EXCURSION TRAIN TO KANCHANABURI

by Richard Barrow

The State Railway of Thailand (SRT) run a number of weekend excursion trains to various tourist destinations around Thailand. Two of the most popular routes are to Sai Yok Waterfall in Kanchanaburi and Suan Son Pradipat Beach to the south of Hua Hin. This page is about the day-trip to Kanchanaburi. The train goes every Saturday and Sunday from Bangkok railway station (Hua Lamphong). The train leaves at 6:30 a.m. and makes its first stop in Nakhon Pathom at 7:40 a.m. for forty minutes of sightseeing. The next stop is at 9:35 a.m. at the Bridge on the River Kwai. You have about 25 minutes here. The scenic highlight of the train trip is at around 11:00 a.m. when it goes along the wooden trestle bridge near Thamkra Sae station. The final stop is at Nam Tok station at 11:30 a.m. The waterfall is a short songtaew trip away from here. They give you nearly three hours here. The return train is at 2:25 p.m. In Kanchanaburi town, they give you about one hour to visit the war cemetery near the station. You are then back on the train at 4:53 p.m. If it is on time, you will get back to Bangkok at 7:25 p.m.

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You cannot book your ticket online for the excursion train. You have to pay at your local railway station. You can reserve a ticket by calling the 1690 hotline. The operator speaks English and you will have no problems. However, you then have to go to your nearest station within 24 hours to pay for the ticket. You also cannot reserve 3rd class tickets by calling the hotline. I bought my tickets at Bangkok railway station (Hua Lamphong) as that is my nearest station. But you can buy it anywhere. A 3rd class seat costs 120 Baht for the return journey. A 2nd class ticket in air-conditioned carriages are double that price at 240 Baht per person for the return journey. I went for 3rd class as the windows are open and it is easier to take pictures of the countryside. In 2nd class, although you have air-conditioning and comfortable seats, you also have dirty windows. The choice is really yours.

TRAIN SCHEDULE

TIME STATION NOTES
6:30am depart Bangkok station 909 train – outbound journey
6:44am Sam Sen station
6:51am Bang Sue Junction
7:07am Bang Bamru station
7:11am Taling Chan Junction
7:22am Salaya station
7:40am arrive at Nakhon Pathom station 40 minutes to visit Phra Pathom chedi
8:20am depart Nakhon Pathom station
8:33am Nong Pladuk Junction Trains 909 and 911 might split here
9:26am Kanchanaburi
9:35am Bridge on the River Kwai 25 minutes to visit the bridge
10:00am depart Bridge on the River Kwai
11:00am pass over the Thamkra Sae wooden trestle bridge impressive views from the right handside
11:30am arrive at Nam Tok station transfer via songtaew to the waterfall
2:25pm depart from Nam Tok station 910 – return journey
3:53pm arrive at Kanchanaburi station you have one hour to visit the war cemetery
4:53pm depart from Kanchanaburi station
5:52pm Nong Pladuk Junction Trains 910 and 912 might join here
7:25pm arrive at Bangkok station

All times and destinations are subject to change. On this particular trip, they cut out the war cemetery as we were running late.

MAP OF ROUTE

TRAIN TRIP REPORT

The following is my live trip report that I posted on Facebook and Twitter as the train journey progressed. All photos were shot on my iPhone.

Good morning from Bangkok Railway Station. I’m off on another train journey as part of my year long Thailand by Slow Train Challenge. My aim is to travel by 3rd Class along all of the railway lines in Thailand. The train should have left at 6:30 a.m. but was late arriving for some reason. So, we left about 15 minutes late. I am in Carriage 1 at the front of the train.

The trip I’m doing today is a branch line on the Southern Line. This one goes to Nam Tok station in Kanchanaburi to the West of Bangkok. I’m on the 909 Special Excursion Train. These only run at the weekends. Tickets are 120 Baht for 3rd Class and 240 Baht for 2nd Class with air con. It’s basically a day trip from Bangkok with stops along the way.

These trips are very popular and sometimes you will need to book tickets several weeks in advance. Particularly if you want air-conditioned comfort in 2nd Class as there is only one of these carriages. With 3rd Class, you might be able to get away with booking only a few days in advance. When you get your ticket, there is a carriage and seat number on it. You should sit in your assigned seat until after the conductor comes round. It is then possible to move, but please be aware that people sometimes get on at later stations.

