Monday, 8 December 2008

Kayak Down the River Kwai

Kwai Kayak 1

After enjoying our canoe journey down the River Macal in Belize last year, in fact juat about the same time last year, we decided to do the same down the Kwai. We hired a two-person kayak from Safarine, one of three tour companies offering kayak trips and rentals in Kanchanaburi. We mainly went with them because a, they were closest to our guest house and b, we had been recommended them by four lively retired Poles who we had met the first weekend in town when they reached shore at our guesthouse after a 400km journey down the River. The four men with huge appetites for alcohol, food and conversation after living on rations and with their own company for 12 days all live in Melbourne. We decided on something a bit more manageable. We were dropped off about 12km upstream at 11am and told to land the kayak at the Chinese Temple. The Safarine guide estimated it would take us about 3 hours.

The Kwai is not sluggish but we were paddling into a head wind which meant that at times we had to make something of an effort. Mostly, it was very plain going and was no where as strenuous as canoeing the shingle shallows and still deeps of the Macal. We passed between woodland, bamboo, fields as well as some very top-end luxury river resorts and architect-designed private houses. The River Kwai is clearly a play ground for the better off of Thai society.

Water Train
A floating karaoke bar

After about two hours we were beginning to flag. We realised that out chances of finding a place to pull in and have lunch were diminished by most of the resorts being curiously closed. No sign of life emanated across manicured lawns or from tethered floating restaurants. Each place we passed was as quiet as a holiday resort in mindwinter, despite December being the start of the dry season and our trip taking place on a Friday which was the King’s Birthday and therefore a public holiday. Kanchanaburi had filled over the previous night with young Thais making the most of a long weekend. Upstream and upmarket was all empty hotels and proverbial tumbleweed.

We then spotted movement on one set of floating restaurants and made straight for it, hoping it was sign of life. Then we saw the sign – the Duneshine. This was Kanchanaburi’s longest established luxury resort, one we had passed the week before on bicycles and had been entertained by their brightly lit floating restaurants passing our guesthouse on weekend evenings. Our eyes lit up as we pulled the kayak on to the river bank, walked through the landscaped grounds and discovered their was restaurant was open. Glass noodle salad and noodles wrapped in an omelette refreshed us for what we knew now to be the last few kilometres back to Kanchanaburi.

Kayak Under the Bridge Over the River Kwai

Bridge Over

We passed below the Bridge Over the River Kwai within the hour, drifted past our guesthouse like the many karaoke boats had done every night and spotted the distinctive pagoda of the Chines Temple above the trees. Our micro adventurette was over, during which we had treat ourselves to a good lunch at a luxury hotel.

Kwai Kayak 2
Chinese Temple to starboard bow

Rotunda Temple

Window of the Dragon

Kwai Kayaked


  1. Hope to see you for more adventure with SAFARINE.

    David, SAFARINE manager.

  2. Hope to see you for more adventure with SAFARINE.

    David, SAFARINE manager.