…and a Train Ride on The Bridge Over the River Kwai

When you think of Thailand you automatically think of Bangkok, the amazing nightlife, temples, palaces, and floating markets.

If you have been to Thailand and traveled around a bit, Pattaya, Hua Hin, Cheng Mai and Phuket are likely destinations you have been to or heard of, especially if golf is one of your reasons for travel to this all-encompassing bucket list destination.

On my last visit we took in three of the above centers, Bangkok, Hua Hin, and Pattaya.  All easy drives which included golf rounds on route. Additionally, we had a few days in a very historic but sobering region of Thailand, of which Khanchanaburi is a part of.

The Town of Kanchanaburi,128kms to the west of Bangkok is home to one of the most infamous bridges in time!  The Bridge over the River Kwai.

No doubt you have heard of it, The Bridge over River Kwai became famous all over the world, when it was featured in movies and books. The cliff-hugging tracks and the natural beauty of the surrounding mountains and valleys.  We had the opportunity to ride the only train that still runs over the famous bridge.

During World War II Japan constructed the bridge and rail line to move cargo back and forth to India.  Construction was done using POWs and Asian slave laborers in unfavorable conditions. The work started in October 1942 was completed in a year. Due to the difficult terrain, thousands of laborers lost their lives.

At the nearby Kanchanaburi War Cemetery, around 7,000 POWs, who lost their lives in the railway construction, are buried. Another 2,000 are laid to rest at the Chungkai Cemetery.

Allied Forces bombed the iron bridge in 1944. Three sections of the River Kwai Bridge were destroyed. The present bridge has two of its central spans rebuilt. The original parts of the bridge are now displayed in the War Museum.

The River Kwai Bridge is a tourist destination now. The track is developed into a walkway with side platforms. This allows crossing the railway bridge on foot. These platforms are also useful as viewpoints. A small tourist train runs back and forth across the bridge.

Staying at the sprawling Away Kanchanaburi Dheva Mantra Resort & Spa we were a 15 minute or so drive to Kanchanaburi but more importantly we were fairly close to two great golf courses, the unique Royal Ratchaburi Golf Club where curious monkeys around fairways and greens are the norm and the Grand Prix Golf Club with its Formula 1 flavour.

The name, Grand Prix Golf Club says it all, or does it?!  As you drive in past automobiles and Formula 1 sponsor signs, if you asked anyone you will learn that all 18 holes have been sponsored by leading automobile companies with signage delicately placed throughout. The high standards of F1 have been implemented in the look and maintenance of the course.

Perched high above the course, from the clubhouse and first tee you have a bird’s eye view of the course with panoramic views of the nearby Burmese Mountains.

The course is set in a vast open space with panoramic views of Burmese mountain ranges in the distance. A large river runs through the course and adds to the native scenery.  Fun yet challenging, fairways generally large with mounding and undulations added to the mix, a couple of split fairways entice the risk reward persona in you. An excellent collection of par 3’s, large, fast, but fair greens also have their fair share of undulations, 2 putts are by no means automatic.  Are they ever?

A top-class golf facility, Grand Prix Golf Club is a must-play for all golfing in Kanchanaburi.

Monkeying around at Royal Ratchaburi Golf Club

Monkeys there are a-plenty as we stood on the first tee and must have seen a couple of hundred traverse the fairway.  All going in the same direction, Monkey’s on a mission.  You’ve got to keep an eye on your ball and other things when they are around.  They are very inquisitive. Once they grab something you are not likely to get it back!

The course itself is carved from a lush jungle setting (1994), flanked by both the Ratchaburi and Burmese Mountains and is relatively flat, fairways and greens are rolling and greens are undulating.  You would expect nothing less but nothing too crazy.

The course is parkland in style with many solid and challenging holes, the landscape provides plenty of matured trees and waters hazards coming into play off the tee.  The front is a little more forgiving; things tighten up on the backside. Green side bunkering adds to the challenge and keeping an eye on the surrounding mountain peaks will help out when reading the well-kept greens.

If monkeys could talk, they would tell you that the highly rated Royal Ratchaburi Golf Club is truly a hidden gem. If near Kanchanaburi – Come play peek a boo with them. www.royalratchaburigolfclub.com

The Away Kanchanaburi Dheva Mantra Resort & Spa situated right on the River Kwai is a sprawling family style 5-star resort perfect for some poolside down time after a busy day.  Dining options range from international to delicious riverside Thai cuisine.

The bustling Town of Kanchanaburi provides some options for accommodations in the heart of town walking distance to many local bars and restaurants should you care to be where the action is.

Getting to Thailand
More than likely you will be making a connection from wherever you are traveling from to Bangkok. Easily done though with one connection.  For more information on all that Thailand has to offer www.tourismthailand.org

Golfasian, a specialist golf tour operator based in Thailand, organized our trip and knows the destination inside and out – see www.golfasian.com

If you are looking at making arrangements through a local golf tour operator, consider reaching out to one of the members of the International Association of Golf Tour Operators (IAGTO) that promote and sell golf packages in Thailand such as: