KANCHANABURI

KANCHANABURI - THONG PHA PHUM - SANGHKLABURI

TRIP DONE IN DEC 2002
ACCOMMODATION

PHU PHA PHUM HOTEL
BAHN CHAAI DAEN
Thong Pha Phum
Tel: 034/599035, 599048, 599063
Fax: 034/599088
Paid rate: 500 BHT (double room)
Bungalows with fridge, TV, airco and hot water. No possibility for breakfast or meals

KANCHANABURI HOTEL
Pak Phraek Rd
Kanchanaburi
Paid rate: 350 BHT
Room with hot water, airco and TV. Short stay hotel.


PLACES VISITED

DAY 1
KANCHANABURI - THONG PHA PHUM


Kanchanaburi is Thailand's third largest province, covering an area of 19,486 sq Km. The province located west of Bangkok (128 Km) is mountainous, forested and borders Myanmar (Burma). There are fertile plains around the meeting point of the Kwae Noi and Kwae Yai Rivers where Kanchanaburi is located. To the west, Kanchanaburi shares a border with Myanmar and has the Tanaowasi Range as its borderline. Kanchanaburi province unfolds scenic beauty in a landscape characterised by several waterfalls, caves inhabited during the Neolithic period, national parks and tranquil riverside and reservoir settings. Many of its major attractions are also connected with the Second World War. Kanchanaburi is the site of the world infamous 'Bridge over the River Kwai'. The town of Kanchanaburi is located at the point where two tributaries, the Kwae Noi (Sai Yok) and Kwae Yai (Si Sawat) meet and form the Mae Klong River. Archaeological evidence along these river banks indicates the long history of the region. The ancient Kanchanaburi was formerly known as Phya Kong and situated near Khao Chon Kai (Cock fighting hill). The city was established in 807 AD. Later the Cambodians occupied the area from the beginning of the 11th century. Kanchanaburi was very important during the early Ayutthaya and Bangkok periods because of the trade routes to Burma which ran through the area and as a battlefield in the Thai-Burmese wars. The weather here is slightly cooler than Bangkok and the evenings can be especially pleasant. Kanchanaburi inhabitants are largely engaged in agriculture and are mostly of Thai ancestry with notable Mon and Karen minorities.

THE BRIDGE OVER THE RIVER KWAE

This famous bridge is located north of town on the bank of Kwae Yai river. The bridge over the River Kwae became infamous, thanks to the novel of French author Pierre Boulle 'The Bridge on the River Kwai' and the 1957 motion picture of the same name starring Alec Guinness, Jack Hawkins and William Holden. The movie was shot mainly in Sri Lanka. The black iron eleven span bridge was brought from Java by the Japanese Army and reassembled under Japanese supervision by allied prisoners of war labour as part of the Death Railway linking Thailand with Myanmar. In fact there where two bridges constructed over the river - one of iron (completed Apr 43) and one of wood (completed Feb 43) - to help move Japanese supplies and troops from Bangkok to Rangoon. The bridges were actually destroyed 2 years after their construction. The wooden bridge was severely damaged by a US bombing raid on 02 April 1945. Three spans of the iron bridge were destroyed by a British bombing raid on 24 June 1945. After the war, the State Railway of Thailand (SRT) took over the line. SRT replaced the damaged spans 4, 5 and 6 with two steel spans and replaced the timber spans at the far end with six steel spans. The bridge is still in use today. The curved spans of the bridge are the original sections.

Each year, late November and/or early December, the world famous bridge becomes the focal point of celebrations. Highlights include exhibitions and historical and archaeological displays: a carnival featuring sideshows, roundabouts, folk entertainment and cultural performances: rides on trains hauled by World War II vintage steam locomotives; and a nightly light and sound and sound presentation re-enacting the Bridge's Second World War history, including an Allied Bombing raid.

www.scottmurray.com/bridge.htm


KANCHANABURI WAR CEMETERY

This cemetery on Saeng Chuto Road opposite the railway station and 4 Km before the bridge, contains the remains of 6982 prisoners of war who perished during the construction of the 'Death Railway'; 3568 British, 1896 Dutch, 1362 Australians, 104 Malayan, 12 Indian, 1 Canadian, 1 Burmese and 35 unknown. Initially there were 4 cemeteries in the Kanchanaburi township, one at Tamarkam (5 Km North) and one at Tamuang (1 Km South). Following the Japanese serender in 1945, the bodies from these cemeteries were exhumed and reburied in the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery, together with those from cemeteries along the Burma-Thailand railway south of Nieke (280 Km North of Nong Pladuk) and other cemeteries throughout Thailand. All remains of American soldiers were repatriated. A second cemetery is located at Chong Kai, while the third is at Thanbyuzayat in Myanmar.