The air pollution in Bangkok and Central Thailand is very bad this morning. Most areas are classed as unhealthy with a few already “very unhealthy”. You definitely need a N95 smog mask today. Normally I would stay at home on a day like this but I booked my trip several weeks ago. It is a good tip to take a mask with you on any 3rd Class trip as some sections can be dusty.

Our first stop on the day excursion train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi is in Nakhon Pathom. Here they gave us a strict 40 minutes to explore the market and the giant stupa. The guard gave us his mobile number just in case we were delayed. The guy opposite me came back late and he was lucky they didn’t go without him. They have a little leeway but not much as it will delay other trains.

Some people just explored the market near the station and found some food to eat for breakfast or to bring back to the train for a snack. Others walked to Phra Pathom Chedi which is about ten minutes away to make merit. You can actually do both but you will be rushed. The giant stupa, which can be seen from miles away, is 120 meters high. There are no other tall buildings in this city.

👉 There are other things you can do in Nakhon Pathom Province. I did a three-day road trip here the other year. You can see the Live Photo blog here.

These are pictures of the different carriages on this excursion train to Nam Tok in Kanachanaburi. It’s a day long trip and we are given assigned seats which we are supposed to keep. The first picture is from 3rd Class where I am. These are hard seats which aren’t very comfortable. They are also not very wide and so you have to hope that you don’t get a large person sitting next to you (like me). You have open windows and ceiling fans which helps keep the temperature down. However, you can close the window if you want if it gets too breezy or lower the sun shade if the sun is on your side. These seats are 120 Baht for the return trip. Masks are extra.

The second picture is of the 2nd Class carriage. There’s only one of these on this train compared to the four 3rd Class carriages. This carriage is air-conditioned and the seats are padded and recline slightly. The cost of this one is 240 Baht return. Basically double the 3rd Class carriage. The downside is that the windows are tinted and often dirty and so difficult to take pictures.

The final picture is of the toilet. It’s a hole in the floor, otherwise known as a squat toilet. There is toilet paper and what some people call a “bum gun”. Please note, the toilet flushes straight onto the track below and so don’t use it at the stations.

After we had left Nakhon Pathom, the conductor came round to tell us some information about the trip. He spoke in Thai, but then later spoke to the groups of foreigners he spotted in broken English. He also told us that we could order food from a menu and that it would be delivered to our seats on the return trip. The menu has meals and desserts from towns that the train passes through on the upper Southern Line.

I ordered Ratchaburi noodles for 30 Baht like last time. It is in the top left of the menu above. Last time I also ordered the Hor Mok (to the right of the noodles). This is a fish curry wrapped in a banana leaf. That was really good too. They say it is local food from places we pass, though technically we are now on a branch line to Kanchanaburi and we won’t actually pass Ratchaburi. I presume the excursion train coming back from Hua Hin will pick it up for us.

The second stop on the excursion train trip from Bangkok to Nam Tok was at the Bridge on the River Kwai Bridge. They gave us 25 minutes here. This was, of course, made famous by the movie of the same name. Though, they didn’t actually shoot it here and this isn’t the wooden bridge featured in the movie.

This was the second bridge built during the war. However it was badly damaged during an Allied bombing raid and only a few sections are original. Oh one more thing, it’s not called the River Kwai. It’s actually the River Kwae which rhymes with square. But, it is still of historical interest and worth visiting.

👉 There are other things you can do in Kanchanaburi Province. The other year, I did a Two Day Trip to Kanchanaburi for ANZAC Day. Also take a look at my Kanchanaburi Trip Planner page for other trips I have done here.

The train excursion today has been a bit tedious so far. The train left late right at the start and as much of the line is single track, we had to keep stopping at stations to wait for trains going the other way to safely pass us. We’re now running two hours late. I think they will give us the full time at the waterfall, but they will cut out the war cemetery on the way back. I don’t mind long journeys. But sitting at stations is boring.

👉 On this website you can see the live status of the trains: http://tts.railway.co.th/passenger/view.php

This is the famous wooden trestle bridge in Kanchanaburi that is part of the Death Railway. It’s in Sai Yok district. A lot of people come here on tours to visit a cave with a Buddha image. Or they came here on the train from Thonburi. They probably have the better view of our train on the wooden bridge.

