An ultimate guide to Kanchanaburi

Things to do in Kanchanaburi

Kanchanaburi is on the edge of the mountains that run up the line between Thailand and Myanmar. Take a walk over this historic landmark, which has become the symbol of the infamous Thailand-Burma railway.
If ever you have a good fortune to visit Thailand, we'd recommend at least a full day be allocated to Kanchanaburi.
Nowadays, Kanchanaburi is a well-known weekending escape for locals of Bangkok, a much-adored hiker visit in the core of the Land of Smiles.
There's a fairly wide array of places to stay in and around Kanchanaburi, including several excellent options with some particularly attractive establishments lining the riverside.
A simple 85 miles west of Bangkok, it's the capital of its district. It spreads right to the wilderness town of Payathonzu through the wilds of Khao Laem National Park and Erawan.

It is an absolute necessity for history buffs.




Recreational Activities at the Bridge on the River Kwai

Explore the historical region of the River Kwai on this journey to West Thailand.
With so much to see and experience, you'll want to be able to travel to Kanchanaburi quickly and affordably. Here is a beneficial guide that should enable you to make the most of your own Kanchanaburi adventure.

  • Walk and relax along the River Kwai
  • See Hellfire Pass
  • Local guide shops in Kanchanaburi have various itineraries from day trips to week-long jungle treks, including rafting, and elephant rides
  • Visits to tribal villages, including national parks surrounding the town
  • Indulge in exquisite floating restaurants and scenic views
  • Visit JEATH museum
  • Kanchanaburi war cemetery


River Kwai


Commuting in The River Kwai Bridge 

Kanchanaburi is one of the prominent first stops for travelers making their way through Thailand from buzzing Bangkok. Today, you can visit Kanchanaburi, ironically made easily accessible via the railway. 
It's well-linked to the capital by bus and train. You can catch the train from the town to the infamous Hellfire pass.
The bus is the simplest and quickest way to arrive at the location. It costs approximately 150 THB for a seat in an air-conditioned minivan that carries 12 people, with four hours long journey.
You might discover the train is a much exciting option, however. It rolls through the edges of Bangkok, past ramshackle neighborhoods of crooked Thai cottages and markets, and eventually breaks into open countryside.
Two trains a day leave Bangkok Thonburi Station, on the West side of the river in Bangkok. Crossing the bridge itself while running alongside the scenic River Kwai over the Wampo Viaduct to Nam Tok.
You'll see farms, rice paddies, rivers, and little villages go by before you enter the karst mountains towards the west. To catch the train at Thonburi Station, you need to find an auto, carriage, or taxi.
The station is on the western edge of Bangkok and isn't well linked to other districts in the city.
No reservation is necessary; they cannot sell out; just turn up, buy a ticket and hop on any time before it leaves.
Hiring a private taxi to Kanchanaburi is a sound option. Usually, rates range from 800 THB to 1,500 THB for each way. But, it depends on how good you are at haggling!


The Bridge of River Kwai


Accommodation Facilities at Kanchanaburi and The River Kwai

The otherwise unassuming Thai town of Kanchanaburi is famous for being the actual River Kwai Bridge site.

With luxurious resorts, fine-dining restaurants, and cafes are alike clustered along its banks, providing an amazing array of cuisine and accommodation, visitors can enjoy scenic views aplenty.

With backpacker, mid-level, and high-end options available, you shouldn't be having too much trouble finding a bed meeting your budget with chic accommodation – from simple guesthouses to more luxury lodgings located on the Kwai riverfront itself.

There's a lot to do and see in the town of Kanchanaburi

Walk over the Bridge of River Kwai:

The bridge is now surrounded by cafes, shops, and small museums. Another exciting excursion is to walk towards New Zealand Alley's end. 

Metal grids are laid to help create a safe walking path. There are protruding platforms for use if a train comes.

A photo spot on the top is less busy at the opposite side of the Kwai, where a dusty marketplace has views of the iron girders of the bridge itself, not to mention the rugged mountains behind.


Walk over the Bridge of River Kwai


Relax Along the River Kwai:

After experiencing the busy buzz of Thailand's capital, Mae Nam Kwae Road along the River Kwai gives you a break, and it is just what a traveler need.

The stretch parallels to the river are crammed with guesthouses, bars, cafes for eating and socializing. The road isn't relaxing. However, serenity is behind the location.

Many of the cafes and guesthouses also have green gardens with lounge areas that link up to the river. while you enjoy a lazy afternoon lying in a hammock beneath a plumeria tree or on a deck with a glass of Leo, cold Chang, or Singha.

However, try not to lose your Zen when the occasional party boat passes by blaring full-volume karaoke or disco.

Go See Hellfire Pass and Memorial Museum:

Hellfire Pass is a sound 90-minute drive from Kanchanaburi on the way to Sai Yok National Park. On a pleasant day can be enjoyed by combining the two.
While the iron bridge attracts tourists with some big-screen infamy, Hellfire Pass is authentic to the core. The Australian government helped in making Jungle railway cutting (Konyu Cutting) into an elaborate war memorial.

The Prisoners Of Wars worked relentlessly in constructing the pass, and more than thousands are documented as beaten to death or died of bitter conditions. However, many conscripted Southeast Asian laborers perished while completing the problematic project.
You can stroll to the old railway track into the jungle and visit a memorial museum honoring those sho dies. Expect the trek to take at least 4 or 5 hours.
The museum provides history and audio headsets that really enhance the trail walk. Audio headsets are available and also recommended to maximize the experience at the Memorial Museum at Hellfire Pass.  
Note: The many stairs and slippery trails may make the walk inaccessible for some visitors.


