Kanchanaburi (Thai: กาญจนบุรี) is a city at the confluence of the Rivers Kwai Noi and Kwai Yai.
For most visitors the main sight of interest is the Bridge over the River Kwai, as the start of the infamous World War II Death Railway to Burma (now Myanmar), as well as the many associated museums. There is an increasingly thriving backpacker scene taking advantage of the chilled-out riverside vibe for those who want to get away from Bangkok. Kanchanaburi is also the gateway to the surrounding province of the same name. More foreign visitors are discovering why Thais know it as one of the most beautiful provinces in the country with its easily accessible waterfalls and national parks.
Orienting yourself in Kanchanaburi is very easy. The main road, Saeng Chuto Road, runs the length of town from north to south, connecting the River Kwai Bridge, the train station, and the bus station. Running parallel to this, closer to the river, is Mae Nam Kwae Road where most of the guest houses and the local bar scene can be found.
- Tourist Authority of Thailand, Saeng Chuto Rd (Just south of the bus terminal). 08:00-16:00 daily. Distributes a useful free map of the city and province.
BKS public buses (line 81) leave from Bangkok's Southern Bus Terminal (Sai Tai Taling Chan สายใต้ตลิ่งชัน), which is far west in the suburb of Thonburi. In Kanchanaburi, there are two separate but nearby bus terminals, with 1st class buses departing from an office off Saengchuto Rd, and 2nd class buses from the larger terminal one block east.
- 1st class buses leave Bangkok every 15 minutes from 05:00-22:30, take about 2 hours, and cost 110 baht, including a bottle of water.
- 2nd class buses (new route) leave Bangkok every 20 minutes from 03:30-19:00 and take about 2 hours. Cost 110 baht. (They now claim that there is no 2nd class bus going to Kanchanaburi, yet there is, but they charge the same price as for the 1st class bus.
- 2nd class buses (old route) leave Bangkok every 15-30 minutes from 04:00-18:00 and take about 3 hours.
There are also tourist minibuses directly to/from Khao San Road, departing Kanchanaburi at 13:30 and 18:30.
There are also some buses leaving less frequently from Bangkok's Northern Mo Chit bus terminal (note: not the same as Mo Chit BTS station, and not within walking distance of it, although a standard 50 baht motorbike taxi ride is available. It's called "Mo Chit 2"). Here are the times (approximate):
First-class bus with toilet (3 hours, 122 baht): 06:00, 11:00, 14:30.
Second-class bus with no toilet inside (not sure about time and price, times are probably the same): 05:00, 07:00, 09:30, 12:30, 17:00.
Bus rides may be variable or cancelled (for example, with 14:30 being last of the day.) But there are vans available at the bus station leaving even when you're told there's no way to get there by bus! It may pay to talk to the information desk about this. Price is around 120 baht, about 2 hr.
From Nakhon Pathom, there are direct buses (2nd class only) every 15 to 30 minutes between 04:00 and 18:00, which take two hours. Alternatively, you can hop off a 1st class bus when it passes by Nakhon Pathom, but double-check with staff to ensure the route allows this and they know your plans.
From Sangkhlaburi to Kanchanaburi, you're spoilt for choice:
- Air-con VIP buses leave at 08:45, 10:45, and 14:30 and take 4 hours.
- Air-con minibuses leave at 06:30, 07:30, 11:30, 13:00, 15:30 and take 3.5 hours.
- Standard buses leave at 06:45, 08:15, 10:15, 13:15 and take 5 hours.
Trains leave Bangkok's Thonburi Train Station at 07:45 and arrive at Kanchanaburi at 10:20, with another at 13:45, arriving at 16:35. You may be interested in buying a ticket all the way to the River Kwai Bridge, since these two trains are the only ones which cross the bridge each day. 100 baht for foreigners (Oct 2018).
Be warned that reaching Thonburi Station from Khao San Rd is harder than it looks. Tuk-tuk drivers will try to charge you outrageous rates, and walking involves crossing two bridges and looping back. The best way is probably to take the passenger boat from Phra Arthit Pier to connect with a cross-river ferry that reaches the Thonburi Railway Pier. Then walk or take the open minibus from there. You can also walk a bit away from Khao San Rd and find a metered taxi that will not rip you off. The fare should be about 70 or 80 baht from Khao San on the meter.
Return trains leave at 07:25 and 14:48 from the main railway station. From the River Kwai Bridge they leave 6 minutes earlier. Riding 3rd class is an adventure in itself, and definitely recommended.
Both train services continue to/from Nam Tok, the current terminus of the Death Railway. The normal trains will charge "farang" (Westerners) 100 baht in each direction from Kanchanaburi to Wang Pho, the last station before Nam Tok. Thais pay a lot less.
The 10:30 train has a special tourist section, where the tourist price of 300 baht gets you air-con, a soft drink, and a certificate of having ridden the Death Railway.
One of the least expensive ways to get from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi is to take a train from Thonburi to Ban Pong for 14 baht (same price for Thais and foreigners), then from Ban Pong take an air conditioned bus to Kanchanaburi for 40 baht, a total of 54 baht.
