Located in west Thailand, about an hour’s drive from Bangkok, I would argue that Kanchanaburi offers a more authentic experience than some of Thailand’s more popular destinations. It’s less crowded than bustling Bangkok, possesses the charm of Chang Mai, and contains plenty to see and do; whether you’re a foodie, party animal, outdoor enthusiast or culture vulture, you certainly won’t be disappointed. Kanchanaburi may not be the first place that springs to mind when planning a trip to Thailand, but it won’t disappoint!
Play with elephants at ElephantsWorld
ElephantsWorld is a non-profit organisation whose slogan is: “We work for the elephants”. They opened in 2008 to take care of old, sick and abandoned elephants. You have the option of a day visit, an overnight stay, or the forest programme which can last up to 4 weeks. Depending on your package you will spend time gathering food, feeding and learning about these majestic creatures. This is one of the more ethical ways to get up close and personal with these gentle giants in Thailand.
Visit Erawan Falls
Located in Erawan National Park, visit these stunning waterfalls which cascade over 7 tiers. You could certainly spend all day here exploring caves and playing in crystal clear rock pools. Keep your eyes peeled on the upper tiers for mischievous monkeys.
See the Bridge on the River Kwai
This historic site was made famous by a series of films and books narrating the harrowing tale of how the bridge and railway line came to be. Also known as “The Death Railway”, the line stands as a reminder of Kanchanaburi’s role in WW2. The bridge and railway were constructed by forced labourers from Thailand, Burma and Allied POWs.
“For every sleeper laid, a life was lost
For every life lost, a sleeper was laid
Sleep in peace, the crosses you bear
Over 90,000 crosses, remember in prayer”
Take a cookery class
Learn to cook the Thai way, by learning from the locals. There are several places that offer this within the city centre. There’s no way better to impress your family and friends back home than cooking up an authentic Thai banquet upon your return.
Have a night out on backpacker street.
“Backpacker Street” is the nickname given to a district within Kanchanaburi known for its lively bars and restaurants serving western dishes. Chill out with a matcha latte in 10 O’Clock café, or head to 10 Baht Bar or Sugar Members for a wild night out.
Visit Hellfire Pass
This is a section of the Death Railway line you can visit and observe the conditions and what it was like for Allied POWs and forced labourers. Hellfire Pass is literally a section of mountain that was carved out to make way for the railway line into Burma. You can spend a full afternoon here but be prepared, it’s an emotional one.
Explore unique temples
There are hillside and cave temples scattered around Kanchanaburi, so there is plenty for you to explore. Wat Ban Tham is also known as “The Dragon Cave”. Be prepared for lots of stairs on the way up, but there are fascinating caves to distract you on the way up. The view from the top offers panoramic views of the surrounding lush landscape. Wat Tham Seua is another hilltop gem and perhaps the most impressive. See the massive golden Buddha statue at the top and marvel at the colourful paintings on the walls.
Hit the market
The JJ Mall is a bustling market popular with locals and visitors alike. Sensory overload are two words that sum this night market up perfectly!
Kayak down the idyllic and beautiful river Kwai taking in the beautiful lush landscapes. If your super active, you can combine a kayaking tour with a biking tour too. Booking excursions like these when you arrive tend to be cheaper than pre-booking, but if you like to be organised (unlike myself), then this is an option too.
Where to stay
Accommodation in Thailand is quite cheap in general. Fortunately, because Kanchanaburi is not a “touristy” hotspot in the same sense as Phuket etc.
Sam’s house: A quiet relaxing guesthouse. Friendly atmosphere. Poor wifi.
Pongphen Guesthouse: Beautiful views, a pool and bar area. Rooms vary, some were nicer than others. Bungalows also available. Free wifi.
River Kwai Hotel: Clean, modern rooms with en-suite. Outdoor pool with gym area.
Pung Waan: Beautiful grounds and interiors, relaxing pool with gorgeous views. Free wifi. Restaurant serving quality meals.
Ask in the comments if there’s anything else you would like to know!