We knew we wanted to visit the Hellfire Pass Memorial Museum and to do the walk. The hardest part was deciding the logistics of the trip. I looked into lots of different options but eventually the pieces fell into place and an ideal solution was revealed.
We found the perfect accommodation and had them arrange transport from the museum and back to the resort. Not rocket science, but definitely an ideal set of arrangements for us. In brief:
- train from Bangkok Noi, Thonburi Railway station straight through to Nam Tok,
- Lunch at Nam Tok,
- Songtheaew to Hellfire Pass Memorial Museum,
- Driver picks us up from the end of the trail,
- transport back to our accommodation
We stayed at the Oriental Kwai resort about 20 minutes outside of Kanchanaburi. This is a superb establishment, which is efficiently run by a Dutch lady. It is located in a quiet semi-rural setting 5 minutes out of the small town of Ladya. The grounds are lush with vegetation and the 12 villas are well spaced, so you don’t feel like you are looking at your neighbors. The villas themselves are spotlessly clean and well equipped. The superior experience is rightly reflected in 100s of very happy reviewers, saying only good things about them. They are not listed on any booking sites, choosing to manage their own reservations via email and other social media. firstname.lastname@example.org Facebook
The restaurant/office complex overlooks a quiet river and you can sit and eat and drink looking at the relaxing views. The food is excellent and the prices for food and drinks are very reasonable. There is nowhere else to eat nearby, but as part of a relaxing experience you don’t even want to. The pool is well maintained and has depths for all from the paddling end through to the area that goes over your head. They have suggestions for activities and can arrange for transport.
The train journey through to Kanchanaburi arrives about 10:30 and a good proportion of the people disembark here. If you are wanting to change sides you need to be quick as people start to get on before everyone has disembarked. The journey through to Nam Tok takes another 1:30. A lot of people just do the trip across the Wang Po viaduct and then rejoin their tour van or bus.
We arrived at Nam Tok just before 13:00 and wanted to eat before heading off. Our driver pointed to one of the large food halls and we had no preferences otherwise. The food was actually very good and 100 THB per plate. The Hall was designed to cater to tour groups and there were at least 2 there while we were there. There were a few eating places at the station and a number more just outside the station area on the main road.
Hellfire Pass Memorial Museum
It was a 15 minute drive up to the museum which is normally open 09:00 to 16:00. The displays were simple and well presented. The short educational film was well worth watching. We when sat down a couple of European tourists wouldn’t stop talking, but as the film progressed they became quieter and quieter. I thought that was a good indication how powerful the message in the film was. The museum is free, but donations are welcomed.
One thing I would recommend doing is downloading the audio guide from the DVA site. It meant we didn’t have to arrange for the headphones and returning them afterwards. They ask for your passport as a deposit, so this eliminated that step very conveniently.
We waved to our driver and headed down to the rail walk. The walk follows the rail line and the audio guide, with the voices of the survivors makes this experience more moving. Looking at the rock and understanding it was all done by human hands, no machines is hard to comprehend. A lot of people are strongly affected by the stories of the hours, the conditions, the starvation and the torture.
While there are many tourists, if you intend to do the walk, beyond the memorial there are very few. In fact if your are part of a bus tour there is even a sign at a point shortly after telling you to turn around and return to the centre.
The walk from the memorial to the road, is not difficult underfoot but you do need shoes or at least sturdy hiking sandals. There are a few flights of stairs to climb and it is open to the sun in a lot of parts. You will sweat and know you have worked hard, but it is quite straightforward. If you have the time, it is well worth the effort. Of course take enough water for an hours walk in the sun. I have read comments from many people that they got bitten by mosquitos, but in January we were not affected by any.