Kanchanaburi is about 3 hours' drive from Bangkok, via Hwy 4 (Phetkasem)from Bangkok until it hooks up with Hwy 323, which will take you all the way to Kanchanaburi.
You can catch a taxi to Kanchanaburi and return to Bangkok for the day for around 1,700 baht. This should include stopping at the bridge over River Kwai and museum, Kanchanaburi township, the local dam and POW cemetery. You may need to pay a bit extra to visit Erawan Falls and the Tiger Temple, which is about an hour out of the town.
By limousine taxi
Bangkok Airport limousines are a comfortable and swift means of travel between Thailand's capitol and Kanchanaburi. Fares in luxury Japanese sedans are typically from 3,000-3,500 baht.
Day trips from Bangkok are commonly sold at Bangkok travel agencies. Typically, these include Toyota minibus transport from one's hotel to Kanchanaburi and back (visiting the famous bridge, Erawan National Park, etc., depending on the package), and perhaps lunch and entrance fees. One example: approximately 1,100 baht for transport, lunch, entrance fees to Erawan National Park, and the famous bridge.
Kanchanaburi is just a little too stretched out to comfortably walk. Small orange and large yellow songthaews (converted pickups) cruise up and down Saeng Chuto, connecting bus station, train station, and the bridge, and charge a standard 10 baht. Motorbike taxis and tuk-tuks are also available, with negotiable prices, and some guesthouses offer bicycle rentals. A number of places in town (mostly along Maenam Kwai Rd) rent bicycles for 50 baht/day, or motorcycles for 150-200 baht, depending on whether it is an automatic. In the area near budget accommodations/guesthouses such as Ploy, you can rent bicycles or motorcycles from Yanee at 197 Maenumkaew Rd. Remember to ask for a map and directions to popular sights.
World War II
Most of the sights in Kanchanaburi itself are directly related to the Pacific War. The museums are dusty and generally not worth it, except for the Thailand-Burma Railway Centre, which gives a good introduction of the Death Railway and its history. There are also two war cemeteries, the most moving of which is the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery.
- 1 Bridge over the River Kwai (Saphan Mae Nam Kwae) (Some 3 km north of Kanchanaburi, down New Zealand Rd, off Saeng Chuto Rd). This iron bridge across the Kwai Yai River is the main attraction for many visitors. Immortalized in the famous movie and novel, it was a part of the infamous Death Railway to Burma, constructed by POWs working for the Japanese in hellish conditions during WWII. Some 16,000 POWs and 90,000 Asian workers (most of them enslaved) died during railway construction. The present iron bridge is the second wartime incarnation (a part of the original can be found in the War Museum), but two central box spans were rebuilt after the war to replace three sections destroyed by Allied bombing.
- You can cross the bridge on foot on the central steel-plated walkway. There are small cantilevered platforms between the spans for better views and avoiding trains. The guardrails are incomplete, so be careful with small children. Off the end of the bridge, you can feed or ride an elephant bare-back at negotiated price of 600 baht per ride. It's reported that elephant is tethered on a short chain and has to stand in its own waste. Use your judgement.
- The bridge is still in use and there is a station right next to it. Trains run from Nam Tok (the train line's terminus) to River Kwai Bridge station (a little over 2 hours away) and then onward to Kanchanaburi and Bangkok.
- Food and souvenirs are available at the bridge.
- The walk to the bridge is not particularly pleasant (if you fancy a long walk, save it for the less crowded other side of the bridge), but songthaews (10 baht) run along the main road (Saeng Chuto Rd) from the centre. You'll know when to get off when you see the railway line cross the road. Then just follow the track.
- Death Railway (ทางรถไฟสายมรณะ). The strategic railway tracks began from Nong Pla Duk Station in Amphoe Ban Pong, Ratchaburi, and ran via Kanchanaburi across the Khwae Yai River, westbound to the Three Pagodas Pass, to end at Thanbuyuzayat in Burma. Total length in Thai territory was 300 km. The railway took only one year to complete, from October 1942–October 1943. After the war, some lengths of track were demolished and some submerged under the lake of Khao Laem Dam.
- 2 Chungkai War Cemetery (Either bargain with a taxi or rent a bicycle to get there; it's on the west side of the river). A neatly maintained small cemetery 2 km out of town.
- 3 JEATH War Museum (Phíphítháphan Songkhram Wát Tâi (Wat Tai War Museum)), Pak Phraek Rd (Adjacent to the Wat Chaichumphon temple complex 1 km south of town centre). 08:30-18:00. The acronym JEATH stands for the primary nationalities involved in the construction of the railway: Japanese, English, Australian, American, Thai and Holland. The free guide leaflet concludes with these salutary words, "May Peace Always Conquer Violence". Exhibits are housed in a palm hut, modeled on the type of buildings in which Death Railway POWs would have slept. Also displays a section of the first wooden bridge, recreations of the POW barracks and miscellaneous military paraphernalia. Downstairs is a somewhat incongruous exhibit of prehistoric Thailand complete with semi-erotic murals. The temple complex next door is interesting, although a cross-river boat departing from the riverside is the best attraction. The museum is time-worn, with many of the exhibits rusty or damaged by insects and the weather. Overall it is tatty and amateurish, and it may strike you as an insult to those who suffered here; far superior is the Thailand-Burma Railway Centre. 40 baht.
