear, I must have seen 20 different varieties of eggplant at the market as well as rabbit, alligator, porcupine and turtle meat for sale. All fresh.
Just before we left for the market, Noi gave us an introduction to “proper” Thai cuisine and how to order and mix Thai dishes in order to achieve balance in the variety. Hot dishes need to be paired with cool dishes, salty with sweet – yin with yang. Eventually, my small group settled on four main dishes and I tried my hand at some Pad Thai (failed, since I overcooked the shallots), Massaman Curry (better) and Lemongrass and Vegetable Stirfry (not too bad, either!). My Tom Kha was, by far, the best. “Perfect!” according to Noi.
Made it up to see all 7 tiers at Erawan Falls in less than an hour without breaking a sweat! (No, I am lying.) The path up wasn’t too difficult at all and all along the way, the air smelled like nectarines. Butterflies everywhere, too! Better than any butterfly park I’ve ever been to.
Also great – all the pools along the waterfalls were teeming with fish that nibbled at you. Free fish spa!
Hellfire Pass Memorial Museum
We stopped by the infamous Hellfire Pass Memorial Museum run by the Australian Government (yes, their tax dollars are at work all the way in remote areas of Kanchanaburi). In case you don’t know, it was named Hellfire Pass by the prisoners-of-war who were ordered to build the Thailand-Burma Death Railway in World War II. The Japanese wanted the railway built as quickly as possible and worked the prisoners in shifts up to 18 hours a day, and all through the night. Bamboo torches lit up the areas around Hellfire Pass casting shadows of starving men hand-drilling through rock and jungle – hence the name.
My own great-grandfather was hauled away to build this railway and was never heard from again. The family assumes that he died while he was there, and so I suppose this railway holds a special significance to me. The original tracks are still in use (except for the section at the site of the museum) and we rode it across some unbelievably rickety wooden bridges.
I also visited the famous Bridge On the River Kwai – which I knew by the movie of the same name. I can barely remember the movie, though. I should really re-watch it now as adult.