PRASAT MUANG SING HISTORICAL PARK

The ancient city of Muang Sing, surrounded by limestone hills, is located on the bank of the Kwae Noi about 45 Km from Kanchanaburi in Sai Yok district. The ancient city is square shaped, surrounded by moats, ramparts and laterite city walls. The laterite wall of an initial height of 5 m around the city is 1400 m long by 880 m wide with gates on the four sides. The city has a superficie of about 641 Rai (100 hectare). The south wall winds along the Kwae Noi river, while there is an embankment of earth on each of the inner sides of the wall. The outer sides are enclosed with seven moats and ramparts, constructed probably for the water control system and as well for fortification. The city contained six ponds used for religious and irrigation purposes. Muang Sing and Prasat Muang Sing can be dated to the 12th and 13th centuries. The city layout and architecture in the Bayon style of the Khmer art, indicates the relationship between this ancient city and the ancient Khmer Kingdom during the reign of King Jayavarman VII (1177 - 1237 AD). The principal structure, the Khmer Prasat Muang Sing (Tower of the City of Lions), is believed to have been the westernmost outpost of the Angkor-centred Khmer empire. A wide range of artifacts, including temple carvings, religious statues, implements and pottery shards indicate the once thriving city must have been inhabited from approximately the 12th to 14th centuries. There are four monuments inside the city wall of Muang Sing. The principal monument is almost in the middle of the city, just a bit to the southeast, facing the eastern gate. It is a building complex comprising wall, gates, gallery and several buildings. It was built of laterite blocks decorated with stucco reliefs and plastered. The main building is a single tower standing at the center. This building is encompassed by a laterite gallery, the southern side of which was never completed. There are four gopura (gateways), one on each side of the gallery wall. The monument was laid out in the form of a mandala, a mystical diagram of the universe. Mount Meru is symbolized by the Prasat in the middle of the sanctuary, while the continents and oceans are represented by ponds and ditches. In the northern gallery there is a bas-relief of the four armed Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara. In front of the prasat in the south-east corner is the library, where the Buddhist scripts were kept. The park is daily opened from 09.00-16.30 hours. The admission fee is 40 BHT for foreigners. Car entrance costs an additionally 50 BHT.

KRA SAE CAVE

Situated at the curving Kwae Noi River, a wooden viaduct of the 'Death Railway', on the bank of Kwae Noi River, about 55 kilometres out of town. A Buddha image is placed inside the cave. The cave was used as an air raid shelter by the Japanese.


DAY 2
THONG PHA PHUM - SANGHKLABURI - THONG PHA PHUM


SANGKHLA BURI

This small village bordering Myanmar, some 225 Km from Kanchanaburi, edges on the northernmost extremities of Khao Laem Dam. The scenic 75 Km long route from Khao Laem largely parallels the reservoir passing several raft complexes and roadside cascades. It is populated mostly by Mon and Karen people. The town is located at the confluence of three waterways: Songkalia, Bikli and the Runtee.

WAT WANG WIWEKARAM/CHEDI LUANG PHOR UTTAMA

The extensive Wang Wiwekaram Temple, diocese of the revered Abbot 'Luang Phor Uttama' is 9 Km from Sangkhlaburi. The temple edges the Khao Laem reservoir. The complex is constructed in a typical Mon architectural style. The 'Luang Phor Uttama' pagoda has been modelled from the one in Bodhgaya - India. 400 Mon people devoted labour time for land preparation and fabrication of 260.000 bricks. The pagoda was built in reinforced concrete with a square basement 42 m long on each side and 59 m high. Two relics of the Buddha's right thumb-bone with the size of a rice-grain, transparent white and shiny yellow, contained in 3 layer boxes, brought from Sri Lanka, were enshrined by the Crown Prince in 1989 AD. A 400 Baht (1 Baht = 15.16 gram) golden umbrella was lifted to the top of the pagoda.

MON BRIDGE

This is the longest wooden bridge in Thailand linking Sangkhlaburi and the Mon villages. The bridge overlooks a scenic landscape and offers an opportunity to see the local peoples' way of life. The Mon people are an ethnic minority whose origin is in Myanmar.

