Existing Member?

Running away from Home

Kanchanaburi to Hell Fire Pass, and Then Back Again.

THAILAND | Wednesday, 20 January 2010 | Views [5284]

Hell Fire Pass outside of Kanchanaburi

Hell Fire Pass outside of Kanchanaburi

I haven’t been sleeping well. The walls at my hotel look to be solid, but I think they are made of painted paper. My two neighbors have both received phone calls late at night. The woman in the room on my right was in a full blown argument a little after midnight last night and I heard all of it crystal clear. It’s a minor annoyance to me and for 300 THB a night, I can live with it. I just hope that no one was around last evening when I belted out that Air Supply tune.

I headed back to the bus station today to catch a ride up North again. This time to go to Hellfire Pass, an area on the Thailand-Burma Railroad where the POW’s had a particularly difficult time cutting through the hillside to lay down a track. Most tourists just go to the pass, turn around, go back up to the visitors station, climb into an air conditioned van and go onto the tiger temple or Sai Yok Noi Falls. I ventured further along the track. There is another three kilometers that is accessible to hikers. I went on to the next spot on the line where the rock had to be cut to lay down track, not nearly as deep as Hellfire Pass, but deep enough to feel like a tomb. I tried to imagine how this came to be. The overworked, undernourished POW’s and the brutality of the Japanese engineers who drove them to work even harder. After a few minutes, I was sufficiently spooked to head back to the visitor center myself. When I visited Thailand-Burma railway museum a few days ago, there was a video that included an interview with one of the Japanese engineers who worked on the River Kwai bridge. He didn’t seem to feel any remorse. He didn’t say that he was under orders. His only comment had to do with an inaccuracy in the film version of the story. He wanted to let the record show that the Japanese engineers did not consult the expertise of the British engineers while building the Bridge on the River Kwai. He was outraged by the mere suggestion. Incredible.

I took the bus North, but I wanted to take the “Death Train” (that’s what the locals call it) back down South. That involved backtracking about 20 kilometers and finding the train station at Nam Tok without a map, piece of cake. There wasn’t much around, but this road was used by the thousand or so buses that did the Kanchanaburi-Sangkhlaburi run, so I knew that I wouldn’t be waiting for a ride for very long. I walked up the road a bit where there was some shade to wait, but the shade was mostly occupied by a group of Thai women selling tamarind. Their conversation stopped as I walked past and they watched me for a few minutes. I smiled in their direction, but did not say anything. I was hot and my chest hurt from that stupid trip and fall episode yesterday. Somewhere a loudspeaker was playing a Thai pop song. It was like a rasp to my nerves. I decided to walk in the direction of the train station, if anything to get away from that music.

I was walking for about five minutes when a truck pulled over. The driver asked me where I was going and I told him my destination. He offered me a ride to Nam Tok where I could pick up the train. I asked him how much he wanted. He said he would do it for free. I was 99% sure that nothing would happen if I got in that truck, but it was that nagging 1% that made me decline his offer. I felt bad about insulting him, but if he had a wife or daughters, I’m sure he understood. Besides, it has been my experience that nothing in Asia is free. Another five minutes of walking and I flagged down a passing bus. On the drive to Nam Tok, I thought about the strange parameters I have set for myself regarding risk. Jumping off of a moving bus or going over rocky terrain double-time is acceptable. Accepting rides from strangers is not acceptable.

I found the train station easily enough. The train was more than 40 minutes late and I had to wait on the platform with several hundred primary school students who were full of energy, but well-behaved. I rode the Death Train back to Kanchanaburi which included a ride over the River Kwai on the famous bridge. The days activities had left me weary and irritable, but my spirits were lifted when the train rolled over the bridge to the cheers of hundreds of tourists. I got the whole thing on video. It was great.

**I took the Kanchanaburi-Sangkhaburi bus to Hell Fire pass.  Be sure and tell them to stop at Hell-Fire Pass.  I picked up a bus coming from Sangkhlaburi and asked him to drop me at the Sai Yok Noi Waterfall.  I continued walking south along Hwy 323 and on the left side I saw a sign for the railroad station.  It seemed like I was walking into the middle of nowhere, but that road will take you there.

Add your comments

(If you have a travel question, get your Answers here)

In order to avoid spam on these blogs, please enter the code you see in the image. Comments identified as spam will be deleted.

About melissa_k

Follow Me

Where I've been

Photo Galleries

My trip journals

See all my tags 



Travel Answers about Thailand

Do you have a travel question? Ask other World Nomads.