Kanchanaburi is the place to stay if you want to visit the Bridge over the River Kwai, the start of the infamous World War II Death Railway, constructed under Japanese coercion at the cost of 12,000 POW and 100,000 Asian lives. The present bridge, which is the span's second wartime incarnation, can be crossed on foot, but there are no guardrails, so vertigo sufferers and small children should steer clear and instead take a ride on the little train which runs across.
The nearby Art Gallery and War Museum houses a bizarre collection of poorly maintained and badly labeled exhibits. The JEATH (standing for Japan, England, America, Australia and Holland) Museum houses a section of the first wooden bridge, recreations of the POW barracks and random military paraphernalia. In typically bizarre Thai style, the adjoining Jewelry Museum houses dusty stamp collections and is decorated with wall paintings of Miss Thailand winners.
Kanchanaburi Environs - Top Three
1) The seven-tiered Erawan Waterfalls, one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Thailand, is named after the three-elephant-headed Hindu god Indra, which the top tier can at a pinch be seen to resemble, but only by visitors with vivid imaginations. It's a steep and energetic hike to the top, for which good shoes and extra water are a must. Bicycles can be rented at the entrance, but don't really serve any purpose, unless you fancy getting some extra exercise by lugging them up to the top of the falls and back. A dip in the turquoise pools is a laugh as well as a welcome cool-off, as visitors will be tickled by little fish feasting on the soles of their feet.
2)The Tiger Temple houses ten furry friends, which behave less like ferocious carnivores than cuddly cats. For more, click here (coming soon).
3) If you like elephants but don't like seeing them being bashed on the head with the customary metal spike, then the Elephants and Friends Conservation Camp is the place for you. The centre rescues mistreated and miserable animals from places like Bangkok's backpacker-mecca Khao Sarn Rd (where the animals cry whilst their owners take money off unwitting tourists to feed them), and gives sick and old elephants a good home. This pachyderm protectorate allows visitors a much more natural and humane interaction with the elephants. After your ride you can repay the elephant with a bath, a feed, a play or just a cuddle, of which many of them seem surprisingly fond.
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