THREE PAGODAS PASS

The Three Pagodas Pass is 22 Km from Sangkhlaburi. The three pagodas were formerly three piles of stones, hence the location's name 'The three stone piles'. Later the stone piles were covered by chedis. This area was a border pass intensively used by Thai and Burmese armies since the first Burmese attack on Ayutthaya in 1568/69 AD until the war of the nine army forces at the time of King Rama I (1785 AD). It also marks the rugged Thailand-Myanmar border and is the site of a small thriving border market. Visitors are allowed to enter the neighbouring Burmese settlement. Crossing the border for foreigners cost 10 USD.

LIJIA CAVE

Following the celebrated local monk Luang Phor Nen, 4000 to 5000 ton of gold has been stashed by the Japanese Imperial Army during the Second World War in the Lijia cave (along road No 323) in Khao Laem National Park of Sangkhlaburi district. The monk said in 1994 to have found two train bogies fully laden with gold bars, a plane, samurai swords, steel boxes and rice milling equipment when he entered a cave. Treasure hunters flogged to the area and even former deputy commerce minister Chaowarin Latthasaksiri led a team of men into the jungle to search for the gold. The gold fever became so intense, that the Forestry Department took over the excavation works. A 3 million Baht, 21 m long and 30 ton capacity bridge was donated by a state agency to connect the cave with the forest ground. The use of explosives caused the mouth of the cave to become blocked with a pile of rocks, while on Sunday 23 Jul 2000 six treasure hunters died from suffocation. Police had to retrieve the bodies of four men and two women from a small, narrow cave behind Wat Lijia. The gold rush is based on documents presented to His Majesty the King by two individuals, separately in 1993 and 1995. The documents identify an estimated 50 chests of gold in a train bogey and a steam engine buried there. The skeletons of Japanese soldiers, who committed hara-kiri as witnessed by knives in their remains, are also said to be in the cave. The claims originate from a monk, Phra Aphisit Thammavaro, who used to meditate in the cave a decade ago. An old local Karen man said he knew Japanese soldiers set up a camp 300 m in front of the cave, where the sick railway workers with cholera were treated and many of them died, but he never saw any gold in the caves. The gold rush is still ongoing

KROENG KRAWIA WATERFALL

This waterfall is located 32 Km north of Thong Pha Phum along the roadside. The water cascades down a limestone rock face under shady trees. It is a good place to take a short break, when travelling between Kanchanaburi and Thong Pha Phum.


DAY 3
THONG PHA PHUM - KANCHANABURI


HIN DAAD HOT SPRING

Hin Daad hot springs can be reached via route 323 at KM 107. Formerly called Kui Mang hot springs. The springs were accidentally discovered by Japanese soldiers who were supervising the construction of the Death Railway during World War II (1943). The mineral spring is believed to cure many diseases. The springs are open from 06.00 until 20.00 Hr. Use of the ponds costs 5 Baht, while the use of a room with diverted hot water is at 20 Baht. Rooms up to 8 persons are at 100 Bath.

PHAA TAAD WATERFALL

The fall is located in the western zone of the Srinakarin Dam National Park in Thong Pha Phum district. It originates from the small streams coming down from the Kala Mountain joining into a main stream called the Huai Kui Mang. The Phaa Taad waterfall is said to be one of the most beautiful waterfalls of Kanchanburi province. After the falls the water joins the Mae Kwae Noi river. The huge three cascade waterfall is easily accessible along Route 323. Turn right at KM 105 and then go on along an asphalted road for 12 Km to the waterfall. Entrance to the park is 20 Baht. 30 Baht additional for the car. There are two bungalows with 3 sleeping rooms and 2 bath rooms each, accommodating up to 10 persons, which can be rented for 800 Baht/day.

DAOWADUNG CAVE

Caves are situated next to the Kwae Noi River and can be reached by boat as by road. The caves are beautiful, although no lights are installed. It is recommended to take a guide with a petrol lamp. Guides are available at the entrance of the park (paid 100 Baht). The cave houses numerous superb stalactites and stalagmites. The smallest mammal in the world, Kitti's Hog-nosed Bat weighing just two grams, is found in the caves and in the park area. Entrance to the park is 20 Baht.

