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KANCHANABURI :The Perfect Getaway From Bangkok

One of Thailand's premier tourist attractions, Kanchanaburi, lies amere two hours from the capital. This proximity means it is wellwithin the time constraints of most people's itineraries and getting ...

One of Thailand's premier tourist attractions, Kanchanaburi, lies a
mere two hours from the capital. This proximity means it is well
within the time constraints of most people's itineraries and getting
there could hardly be easier. Buses leave every half hour from
Bangkok's southern bus terminal and deliver you to the center of this
small town in air-conditioned comfort. The lush green scenery and
laid-back way of life mean that exploring the towns many places of
interest is always enjoyable.

The moment we stepped from the bus we are (politely) accosted by a
cacophony of cries. "Where you go? Where you go?" We had both been
here before and instructed one to drive us to The Jolly Frog, a
popular choice with backpackers. Normally, I follow a policy of the
older the better in regards to motorcycle taxi drivers (less
testosterone and a healthy fear of death). Somehow though, through
same kind of oversight we ended up with a youngster covered in tattoos
and we were promptly whisked away, with both of us on the back of one
motorcycle. No one blinked an eye. My pleas for helmets were met
with incredulous looks and squeezed between my girlfriend who was
hanging on the back and the sweaty teenager it wasn't the comfiest
of rides. I'm sure they didn't have insurance either. 50 cents
seemed a rather large price to pay a 3k journey and all the
accompanying danger but I paid up.

We soon found ourselves in the restaurant section of the large
guesthouse with an extensive menu before us. There are many other
guesthouses along the river but the food is the reason we and many
others are here. Locals too dine at The Jolly Frog and this surely
is testimony to its good cooking. This guesthouse too boasts a lovely
lawn and fine views of the river. After some delicious catfish it
was early to bed in a basic but clean room.

At about $4 a night, I thought it a bit steep and it certainly wasn't
the cheapest option. But hell I'm on holiday and I don't mind blowing
a bit of cash for a nice double room. Many guesthouses of a similar
ilk line the river offering a panoramic view of the river and the
majority are cheap and good value.

The next day, we set of early to get in some serious sightseeing and
with the minimum of fuss we rented the ubiquitous Honda dream (the
horse of Asia) for around $4.50 for 24 hrs. More expense. I pay
through gritted teeth trying not to see the crisp 100 baht notes
leaving my short's pockets and we wobbled of down the road to see the
highlight of our trip.

Most people visit Kanchanaburi for one main reason; The Bridge and
its associated trivia, and on first impressions, I'm not. Impressed
that is. It's too small. I'd seen the film and was expecting something
of epic proportions. And while nice enough it didn't really fulfill
my expectations. Incidentally I soon learnt the bridge is not actually
over the river Kwai as most westerners pronounce it. In the Thai
tonal language this translates as buffalo, the stupidest animal
around and a common mammal for insults. As all good learners of a
foreign language do I soon picked up a few common insults and learnt
that the most insulting thing to call someone is a giant water
monitor lizard or maybe the son of....Any way back to my disappointing
first gaze at the bridge. My disillusionment was compounded when
I found out during the show in the evening that it wasn't actually
the real thing but a replica, the real one having been blown up by
the allies of course. We strolled across, and back again, got
very hot and sought refuge in the nearest restaurant. The good
thing about Thailand is no matter how small the bridges are you
are never far away from good food. A dish I always have when I'm
by the river is yam plas muk and believe me there's nothing like
the taste of a spicy squid salad washed down with a cool Singa
beer. Actually Singa beer is disgusting, but it sounds more
romantic than Heineken. (A new beer has just come on the market
black tiger. Now that's a quality beer. Dark tasty and with none
of the formaldehyde aftertaste and resulting hangovers that Singa
tends to bring. Sorry boomrang brewery.)

Almost right next to the bridge and clearly signposted is the Jeath
war museum. No not a misprint. Now I know being in a forced labour
camp must have been pretty bad death, disease, etc. but in the photos,
it looks like a holiday camp. Young bronzed men walking round in
sarongs, doing their laundry, shavingPsychology Articles, hardly any really gave me a
sense of the horror it must have been.

That evening we hit one of the many stalls lining the river in the
town and ate cheap delicious Issan food. With this fiery sustenance
lining our bellies we headed into a bar opposite the boats and enjoyed
a couple of jugs of draft beer to the accompaniment of live Thai
music. I don't know whether it was for our benefit or not but I
really didn't enjoy the version of Country Road.

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Joel has lived and worked in Asia for the last decade and has written
for numerous travel magazines. He is the chief editor of Asia Travel
Ezine ( and is also responsible
for editing and managing the website, currently resides in Hanoi.

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