October 24, 2014
With so much to do you will need a few days to take in what the province has to offer
Kanchanaburi (pronounced gaan jà ná bù rii) (Thai: กาญจนบุรี) is a city, located at the confluence of the rivers Kwai Noi and Kwai Yai. 131 kms. North West of Bangkok. The province of Kanchanaburi is Thailand’s 3rd largest province by land mass, but only registers 26th in its size of population. There is so much to see in this province that it is almost impossible to take it all in on one day, especially if you want to take in both Hellfire Pass and the Bridge on the River Kwai, so why not break up your travel plans and stay in Kanchanaburi for a night or…. Two.
Accommodation can be found to suit most budgets, most are located near the train station and the night market, with a number of hotels and guest houses situated right along the river bank, or why not choose to spend your nights on your own house boat. Most of these are situated further upstream nestled between Sai Yok and Erawan National Parks.
These floating individual rooms (each has its own en suit bathroom) are tethered to the river bank. To see things close up and personal you can jump onto the hotels floating bar which is towed up and down this mighty river, with the added benefit that they will pull-in at points along the way to allow you to explore the many water-falls and rope bridges that flow into and span the mass of this fast flowing River. The floating bars make for a great place to meet up with newly found friends and share stories of your travels thus far, all over a cold drink and a snack.
The best way to explore the city of Kanchanaburi in my view is to rent a push bike for as little as 50 baht for the whole day or a motor bike for approx. 150-200 baht per day, or for the less energetic why not hire a cycle rickshaw but do ask the price before you get on board. (the city is a far safer place to cycle compared to the frantic and scary cities of Bangkok, Phuket or Pattaya).
Do note The Bridge on the River Kwai is only 5 km beyond central Kanchanaburi. On the Bangkok side there are cafes, shops and a small museum, along with some static very old trains to clamber over. You can walk over the Bridge (but do watch out for trains!) or cross it inside of a train, when travelling between Kanchanaburi & Nam Tok. The Bridge has its own station, ‘River Kwae Bridge Station’ which is a short distance before the Bridge again on the Bangkok side. (See more on the ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai’ and the Sai Yok National Park)
Listed below are the places I would go if I were staying again in the province especially if you intend to see both The Bridge on the River Kwai & Hellfire Pass. My suggestions are based on using the city of Kanchanaburi as a base and is best done with a group, which helps share the songthaew costs, (taxi with seats running along both flanks of the cab), if done right is a great way to get the most out of the day, as you can plan to miss the hordes of tourists and spend more time in specific attractions as the mood suits you, it is also cheaper than trying to arrange separate tours.
The National Park, is 88 km North West of Kanchanaburi, just over an hour by road. The main attraction are the seven tiers that make up the Erawan Falls. The falls are possibly the best in Thailand, take your swimming gear and take a well-earned plunge into their emerald green ponds. While the waterfalls are more spectacular in the rainy season the pools become muddy and less inviting.
Do try to get to all seven tiers of waterfalls, but do be aware that you will have to transverse water on the top 3 tiers and while the first 4 tiers are an easy trek and close together, the remaining are spread out and the terrain does become more difficult especially if you are only wearing flip-flops.
The hike is certainly worth the effort and a must for the photographer in you. The entrance fee is 200 baht per person plus 20 per motor bike (worth renting one for the day if you can ride as the total cost can be as little as 200 baht incl petrol). A word of warning the falls can get busy with tourists so try to arrive early morning or late afternoon to avoid the crush.
Watch out for two forms of creatures, both are only after a free lunch; you may find fish feasting on the soles of your feet if you go swimming, they do not hurt and are only looking dine out on your dead skin cells……. it’s quite a strange sensation. The other creature to be aware of are the wild monkeys, who are only after something to eat but will snatch anything they think will contain food so do be careful with your belongings.
If you are intending to go to Erawan National Park do think about calling in on the way to Taweechai Elephant Camp which is conveniently located halfway along route 3199 from Kanchanaburi to the Erawan Falls. Enjoy watching them at play or better still try your hand at bathing these mighty animals and if you still have a swim left in you after the falls why not take a bamboo raft along the river. There are a number of elephant camps in the province all of which are pretty similar on what they have to offer.
As with all provinces there are a good number of temples (Wat) to visit including the temple of the twin sisters, Wat Tham Sua and Wat Tham Khao Noi, along with other National Parks, an animal Safari, war cemeteries and the world’s second longest wooden bridge. Located in the village of Wang Kha, stands the Uttamanusorn Bridge or “Saphan Mon”, Thailand’s longest wooden bridge and the second longest bridge of its kind in the world.
Measuring over 400 meters, the handmade footbridge looks as if it was constructed in a bygone age, but in reality it was only built by the local Mon People in the 1980’s, to both span the Song Kalia river and to honour the local Abbot Luang Por Uttama, who provided them sanctuary as they fled the fighting in Myanmar and when they lost their homes, in the old town of Sangkhlaburi, as it disappeared in 1984, consumed by the waters of the Khao Laem Dam.
The bridge is officially named the Uttamanusorn Bridge in honour of the abbot. It is also in this district, the Mon celebrate an ancient annual event, to pay homage both lost pilgrims and banish evil and bring luck to those still living. See our post The Mon Floating Boat Festival
As I have already stated there is so much to do in the province of Kanchanaburi, that I rate it as one of the best in the Kingdom for backpackers due to its diversity and low costs and is certainly worthy of a stop-over for a few nights on your travels in the ‘Land of Smiles’.
For ideas on a one day trip to Kanchanaburi click here.
Maps and time Tables of the Thai train network
Click here for an interactive route map provided by possibly the best source of train travel in Thailand Mark Smith and ‘The man in Seat 61’ showing trains and connecting buses & ferries across Southeast Asia. For a more detailed map of the Thai rail network itself, see Dave Bernstein’s excellent downloadable Thai Rail Timetable here.
If this has wet your appetite to see this province, click on Wiki Travel For more specific details on the above incl different transport and other attractions.
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