HELL FIRE PASS

A part of the Death Railway constructed during the Second World War and now abandoned, is located in the thick forest near Km 66 on the Kanchanaburi - Thong Pha Phum Road (road No 323). A memorial has been built in dedication to those Australian and other Allied prisoners of War and Asian labourers who suffered and died at Hell Fire Pass and elsewhere in the Asia Pacific region during the Second World War. The Konyu cutting is an example of the type of excavations of the 415 Km Thailand-Burma railway constructed in 1942-1943 by American, Australian, British and Dutch Prisoners Of War and conscripted nationals from Burma, Malaysia and Thailand. Hell Fire Pass and the adjacent cuttings were excavated by POW labour working in round-the-clock shifts over a desperate period of 12 weeks in 1943. The name Hell Fire Pass relates to the awesome scene presented at night by the light from torches and lamps in the cutting. This work was done without the aid of reliable mechanical equipment. The most primitive of hand tools were used to drill holes for the explosives used in the blasting the rock and for removing the waste rock. The 'speedo' coinciding with the wet season and outbreaks of cholera, claimed thousands of lives. There is a maintained walking trail following the original railway section over 4 Km from the Museum until the Compressor cutting, passing the Hintok cutting and the site of 'Pack of Cards' bridge. Count 4 hours for walking the track. Either you walk back or you arrange your pick-up at the end of the trail. The view of the display in the memorial building and walking the trail is at no charge, although a donation to support maintenance work and improvements is welcome.

www.gunplot.net/kwairailway/hellfirepass.html


SAI YOK YAI NATIONAL PARK

Sai Yok Yai National Park is located on the Kanchanaburi - Thong Pha Phum Rd, around 104 Km from Kanchanaburi. It is a favourite spot for sightseeing, picnicking and swimming. The park encompasses the famous Kwae Noi River and contains some waterfalls and caves on the river bank. Sai Yok Yai waterfall (Khao Jone) flows directly into the river near the park office. Its idyllic beauty has been repeatedly celebrated in Thai poetry and songs. Entry to the park for foreigners is at the discriminating rate of 200 BHT.


DAY 4
KANCHANABURI

WAT THAM SUA

The temple is located at Muang Chum, 4 Km beyond the Wachiralongkorn Dam and close to Wat Tham Khao Noi. The temple located on a hill, houses very beautiful Thai and Chinese architectural style buildings and a huge Buddha image. There is a cable car to bring you to the temple ground (ride at 10 BHT), which offers a scenic view over the area. The temple can be reached either by road or via the Mae Klong River.

WAT THAM MONGKON THONG

The temple is situated about 4 Km from Kanchanaburi on the bank of the Kwae Noi River. It is well known for the meditating nun floating in a pool. The temple is located in a cave high up from the ground. The steps leading to the temple cave leads you into the mouth of a dragon. There is a small museum where a variety of ancient objects found in the area are on display.

WAT THAM KHAO POON

Khoa Poon cave temple is an old temple, although no history documents were found. King Chulalongkorn brought a visit to the cave in 1870 in order to worship the reclining Buddha in the cave. Khao Poon means Limestone Mountain. The cave consists of 9 rooms: Phra Buddha Saiyas room (room of the Reclining Buddha), Ja-Ae room, Mai Dern room (walking stick), Soi Yoi room (Weeping fig tree), Jorrakae room (Crocodile room), Phor Poe Reussi room (ascetic room), Thape Ni-Mitra room (God vision room), Kaew room (Crystal room) and the Thape Prasittisopol room. The Japanese Army had a hospital (Khao Poon hospitaal) at the rear of the temple by the river during World War II. The temple became defamed after the murder on British tourist Johanne Masheder by a 22 year old, amphetamine addicted, monk on 10 Dec 1995. The monk was defrocked after his arrest on January 14, the same day the decomposed and partly burnt body of the woman was found in a cave near Khao Poon Temple. The ex-monk was charged with attempted rape, robbery and murder. He was handed down the death sentence on 31 January 1997, which was commuted to life prison on 09 Jun 97 under a royal pardon on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of King Bhumibol's ascension to the throne.

CHONG KAI WAR CEMETERY

The cemetery is located 2 Km south of Kanchanaburi city on the bank of Mae Kwae Noi River. It is situated on the original site of the Chong Kai Prisoner of War Camp and in exactly the same site as used for POW burials between 1943 and 1945. This second cemetery contains some 1,740 remains of POW; 1384 British, 313 Dutch, 37 Malayan and 6 Indian. The place can be reached by boat available at the different piers near the town gate and the bridge.

WAR MUSEUM

The World War II Museum, located near the River Kwae Bridge was opened on 5 December 1988 by Boonyiam Chansiri and her family. Her father died fighting the Japanese when she was only eleven years old. It displays the collection of weapons, tools and utensils of the Allied prisoners of war and Japanese soldiers during the Second World War. Entry fee is 30 BHT.


