For my last two days in Thailand, I had booked an overnight tour to Kanchanaburi called River Kwai Delight. It cost 4700 baht with a 700 single supplement surcharge ($180) which included transportation from and back to my hotel in Bangkok, an overnight stay at The River Kwai Jungle Rafts (coolest hotel ever), four meals, a visit to the Mon Village near the hotel, a Mon performance at the hotel, a ride on the “Death Railway”, and trips to the Bridge on the River Kwai, Thailand–Burma Railway Center, Allied War Cemetery, and Hellfire Pass Memorial and Museum. Whew!
On Sunday, I was picked up at 6:30am (it was supposed to be 6am but they were late) and we arrived in Kanchanaburi around 9am. We were given the option to take a boat to the Bridge on the River Kwai for an extra fee but I chose to just take the bus. The Bridge on the River Kwai is famous mostly because of a movie with the same name but the real bridge is one of the main engineering feats of the Death Railway that the Japanese forced POWs to build during WW2.
Next we visited the Thailand–Burma Railway Center, which is an interactive museum about the Death Railway. It was pretty interesting and I learned so much I didn’t know about WW2. (Then again, I don’t know much about history to begin with.)
Next door was the Allied War Cemetery, where Australian, Dutch, and British POWs were buried.
After that, we piled back in the bus to drive another hour to get on a boat, where we took a 40 minute ride up the river to The River Kwai Jungle Rafts. I loved this hotel!! All of the rooms, the lobby, the dining room, everything was floating on the river! Each raft had a sundeck with lounge chairs and a porch with hammocks and every room had a personal balcony in the back with a hammock. Twice during my stay the three elephants who live in the nearby Mon village would come down and bathe in the river right behind my room! The most fun part was swimming in the river. Strap on a life jacket, jump in at the first raft, and then float down. Just make sure you get out before the last raft!! After lunch, we had the afternoon to relax. I could see how it could get boring staying there for an extended amount of time, as there is no electricity! So no TV, internet, etc. The darkness of the room did get annoying at times (I put my clothes on inside-out twice!) and the bathroom was a little stinky. But for one night it was wonderful! All the oil lamps lighting up the rafts at night were beautiful.
Later in the afternoon we visited the Mon village up the hill near the hotel, but I wasn’t too impressed. It was pretty boring and I would have rather spent more time swimming or relaxing. Also that night after dinner we watched a Mon performance. The children were very cute and the highlight of the show but the singing of the older women sounded more like wailing and was painful to my ears!
The next morning we visited the Hellfire Pass Memorial. In addition to visiting the museum, we also walked along a trail to the actual “Hellfire Pass”, which was the most difficult section to build on the entire railway and where many POWs died. It got its nickname due to the mixture of hammering noise and lighting from fires and torches at night that created an eerie illumination which looked like the “fires from hell”.
After lunch we took a ride on the Death Railway. It was 40 minutes in a train car with no air conditioning so I was pretty sweaty when it was over! But I enjoyed watching the river and jungle scenery go by.
Overall I would recommend this trip, but it might help if you’re a WW2 history buff. I’m certainly not, and wished the trip had included some other day trips instead, maybe to a waterfall or tiger temple. I will credit the company’s organization; they were pros every step of the way.
Word to the wise: Bring mosquito spray! And wear lots of it! I am covered in bites.