Category Archives: travel

Kanchanaburi, 14/08/23

Wake up to find out what my hotel calls an “American Breakfast”. This turns out to invovle toasted white bread with jam, fried eggs, mango, juice and tea/coffee. The mangos in Thailand are good, the white bread could be improved upon.

Tuk-Tuk to the bus station (80THB). Some words are exchanged between my tuk-tuk driver and someone at the bus stop and I am asked if I want to take a minibus. I agree. I realise now that based on my experience with the bus to Erawan Falls the next day, I am getting a faster and more comfortable ride than the bus would give me, for only 125 THB. Hellfire Pass is my destination this morning, and I am the first passenger dropped off. I’m not sure what the final destination of my minibus is, perhaps the Three Pagodas border crossing?

In WWII, the Japanese used forced labour (both POWs and civilians) to build a rail link to Burma. Hellfire pass is one section of the rail corridor where an interpretive centre and an audioguided hike along the rail corridor has been set up by the Australian government, free of charge. There are no longer any rail tracks along this part of the route, the British ripped out all the rail westward of Nam Tok at the conclusion of the war.

Unlike most visitors, I did the full hike, which is not as difficult as it is made out to be. I’m glad I’m not in a tour group – one arrives after me and the participants don’t get quite enough time to do the full hike and get the full experience. The audioguide has lots of stories told by POWs and the track has some nice views across the valley towards Myanmar. I also see my first monkeys of the trip, and after conversing with a local it seems that monkeys are as common in Thailand as kangaroos are in Australia.

I wholeheartedly recommend visiting this place.

After finishing Hellfire Pass, I bum a ride with a local to Namtok Sai Yok Noi waterfall. This seems to be a place more for children than adults. Though I must say, the chance to cool off under the waterfall is a great relief in this weather. Lunch is had here, from the other side of the main road.

There are two ways now to return by public transport, by bus or by train. I choose the latter (100 THB for foreigners), and walk to Nam Tok station, a walk which is not of any interest whatsoever. The train back to Kanchanaburi is more scenic than the bus, and on the more scenic portion of the trip I’m joined by some tour groups. The highlight is the section around Krasae Cave (you do get to briefly see inside the cave from the train) right next to the river. And the rest of the journey is enjoying riding through the countryside in a civilised manner, with the windows open as much as possible and no A/C in sight.

Back in Kanchanaburi, the train crosses the Khwae Yai along the famous bridge, full of tourists who have to get out of our way. There’s a station immediately after the bridge, which is where I alight.

Next stop is the JEATH war museum. This one got added to the agenda essentially because of the location, and being Thailand, entry is cheap. There’s a section dedicated to the 2nd World War, as you expect, but also some other stuff related to older history of Thailand. As well as some surprising exhibits like a section on the winners of the Miss Thailand beauty pageant. Because why not. The JEATH museum also comes with some nice views of the bridge over the River Kwai and the surrounding area as in the below picture.

Dinner is next, but that is beyond the scope of this blog. And Erawan falls beckons the next morning.

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1. Ta-taki Falls.

This is a short hike along a river to reach a pretty waterfall spot. And when I say along a river, I really mean you are walking through the actual river. There’s a place to hire shoes for the hike at the trailhead carpark. If you’re unsure, you need to hire them. Wear bathers, as you’ll want to have a swim at the pool under the waterfall, as well as giving you more flexibility on your route during the walk. A unique hike, highly recommended.

2. Bitter Melon

Those of you who grew up eating this may wonder what I’m even making a fuss about. There’s this vegetable in Okinawa (and some other places) called bitter melon. When you first taste it, it seems a little strange, but not overly offensive. And then the aftertaste hits you and you wish you had made wiser life choices. Best to avoid this food, although that isn’t always easy, some places are nasty and will do things like hide bitter melon inside tempura.

3. Satsukimaru

We found this lovely little restaurant in Oku, in the northern part of Okinawa. Good cheap food, even if they did do the bitter melon in tempura trick. Small and cozy, you can see the entire restaurant in the picture. Highly recommended.