WHAT TO DO

DEATH RAILWAY TRAIN RIDE

The Death Railway was a strategic railway built between Thailand and Burma. The Japanese High Command was forced to accept after the Battle of Midway in June 1942, that naval superiority in the pacific had become unattainable. This realization led directly to the birth of the Siam-Burma railway as a vital alternative to supply the Japanese Army in Burma. The railway line, 415 kilometres long (about 263 Km in Thailand and about 152 Km in Burma), followed the same route the British had surveyed in 1903: the line from Nong Pladuk passed through Kanchanaburi and crossed the Kwae Yai river to follow the Kwae Noi to the Burmese border. From the Three Pagoda Pass it travelled northwest to link up with the British line to Rangoon at Thanbyuzayat on the Burmese coast. The Japanese plan got off to a bad start when the Japanese General in charge and 11 senior officers (engineers) died in an air crash in the mountainous terrain near the Three Pagoda Pass while surveying the proposed track. The death of the senior officers was to have tragic consequences for both the Japanese and the POW, who where to pay with their lives for the miscalculations made by the remaining inexperienced junior Japanese engineers (In Jan 1943 the Japanese realized that the construction parties working on both ends of the line, would miss linking up which each other by more than 1 Km).

It is said that the first survey by the Japanese engineers predicted that it would take at least five years to finish this railway line, but the Japanese army forced the prisoners to complete it in only sixteen months. It was completed on 25 December 1943. Construction began on September 16, 1942 at Nong Pladuk (Thailand) by approximately 30,000 prisoners of war from England, Australia, The Netherlands and America and more than 200,000 impressed labourers from India, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Burma and Thailand. Of these, an estimated 16,000 POW and more than 80,000 impressed labourers died of many diseases, due to starvation and lack of medical equipment. The Japanese toll was around 1,000 men, mostly belonging to the 5th and 9th Railway Regiments. Every kilometre cost the lives of 38 allied soldiers, while the total human sacrifice calculated at one life per used wooden sleeper for the track. The British Army dismantled 3.95 Km of the track at the Thai Burma border. After the war Thailand and Burma agreed to destroy the tracks from their common borders until 100 Km into each country (in Thailand until Nam Tok station). The track from Nam Tok to Nong Pladuk (130.204 Km) was upgraded in three fases, with the last section finalised on 01 Jul 1958.

Travelling by train from Kanchanaburi to Nam Tok Station (Tah Sao) and/or return is recommended when wishing to experience the trip on this historic railway. Trains are departing from Kanchanaburi at 06.11, 11.01 and 16.37 Hrs. Returns from Nam Tok station are at 05.25, 13.00 and 15.15 Hr. The trip takes 2 Hr 40 Min. Single way Kanchanburi - Nam Tok is 17 BHT. The train passes over the long trestle bridge commonly known as the Wampo viaduct (near Kra Sae station). The two main sections of the viaduct followed the bottom of the cliff for some distance. A ledge had to be carved out of the cliff face to form a base for the bridge and embankment construction. Wampo (Wang Po) viaduct was built in March-April 1943 and was completed in 'speedo' (non-stop work). Strengthened and rebuilt to the original design in the post-war years, the viaduct is still part of the used rail track.

From Nam Tok station you can easily visit Sai Yok Noi waterfall also known as Namtok Khao Phang. The roadside cascade is best visited between July and September during the rainy season.

LONG TAIL BOAT RIDE

We hired a long tail boat at the River Kwae bridge pier for a tour on the Mae Kwae Yai, Mae Klong and Mae Kwae Noi rivers. The boat brought us to the locations of Wat Tham Seua, Wat Tham Mongkon Thong, Wat Tham Khao Poon and Chong Kai War cemetery. Paid rate 1000 BHT (4 hour long tour).


KANCHANABURI PICS

http://photos.yahoo.com/travelwaves4u


KANCHANABURI BY TRAIN
(Ref: Travel Guide Bangkok Post 15 May 2003)

The State Railway of Thailand (SRT) is organising day-long train trips to Kanchanaburi with a choice of four destinations: Saiyoke Noi or Erawan waterfalls, rafting in Muang Kanchanaburi, and Muang Sing Khmer Stone Sanctuary. The train leaves Bangkok station at 6.30am. On the way it stops at Nakhon Pathom where travellers can visit Phra Pathom Chedi, the country's biggest pagoda, River Kwai Bridge and War Cemetery. After that travellers are allowed time to shop or do as they please. The train returns to Bangkok at 7.55 p.m. Air-conditioned coaches are also available. For more information and reservation, contact 1690, or 02-220-4567 extension 5217 and 5203.


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