Kanchanaburi (55,000 citizens) is located in central Thailand, about 80mi west of Bangkok, and is easily accessible by public transportation. Kanchanaburi is well known for the Death Railway (Burma Railway) and the bridge on the River Kwai, which were constructed during World War II. Hundreds of thousands of prisoners of war worked on the Death Railway and Bridge on the river Kwai, many of them died during their construction. They are buried at the Kanchanaburi Allied War and the Chung Kai cemetery. Other memories of this period can be found in various museums, including the Thailand-Burma Railway Centre. There are more locations in and around Kanchanaburi worth visiting. One of the most beautiful waterfalls of Thailand is found in the Erewan national park. Just outside of Kanchanaburi lies the Wat Tham Suea temple where several Buddhist styles are used.
Sights and Tourist Attractions
Bridge on the River Kwai
Location: 3mi from city center - 15 minutes drive | Category: History
The Bridge on the River Kwai is located in the tourist area of Kanchanaburi and is part of the Death Railway. The bridge was build during the Second World War (between 1942-1943) by both Asian and Western prisoners. During its construction the bridge was bombed several times by the Allied forces. Traces of the bombing are still visible on the round arches, which are still in original state. The angular parts are replacements as part of the restoration.
The Death Railway
Location: 30mi from center - 1 hour drive | Category: History
The Death Railway was supposed to be 260mi long and connect Bangkok to Yangon in Burma (Rangoon, Myanmar nowadays). The railway eventually never got beyond the stretch between the current Ban Pong and Nam Tok railway stations. This 80mi-long stretch was bought in 1947 by the Thai railways and is still in use today. During the construction of this railway about 15,000 Western prisoners died. Theses fallen men can be found at the Kanchanaburi Allied War and Chung Kai cemetery. A good start for your traintrip to Kanchanuburi over the Deathrailway and the bridge on the river Kwai is the Krasae Trainstation. Here you also can visit the Krasae Cave.
Erawan National Park
Location: 45mi from city center - 1.5 hours drive | Price: 200THB | Category: Nature
In the Erawan National Park you can find the seven level Erawan waterfall. The Erawan waterfall is located in a rugged natural area. From the second level, it becomes a somewhat heavy climb. From the fourth level up it is a serious heavy climb to the top. The seventh and last level is by far the hardest to reach. Levels 2, 3 and 4 are the most beautiful and are perfect for a swim. The park and the falls are named after the three-headed white elephant Erewan which is known in Hinduism.
Location: 45mi from city center - 1.5 hours drive | Category: History
Hellfire pass is part of the Death Railway. For the workers this was the hardest part of the railroad. They had to work 18 hours a day with poor tools at a remote location. The work consisted of carving out large rocks by hand. Nowadays Hellfire Pass is a museum. Here you can see how life during this time was for the prisoner of war. It is possible to see the museum of Hellfire Pass with an audio guided tour. Every year a ceremony takes place to honor those who died.
Location: 30mi from center - 1 hour drive | Category: History and nature
During the construction of the Death Railway the Krasae cave was used as a field hospital, church and shelter. After the war local residents placed a golden Buddha statue in the cave. They believed that the souls of the deceased prisoners of war would find peace then. From this cave you have a beautiful view over the River Kwai Noi. When you want to visit this site, it is best to start at Tham Krasae station and walk on the railway to the cave. This is also the Trainstation where you can take the train to Kanchanaburi on the Death Railway.
Sai Yok National Park
Location: 60mi from center - 2hrs drive | Admission: 200THB | Category: Nature
Sai Yok National Park covers an area of approximately 190 sq mi. During the Second World War the Japanese had their camp located here. At the entrance of Sai Yok National Park, near the limostone caves, you still can find remains of this camp. The waterfall located in the national park is called Sai Yok Yai. About 24mi outside the park there is another waterfall which is called Sai Yok Noi. Because this waterfall is outside Sai Yok national Park no the entrance fee has to be paid to visit it.
Location: 135mi from center - 4 hours drive | Category: Culture, nature and history
Sangkhlaburi is a region which hasn't yet been discovered by mass tourism. This is one of the reasons this region is a good location to get a picture about authentic Thailand. Local tours include a fully wooden bridge, with a lentgh of 400yd, which connects Sangkla to Wangka and a sunken temple which is only completly dry just after the winter. At a small distance a market with three pagodas is located. From here you can cross to the town of Payathonzu in Myanmar to visit its market, if the border is open.
Taweechai Elephant Camp
Location: 30mi from center - 1 hour | Admission: 500 THB - 750 THB | Category: Nature
Around 30 elephants get shelter at the Taweechai Elephant Camp. The Camp is about half way from Kanchanaburi to Erawan National Park. It is possible to feed these elephants and to get a ride through the park. During these rides you sit on the back of the elephant and they will take you through the water. Before and after the opening hours of the park these elephant stay in the wild.
Thailand-Burma Railway Centre
Location: 1mi from center - 20 minutes by walk | Price: 100THB | Category: History
The Thailand-Burma Railway Centre is a museum dedicated to the Death Railway and is located next to the Kanchanaburi Allied War Cemetery. The exhibition lets the visitor experience what life was like during World War II through films, photographs and objects. Additionally, there are models of the bridge, the railway and POW camps to see. Rod Baettie (the owner of the museum) also offers excursions that range from half a day to a period of 5 days. During this tour you go to different locations such as the old camps, workplaces and the old railway parts. A unique experience! Rod has a huge amount of knowledge as you can see for yourself in the documentary by National Geographic Channel called "The Bridge on the River Kwai".