4. Onishidake (Mt. Onishi)

There is supposed to be a hiking track to the top of Mt. Onishi. We stopped the car and went for a bit of a walk along a side road, but couldn’t find the trailhead. It wouldn’t surprise me if the trail has been neglected and become severly overgrown. If any reader stumbling across this post has more information, please do share it.

5. Mt. Fuenchiji

Skip this. There’s some telecommunications equipment and no view.

6. Katsuudake (Mt. Katsuu)

This one is a short steep hike from the car park to the summit, which is sure to work up a sweat, at least in the humid summer months. You can see that beautiful views will be possible from the below photo, but to see them all, you’ll have to go visit yourself. It is possible to continue hiking beyond the peak but we didn’t look into this. Highly recommended.

Practicalities: I needed to produce my international drivers licence to rent a car in Japan. 40 AUD for someone to look at my license and write down details on some document + 12 AUD for a photo. I should muscle my way into this industry, it seems like a nice profit making machine.

Acknowledgements: Thanks to Iva Halacheva for the photos.

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Oaxaca Photos (December 2019)

I picked up my old phone and decided to try turning it on again. And after charging it, I was surprised, it turned on for the first time in 18 months. I guess the remedy for fixing a water damaged phone is to just wait a long long time.

This means I got access to some photos that I thought were previously lost, and I’ll present some of them here today.

Our trip begins in Oaxaca City, where I was visiting Banff in Mexico. First up, we have a visit to Monte Albán, an archaeological site on top of a hill right next to the city itself.

Next we see a scene in the city. A wedding party is marching down the street.

Now there is a picture of myself, to convince you that I actually was there.

That picture and the rest of the pictures below were all taken at Hierve El Agua.

Part 2 of Mexican photos coming soon.

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Hierve El Agua and Mitla (day trip from Oaxaca)

I was recently at Banff in Mexico (a.k.a. Oaxaca) and had the opportunity to enjoy the following day trip. All information current as of December 2019.

What: Hierve El Agua is a pretty site in the mountains/hills not too far from Oaxaca (the city). There are natural springs coming out of the rocks that have been dammed at places to create artificial pools, and the water creates stalactite-like formations on the rocks. Entrance is 25 pesos.

Mitla is a town on the way to Hierve el Agua. Located in the town is a Zapotec archaeological site, second only to (but much smaller than) Monte Alban. Entrance is 75 pesos.

How: While you can do this as an organised tour or even extravagantly hire a taxi for the day, I will describe the bus route.

From Oaxaca, take the 2nd class bus to Mitla. These are reasonably frequent, are green and have the word Mitla on the front so are easy to spot. It can be caught anywhere along the route by hailing down the bus (there are stops, but it seems you can get on the bus wherever you want). I don’t know the full route of the bus, but it turns right onto highway 190 at the Parque de Beisbol by doing a right-left-right manouver around the stadium anticlockwise. Cost 20 pesos.

Waiting at Mitla’s 2nd class bus station are the collectivos to Hierve El Agua. They are impossible to miss. They wait until they are full, and then leave, so your travel time may vary. Officially the cost was 50 pesos. I paid 60 pesos on the way there (the extra 10 pesos was to take the toll road) and 72 pesos on the way back, which was the amount needed per person to leave early with only 7 passengers. I never had to wait long to leave but others in my returning vehicle were waiting for an hour, which helped encourage them to cough up extra money to leave early.

To Do: At Hierve El Agua there is a short hike (maybe ~1 hr?). It is a loop where you go down to the valley which gives you a better look at some of the rock formations. This hike is much easier done in an anticlockwise direction as the trail is easier to find that way. The best bits are all at the start of the hike when done that way. There are also free change rooms for changing to swim in the artificial pools.

Pictures: None. Let this be a warning to me to back up pictures from my phone in a timely manner.

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