Excursion to Ko Jum

Friday three weeks ago after extending my Visa Exception at the Immigration Office and visiting three times the Krabi International Hospital I decided to give my body a rest and to recover from some injuries. Hence, I headed to Ko Jum which was supposed to be a calm island with no tourists. Instead of taking an expensive speed boat, I had two songthaews via Nuea Khlong to Laem Kruat and then a longtail boat to Ko Jum. In Ko Jum I walked to New Bungalow and got a simple private bungalow near the beach for 300 Baht per night. On the island there’s not much do, except relaxing, and as I was not supposed to go into the water I just sit down near the beach in the shade for one week. There are about 30 accommodations on the island and the major income öfor the few locals seem to be clearly tourism, even if there is less as for example in Ko Lanta or Ko Lipe, but for sure much more than in Ko Libong and Ko Tarutao. The only highlight during that time was the rooster competition. As the military government forbit the rooster fights officially, so they changed it to a cockcrow competition.

This guy had a wodden burning stove at his rack…but didn’t got, what he was selling
The “harbour” of Laem Kruat
The longtail boat to Ko Jum
There is only one small village at the island
The beach is long, but except at New Bungalow full of underwater rocks and also poisonous rockfish
The Sunday morning rooster competition
Everydays sunset with neighbouring party island Ko Phi Phi

Chumphon – Thung Song Junction

Monday three weeks ago very early in the morning the supposed slow ferry already arrived in Chumphon. A songthaew was already waiting at the ferry pier and I had a ride to the railway station, so that I easily arrived there at about 5 am. After purchasing my ticket, the man at the ticket counter was a bit surprised that I wanted to have a ticket for the ordinary train, I had plenty of time for a breakfast at the local street food stalls. As the train before our train was late, eventually also our train started the drive with a delay. But in the next hours we were back on schedule. The landscape changed, now palm trees are dominating whereas rice paddies are no longer really visible. Just about 20 minutes before we were supposed to arrive at Thung Song Junction railway station we suddenly stopped. It was not really clear to me what happened, but all the locals around me stayed super calm. Even after one hour of staying. Maybe the conducter told them that the locomotive was broken. After 90 minutes two other locomotives arrived, and after some push back and changing the locomotive at the nearest railway station with two tracks, we finally could continue our drive to Thung Song Junction. The main railway track of Thailand was interrupted because of this occasion for two hours, because there is only one single track, and no option to bypass anywhere else. Hence, all trains in both directions were waiting in adjacent railway stations until this problem was fixed. There I had a late lunch, before taking a shared minivan for another two hours to Krabi. Eventually I arrived at the Krabi bus station at about 17 o’clock and took a red songthaew into the town centre for another 20 minutes. But luckily he could drop me off directly infront of my hostel.

A lot of palm trees are now along the tracks
Third class is Thailand is still really meant wodden benches, which sometimes even crack down due to the vibrations of the train 😅
Everyone is looking what happens outside after almost two hours on the same spot. Passanger or Clients communication doesn’t seem to exist at all at the Thailand railway…but nobody complained at all about that.
Finally the broken locomotive was pulled away and we could continue our drive. Still unbelievable that the main railway track of Thailand was interrupted for two hours like this.
A Mercedes Ponton in Krabi, which is about 60 years old with probably at least 1 Mio. kilometres, and for sure still driven by the original diesel engine.
My train ticket

Excursion to Ko Tao

Thursday morning three weeks ago I took one of the high speed ferries to Ko Tao. As each of the ferries depart from another point it is advisable to already book a transfer from the railway station to that point. Ko Tao consists basically of diving centres, bars, restaurants, resorts and lots of tourists. Nevertheless, it’s the location on earth were one could probably get an Open Water Diver (OWD) certificate the easiest. I was staying there for three nights and have done my Open Water Diver certification at a PADI diving centre in three days. It was not on my bucket list, but once I realised that it’s such easy to get certified for dives down to 18 metres, I thought it’s a good idea to do that. The three days were pretty packed and always started in the morning at 8 am and usually didn’t finished until 18 o’clock in the evening. In total we did 4 open water dives, two each on the second and third day. Except for the third dive, we always saw a turtle. The first time a hawksbill turtle and the other times a green turtle, but probably it was the same. These were the first turtle I saw alive in freedom. As there are some much people diving, the two spots we went to were pretty packed with other divers. So you really have to look not just to your dive instructor, dive buddy, sea live but also to the 3D space around you for other divers. Except the equalisation when going down, I just need time and do it pretty often, I didn’t had any problems during diving. In the end the only remaining question was flutter kick or frog kick 😉? Sunday late evening three weeks ago, after finishing the OWD course, I directly took the night ferry back to Chumphon. It had a very good AC, so you just started freezing when entering the dorm sleeping room.

