1. The River Kwai, April 2015. Wherever you are in the small town of Kanchanaburi, you won’t be far from the River Kwai, known to locals as the “Khwae Yai” River”. This 380 kilometer stretch of water is world famous thanks to the 1957 Academy Award winning movie The Bridge Over The River Kwai, which weaves a fictional war story around the real life construction of the Burma “Death” Railway, built by prisoners of war between 1942-1943. With the main bulk of Kanchanburi’s sights revolving around the town’s gruesome history, it’s nice to simply clear an evening for a peaceful, riverside dinner at sunset. There are a whole host of food joints lining the Kwai, but a special mention goes to Dejtosapak Restaurant with its open air boardwalk platform and beautifully designed tables that allow you to dangle your feet right into the water. They specialize in seafood, with dishes ranging from 250-300 Baht ($7.50-$15). The restaurant is located on Chaichumpol Soi 1 Road and is open daily from 10:00-21:00.
2. VN Guesthouse, April 2015. In my opinion you’d me mad to take a hotel in the town’s grubby main drag where the bars blare out disco beats until the early hours of the morning. Instead, why not seek out a river house and fall asleep right on the Kwai itself. After a bit of research I went for VN Guesthouse, where a floating raft room with river views and air conditioning goes for about 466Baht (£11/€12.50/$14). It also has a wonderful little restaurant terrace overlooking the river and indeed I’ll never forget my first night there. Dropping onto a large straw mat bedecked with cushions and pillows, I ordered dinner (a rich tomatoey noodle soup), cracked open a beer and sat for a while breathing everything in. Then, as darkness rapidly descended, I switched on the old MacBook and settled down to a viewing of The Bridge on the River Kwai. A really special night!
3. Kung Im Temple, April 2015. There are some lovely temples in Kanchanaburi, but I’d say this Chinese style Buddhist complex is the pick of the bunch. Dominated by a giant white statue of The Goddess of Mercy, the compound is positively packed with pagodas, shrines and sculptures, not to mention a towering totem pole of twisting, colorful dragons. The temple can be accessed for free between 08:30-18:00 and is a short walk from the town’s Death Railway Bridge.
4. Death Railway Museum, April 2015. This hugely depressing but admittedly fascinating museum and research centre offers a harrowing insight into the dreadful conditions workers were subjected to as they toiled away constructing Kanchanaburi’s infamous Death Railway Bridge. The whole timeline is brought to life by engaging installations, historical photographs and a number of short films. The two-story building also includes a coffee shop and a tasteful souvenir store. At the time of my visit the museum had recently welcomed the cast of the movie The Railway Man, starring Coin Firth, Nicole Kidman and Jeremy Irvine. The film tells the story of the real life British Army officer Eric Lomax, who was captured by the Japanese during the second world war and sent to work on Thai-Burma Railway.
5. Chinese Cemetery, April 2015. It was approaching sunset one day when I stumbled upon this deserted, run down Chinese cemetery. I’d spotted it through the trees, tucked away behind Kanchanburi War Cemetery and instinctively found myself heading inside to wander between the colorful, spectral gravestones. But unlike its much-loved, manicured neighbor, the Chinese Cemetery is clearly an unloved place full of garbage, broken headstones, overgrown burial mounds and fallen branches.
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