📍MAP: https://goo.gl/maps/DHQjDLExiHtGQibQ6

The best views of this stretch of the line is on the lefthandside of the carriage. The view on the other side is blocked by the rockface. So, when you book your tickets, ask for a window seat on the correct side. I was lucky to get this side even though I didn’t ask. You will still be on the right side on the way back, though for the return journey, the conductor said we would have the disadvantage of having the sun on our face as it starts to set in the late afternoon.

A view of the wooden trestle bridge shot from the back of the train on a different trip a few months earlier. There are not many trains each day and as you can see, people feel safe enough to walk along the tracks and even along the bridge. But, some fantastic views. Even more so if you are lucky enough to get a picture of the train going on the bridge.

This is the view of the Khwae Yai river in Kanchanaburi. There are several stretches of the railway line that pass close to the river. Again, the best views are from the lefthandside of the train.

We have finally arrived at our destination, Sai Yok Noi Waterfall in Kanchanaburi. We should have arrived here at 11:30am but the train pulled in at 1:20pm, nearly two hours late.

The only good thing is, the train normally terminates at Nam Tok station and then everyone transfers to a songtaew (20 Baht) or walks the last bit up the road to the waterfall. But they took us right to the waterfall at Nam Tok Sai Yok Noi which is literally at the end of the line. In front of where our train stopped was a steam locomotive and beyond that Sai Yok Noi.

The train would normally arrive at Nam Tok station at 11:30 a.m. and leave for the return journey at 2:25 p.m. giving people just under three hours. Our train arrived late and although the train stopped right at the waterfall, we only had about two and a half hours to explore and eat lunch. Though, to be honest, that turned out to be enough time for me, but families with kids who wanted to swim, they may have wanted more time.

It hasn’t taken me that long to explore the park. It is not as big as I thought it would be. The highlight is the waterfall. But the streams around it are popular for people to eat a picnic. You can buy food outside the park and then bring it in. As it is a national park, plastic bags, foam lunch boxes and plastic bottles are forbidden. However, this didn’t seem to be enforced. But, you are not allowed to bring in any alcohol drinks for sure. This is a popular waterfall for Thais, not only because it is free, but it is also right next to a major road. So, you don’t have to walk far.

The Japanese made steam locomotive on display at Sai Yok Noi in Kanchanaburi marks the end of the branch line. Loco No. 702 was in service between 1946-1976.

📍MAP: https://goo.gl/maps/Ra6dZ8QKDPyyj5FZ8

This line was the notorious Death Railway which went all the way to Burma. The line went right by the waterfall. The track beyond this point doesn’t exist anymore. However, there are a few short stretches you can visit. Further up the old line is Hellfire Pass which has an interesting museum. There is also a short stretch of original sleepers at Wat Pu Ta Khian.

📍 Hellfire Pass: https://goo.gl/maps/rVXcZ7ogeSnoJzV89
📍 Wat Pu Ta Khianhttps://goo.gl/maps/X5GoMEYzf5uThL4N8

We are now on our way back to Bangkok. Like during my last train trip, I had brought a book to read, but so far, I haven’t got around to reading it. I’ve been passing the time by looking out of the window and taking pictures. I got up and walked up and down the carriages, but mainly I have been sitting here on my seat.

https://youtu.be/mLyuLWMS0MA

This is a video clip of the train crossing the famous Bridge on the River Kwai in Kanchanaburi. It is shot from the back of the train. It is towards the end of the day and so most day-trippers have already gone home.

We were supposed to stop in Kanchanaburi town on the return journey for about an hour between 3:54 p.m. and 4:53 p.m. However, as it was already after 5 p.m. they decided to cut that part of the trip out of the itinerary. We would have been given an hour to visit the nearby war cemetery. It is just a few minutes walk from the Kanchanaburi train station. So, we just carried on after only stopping here for a few minutes.

This is my evening meal that I had ordered earlier. It is dry fishball noodles from Ratchaburi. Only 20 Baht and very delicious.

The final shot as we crawled into Bangkok train station at Hua Lamphong. It has been a very long day. We should have got back here at 7:25 p.m. but we didn’t arrive back until 8:45 p.m. Despite the delays and the disappointment of missing one of the stops, it has been an enjoyable experience.

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