Hellfire Pass


Swim at the Erawan Falls:

Erawan National Park's calling card is about an hour's drive north of Kanchanaburi.
Swimming in the multi-leveled pools of the Erawan Falls is the most popular thing to do in Kanchanaburi away from the bridge.
You're uniquely shaded by the surrounding greenery, and if you stand still, you might feel the tickle of fish on your toes.
The picturesque emerald green-colored pools are a popular spot for a swim, and it's possible to take a scenic hike to the top of the falls.
The seven Erawan Falls can easily make it the most photogenic waterfalls in all of Thailand—especially during the dry months when rain runoff hasn't clouded the water.
They are a serene location surrounded by lush vegetation and limestone mountains.
Unfortunately, the word is out; you'll have to share the swimming holes with large tour groups.
Things go mellow a bit in the afternoon after tour groups leave. However, remember that the top waterfall tiers close at 3 p.m; sharp.

Keep an eye out for the macaques who are cheeky and grab belongings. It is forbidden to encourage them with food offerings!


Erawan Waterfalls


Khuean Srinagarindra National Park:

The area is surrounded by lushly-cloaked hills; SrinagarindDam, along the Khwae Yai River, is the centerpiece of peaceful Khuean Srinagarindra National Park.
Within its borders are impressive cave systems with stalagmites and stalactites, and the park is also home to a diverse range of wildlife, including civets, bats, leopards, and slow lorises.
Definitely, Less crowded than the popular Erawan National Park, this peaceful location features the following attractions:

1. The beautiful Srinagarind Dam
2. Huay Mae Khamin waterfalls
3. Caves with stalagmites and stalactites
4. Leopards, bats, civets, slow lorises

While you are here, make sure to visit the Huay Mae Khamin Waterfalls. You can reach by boat, a 4WD vehicle with an expert driver. Also, The small park near the viewpoint over the dam makes a lovely place for a picnic.

Visit an Elephant Sanctuary:

A number of elephant camps and sanctuaries are found in the Tham Than Lot National Park. The park is also called Chaloem Rattanakosin National Park, located northeast of Erawan and the hydroelectric dam.
Numerous wildlife conservation groups now advise against riding elephants; conditions for elephants are questionable at some of these camps.
Elephants World, one of the sustainable choices in the area, allows visitors a chance to interact with elephants in a helpful way without riding them. Elephants aren't forced to perform.
Western volunteers live and work on-site to help with care.
The sanctuary provides a pick-up service from Kanchanaburi. There are other interesting things to do in the national park as well. You can also drive yourself and overnight to look around.


Elephants World Kanchanaburi


Marvel at a Giant Tree:

A rain tree, Albizia saman, is over 100 years old south of Kanchanaburi, is an exotic sight.

The tree uniquely stands alone in the middle of a lot, making it even more prominent, giving visual delight, cool retreat, and a break from the hot tropical sun. It's an impressive sight with an impressive set of statistics.

Massive canopy spans over 60 feet outward. The view is impressive during rainy months when all covered in greenery. Since the tree is considered sacred, it is not allowed to climb on it.
The tree is extremely popular; several hundred people often head out to see it on the weekends. 
Wat Tham Mangkonthong cave is located nearby and worth a look. You can also climb up the stairs to enter the dragon place. It is a working temple, hence rules of temple etiquette prevailing in Thailand apply.

Take Highway 3429 south from Kanchanaburi, turn left after the Wat ThamMangkonthong school, to reach both locations.


Giant Rain Tree Kanchanaburi


Tour the World War II Museums:

Overlooking the main road near the bridge and over the River Kwai, you'll find two gems. Arts Gallery, War Museum, along with the JEATH War Museum. JEATH stands for "Japan, England, Australia, Thailand, Holland."
A hodgepodge of exhibits shows daily life, including sleeping barracks, for the POWs. Old photos and recreated scenes compete for dusty spaces.
Although exhibits are poorly labeled and confusing (sometimes bordering on bizarre), no one could leave the Arts Gallery and War Museum and say it wasn't interesting!
Subject matter ranges from war history—as one would expect—to Miss Thailand winners, kings of Thailand, and even some prehistoric stuff is thrown in for good measure.

Tiger Temple (Wat Pa Luang Ta Bua):

The temple has become a controversial landmark has garnered the most famous amongst the international crowd.

It is known for its exciting tiger sanctuary and Tiger Temple, which shelters more than 60 Indochinese tigers and cubs. After paying a reasonably expensive entrance fee, you experience watching the tigers going about their daily routine.

There are also several photo-taking opportunities with the tigers. If you wish to get real close to them, though, you will be required to pay a higher fee. For the curious mind, a visit to this temple may prove to be an interesting experience.


Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi


Dinner and drinks on the riverside:

One cannot deny how pretty Kanchanaburi can be. The River Kwai is an ideal destination for a relaxing holiday.
Clusters of lily pads bloom with lotus flowers on Kwai River's surface. It drifts in slow motion throughout the midst of the town. Surrounding the lake, charming little cafés, restaurants, and hotels offer places to sit, eat and relax, along with views across the water overlooking the craggy mountains just over the horizon.

It's best to try and grab a good place for the evening sunset. When the light goes down behind the summits in the west, and ochre-red hues shimmer over the jungles and rice paddies.
It's fun to wander around a sample a few local delights.
Travelers who crave adventure can opt to dine on one of the waterway's famous floating restaurants, while the eponymous bridge towards the west end of town is a veritable must-see.


Floating restaurants on River Kwai


Best Time To Visit Kanchanaburi

It's possible to visit Kanchanaburi year-round, but the best time of year is from late October to February when there's little rain and temperatures are comfortably warm.