For a place with such a miserable past , Kanchanaburi is beautiful and I walked some of the old “Death Railway” track ,which is devoid of rails now, I stepped to the edge of an embankment to get a better view down over the valley and trod on a snake which scooted off at the same speed as me but thankfully in a different direction! Stopping in a small shop for a drink I explained with drawings the snake that had terrified me, “oh“ said the lady “a ten pace snake” which on further enquiries was how many final steps you take once bitten. I have learnt subsequently that you have 2 hours to get to a hospital with nearly all snake bites and all village hospitals carry antidotes. Oddly enough the Thailand Tourism Information leaflets tell you to take, if possible, the snake that bit you with you to the hospital. The images that conjures up are endless.
While in Kanchanaburi I took the train that still runs on the original track laid down by prisoners of war. It’s a good hour’s journey over scary wooden viaducts on a narrow gauge railway that rocks and pitches alarmingly when going at a pace. I stuck my head out of the window as in days of my youth and just caught a glimpse of something in my peripheral vision and quickly drew my head back in as we went past a bridge with less than 6 inches clearance at 50 mph, needless to say an edge of caution followed.
The train finished at a small village so I just stayed on and was put asleep on the return journey by the train’s motion. I normally take the train all the way from Bangkok now as its less stressful than driving although a taxi from Bangkok costs only £40 for there and back.
Overnight train journeys are great fun and so cheap. An overnight sleeper from Bangkok to the far north taking 12 hours is less than twenty pounds depending on class. On my first journey I found the buffet car, it had wide open windows and served delicious fresh cooked food on a very dodgy looking gas wok. The beer was kept in a cool box and the only way to drink it instead of wearing it was to use a straw as the train rocks and rolls so much. The staff are always happy despite the long hours they work. The service stops at 11.30 pm as the staff all sleep on the floor, they are up and about at 5.30 in the morning and nothing can beat a cup of tea with the fresh morning breeze buffeting you through the open window, the only down side is using a straw!
• Read Chapter 1: The first visit
• Read Chapter 2: Bangkok and beyond
• Read Chapter 4: Travelling around Thailand
• Read Chapter 5: The road from Nan to Chiang Rai
• Read Chapter 6: Mai Hong Son and higher mountains
• Read Chapter 7: Encounter with a monocled cobra