Leaving Chumphon…
…in the morning. The high speed ferry was far from being fully booked.
Ko Tao with all the tourist infrastructure on the western shore
All the boats moaring left from the islands are at one of the diving spots, and packed with divers
At each evening we could enjoy the sunset directly infront of our diving centre
At the night ferry back to Chumphon

Nakhon Pathom – Hua Hin – Chumphon

Wednesday morning three weeks ago I took the ordinary train back to Nakhon Pathom, but again with a tourist ticket. From here I had finally again an ordinary train to Hua Hin, where I basically spent the afternoon, before heading on to Chumphon with a rapid train. That last one was more than one hour late in arrival in Hua Hin, and hence also the same when we stopped in Chumphon. On the last section I crossed the narrowest part of Thailand which is just about 20 km wide at this location. As it was not raining for weeks, and the only air conditioning in the 3rd class is the open window, the whole drive was pretty dusty. During my afternoon stay in Hua Hin I went to the royal palace, but it was closed for the public. So I went to the beach, but this was also protected for the new king. The new king is the old crown prince which bought a villa for him and his girlfriend at the Starnberg lake. But probably now he couldn’t travel that much, so he prefer to stay in Hua Hin than in Bangkok. I spent the rest of the afternoon in a Café which was very popular for the instagram feeders, but honestly I don’t really know why.

Passing the junction to Kanchanaburi
Announcement of construction works at the Nakhon Pathom railway station, but not clear if renewal of the existing track or already building the high speed railway
Some ongoing construction and a lot of parallel tracks, whereas elsewhere it’s just a single track railway
A lot of different birds next to the railway tracks, when the fields got irrigation
I guess the rear battery of our DMU was burning…luckily they didn’t tried to delete that fire by water
The more south the more palm trees are along the track
This part of the beach is closed because it belongs to the royal palace
The Instagram or WeChat Café for all the selfie makers in Hua Hin
Seems again like construction works along the existing tracks
My tourist train ticket, they charged me again 100 Baht
My train ticket 1
My train ticket 2

Excursion to Kanchanaburi

Four weeks ago I went back to Kanchanaburi with the first train in the morning. Even with a long and hard discussion, there was no way to get a local train ticket. Again I needed to pay the tourist ticket, regardless of the distance of the trip. In the train I enjoyed the sunrise…yeah, it was really early that train, but therefore I still had the whole day for exploring the town. After breakfast I went to the Thailand-Burma railway museum. This explains in detail the historical background and the technical circumstances of that railway. There were no streets for transporting any heavy construction machines to the construction side. But on the other hand the Japanese occupation power had multiple thousands of POW and additional locals, which could be forced to work. After the occupation of Burma, its supply was critical through the strait of Malakka. Hence, the Japanese decided to built a railway link between Burma and Thailand, similar to the one planned by the British about 50 years ago. The question was not if the Japanese engineers, which had all a good education from Europe, could built the railway at all. The only question was, if they could built it in time. Due to the hard working conditions, everything needed to dig by hand, and bad supllies as well as diseases in the jungle, there was a high death rate, especially during the raining season. The probability to survive was highly linked to the management of the working camps. The suffering of the POW is relatively well documented, probably also due to their dog tags. Whereas the majority of the labour and eventually of the deaths was from the Asian Romusha (Malay & Tamil, Burmese, Javanese, among others). Forced labourer from these countries accounted for about 85,000 deaths, which equals to about 86% of all deaths during the construction of the railway. Unfortunately the documents for these were destroyed, nor there exists any memorial for these people. So the numbers could be only estimated. The most known memorial for this railway is the Bridge over the Kwai river, even as the river during the war had another name. And contrary to the book, the preliminary wodden bridge was meant and not the iron one. Which was indeed brought from occupied Java to Thailand, and was just one of 6 steel bridges along the whole railway, beside almost 700 trestle bridges made from wood, which all now rotted. Both bridges were destroyed multiple times with aerial bombing during the war. Nowadays this bridge is a tourist attraction and after visiting the railway museum and the adjacent war cemetery, I walked also across that bridge twice.

Almost 700 trestle bridges made from wood

Sunrise in the train
Early morning driving down the river
Eventually crossing the bridge over the river kwai
Timeline of Japanese invasion in Asia
Model of one of the trestle bridges, which are all gone nowadays…
…and a dammed reservoir, which covers nowadays 40 km of the track, is just another reason, for not rebuilding that railway track ever
The toll of the death railway
As there were not yet any (laser) guided bombs, the probability that a bomb actually hit the bridge (one of them) was pretty low
POW cemetery
The Bridge over the river Kwai, the angular sections, were supplied by Japan after the war as replacement
The western bridge head…
…and the eastern bridge head
My tourist train ticket