Location: 25mi from Center - 1 hour drive | Entrance: 600THB | Category: Nature
The Tiger Temple is a tiger reserve managed by monks. It's officialy called "Wat Pa Luangta Bua Yannasampanno Forest Monastry", but is better known as the "Tiger Temple". It's a popular tourist attraction where you can be photographed with the tigers (for a fee). In addition, you can walk through the park where other wildlife can be seen. In a research publication (2008) of CWI (Care for the Wild International) called "Exploiting the Tiger; Illegal Trade, Animal Cruelty and Tourists at Risk at the Tiger Temple " items are revealed on how the Tigers are treated, drugged and illegally traded. Due to this report there is a lot of unrest about this park and if it even should still exist.
Wat Tham Suea
Location: 9mi from Centre - Half hour drive | Category: Religion
Wat Tham Suea is a location where temples (including Wat Tham Suea and Wat Tham Khao Noi) of two Buddhist schools can be found. The two contrsuction styles are Chinese and of course Thai. From the plateau where these temples are located you have a nice view on the Mae Nam Mae Klong Valley where Kanchanaburi is located.
What to do
Kayaking back to Kanchanaburi from Nong Bua
Out of the tourist centre of Kanchanaburi you can book a kayak excursion. This tour about 9mi long. you determine the pace of the tour. Although the river flows fast, it’s not a typical raft trip. It's more a ride to enjoy the scenery and to see Kanchanaburi in a different way.
For the lovers of good food it is possible follow cooking classes in Kanchanaburi. As example, a good location for this is Apple's Retreat. Here you can take a one day course. You'll prepare about four dishes and you'll learn the intricacies of the Thai cuisine.
The vicinity of Sanghklaburi is ideal for one or more days of trekking through the jungle. This form of trekking is not suitable for less experienced travelers. The guides in this region are used to live of what nature has to offer, therefore do not expect any form of luxury. The guide will prepare simple meals and, where possible, try to provide you with sleeping accommodations with the mountain tribes who live in this region. It's therefore possible that you have to spend the night in the jungle. Through this tour you'll experience natura and you'll have the chance to experience the daily life of the mountain tribes.
Long-tail boat trip
Long-tail boats are available for rent at several locations including the bridge over the River Kwai. If you stay in a guesthouse along side the water, there will be long-tail boats reguarly passing by, to see if you are interested in renting a boat. Landmarks which you can visit with a long-tail boat include the JEATH war museum, Bridge on the river Kwai and Khao Pun cave.
The nightmarket, also known as the JJ market or Jatujak market, is held daily (except on Wednesdays). From the tourist center you walk towards the train station where you'll see the market. On the market all kind of items are sold, from food to clothing, plants and DVDs. During the wet season the market will be closed on days with heavy rain.
How to get there
Kanchanaburi is easily accessible via bus line 81. From the Southern bus station of Bangkok (Sai Tai Mai) every 20 minutes a 1st class and 2nd class bus departs. You can buy tickets at the counters on the first floor of the bus station. 1st class tickets can be bought at the rear half of counters (with the blue destination signs) 2nd class tickets can be bought at the first half of counters (Orange destination signs).
The 1ste class bus (blue-white) costs approx. 100THB and takes roughly 2 hours to get to Kanchanaburi. The 1st class bus has air conditioning and a toilet. A bottle of water is also included. Departure times of the 1st class busses are between 5am and 10pm. The 2nd class bus (orange-white-blue) costs approx. 95THB and has the same travel time. Departure times of the 2nd class busses are between 3.30am and 7pm.
There are also many minibusses which travel between Kanchanaburi and Bangkok. If you make reservations through a guesthouse back to Bangkok, most of the times a minibus will bring you back. The ride takes up to 2 hours and costs about 150THB.
Twice a day a train leaves Thonburi railway station (Bangkok Noi) in Bangkok heading to Kanchanaburi. The train departs around 7.45am and 1.45pm and the journey takes about 3 hours. A ticket costs 100THB. Keep in mind that despite the beautifull view of the Thai landscape, you have to sit for 3 hours on wooden benches with some ceiling fans and open Windows. One advantage of the train is that often local traders enter the train with refreshments and drinks which will make the trip more pleasant.
There is a special tourist train in the weekend. This train does not depart from Thonburi station, but from the Hualamphong train station in Bangkok. The 3rd class train consists of old 2nd class wagons. In terms of comfort, it is slightly better than the normal train to Bangkok. The train leaves from Bangkok at half past 7 in the morning and arrrives around half past 9 in Kanchanaburi. The train continues its way to the last station which is Nam Tok. At a quarter to 5 in the afternoon the train leaves the Kanchanaburi station back to Bangkok, at which it will arrive around 7.30pm. A train ticket cost approx. 120THB.
The travel time depends on the point of departure in Bangkok, but count on that it will take about 2 to 3 hours. Due to the distance, not every taxi driver wants to make the trip to Kanchanaburi. Fortunately, there is a surplus of taxis in Bangkok, so just grab the next one. For longer distances taxi drivers do not have to use the meter and a fixed price may be negotiated. So negotiate about the price, depending on your starting point a fair price will be between the 1500 and 2000THB. A taxi from Kanchanaburi back to Bangkok is harder to do. There are almost no taxis in Kanchanaburi, occasionally only taxis who just dropped somebody off in Kanchanaburi.
Where to stay
In Kanchanaburi guesthouses can be found in the many bystreets of the Mae Nam Kwai Street. This tourist area around the bridge on the River Kwai is approximately 2.5km from the town centre, about 10 minutes by car. Depending on the required luxury of the guesthouse you can rent a room for a buck per night up to 10 or 20 dollar per night. Some guesthouses have a private swimming pool, while other guesthouses have shared bathrooms. On the other side of the river you find luxury resorts. Besides the guesthouses and resorts there are many hotels scattered throughout Kanchanaburi.