- 4 Kanchanaburi War Cemetery (สุสานทหารสัมพันธมิตรดอนรัก), Saeng Chuto Rd (Opposite the railway station). 07:00-14:00. This is the final resting place of 6,982 POWs who gave their lives for the construction of the Death Railway to Burma. All POWs at this site are from the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Australia. After WWII, the Allies moved all the buried POWs along the railway line to two war cemeteries in Kanchanaburi so as to be easier to maintain. The graves are set in straight lines with neatly mown lawns, and some have moving personal inscriptions. Exceptionally well maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, it is a sombre yet peaceful reminder of what happened. Free.
- 5 Thailand-Burma Railway Centre, 73 Jaokannun Rd (Next to Kanchanaburi War Cemetery, near the south of Mae Nam Khae Rd), ☏ . 09:00-17:00 daily. Generally considered to be the best source of information regarding World War II in Thailand, railway construction and route, and the conditions endured by POWs and Asian labourers. Very moving exhibits, including video and interactive displays. A visit takes at least one hour, and probably longer if you want to read everything. Fee includes a free coffee or tea at upstairs cafe, where you can sit at the window bench overlooking the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery. It is a good place to sit and reflect after your tour of the centre. Far superior to the JEATH War Museum. 140 baht.
- 6 World War II Museum and Art Gallery, Mae Nam Khwae Rd (about 50 m from the Bridge over the River Kwai). 8:30-17:30 daily. This well-signposted complex houses a bizarre collection of museums and exhibits, most of which are poorly maintained and labelled. To your left as you enter is the "War Museum", a 4 storey building encrusted with statues, which starts off with a little Burmese shrine but is mostly devoted to pre-WWII Thai history through the ages and is filled with wall paintings of kings and racks of rusty pistols. There are good views of the bridge from the roof of the riverside building. Above the WWII museum is the most bizarre section, housing (among other things) dusty stamp collections and a gallery with wall paintings of all Miss Thailand winners. The WWII and (old) Jeath Museum is lurking in the basement. 40 baht.
- Hell Fire Pass Memorial Museum (ช่องเขาขาดพิพิธภัณฑสถานแห่งความทรงจำ). Established by the Australian Government, it houses a theatre and collection of photographs, equipment, and utensils used during the construction of the Death Railway.
- 7 Wat Ban Tham (the Temple of the Golden Dragon).
- Don Chedi archaeological site
- Giant Tree
- Kuan Yum
- Wat Tham Khao Noi
- Wat Tham Khaopoon, 5 km out of town (past Chongkai War Cemetery). 20 baht entrance fee to cave complex with Buddha images.
- Wat Tham Mungkornthong
- Wat Tham Sua
The area northwest of Kanchanaburi is dominated by beautiful River Kwai valleys. It is an area of great natural beauty, with a dazzling number of waterfalls, caves, lakes, and mountainous scenery. Most attractions can be visited as a day-trip from Kanchanaburi. Independent travel is possible for most attractions, but can be a hassle as local trains and buses are slow and inflexible. If you want to see Hellfire Pass and the Erawan Falls in one day, it's almost compulsory to take one of the guided tours as there is no public bus connection between them.
- 8 LHM Motorcycle Museum (near Wat Tha Rua in Tha Maka District), ☏ . M-Sa 08:00-17:00. Unusual museum owned by the Lo Heng Mong motorbike shop. In business for more than 50 years, the business has kept an example of most motorcycles they have sold over that period. Most motorcycles are small-displacement scooters. ฿80/50 Foreigners/Thai.
- Sai Yok National Park (อุทยานแห่งชาติไทรโยค). A park since 1980, most of the area is limestone mountains with mixed deciduous forest. It is a former site of a Japanese camp during WWII as evident from traces of stoves. The park is home to the world's smallest species of bat.
- Mueang Sing Historical Park or Prasat Mueang Sing (อุทยานประวัติศาสตร์เมืองสิงห์ or ปราสาทเมืองสิงห์). The laterite sanctuary was constructed in the late Lop Buri Period, c.11–13th centuries CE. Influenced by ancient Khmer culture, its principal tower is encircled by a laterite wall, moat, and earthen mound. It was built in a mixture of the folk school of art and Bayon-style of King Jayavarman VII's period in Cambodia.
Along the Death Railway
While most visitors see the spectacular Erawan Falls, the Sai Yok Noi Falls are more accessible, because they are on the road to Sangkhlaburi. The Sai Yok Yai Falls are further away from Kanchanaburi on the same road. But beside the falls, the national park is home to limestone caves and hot springs as well. And it can easily be combined with the Hellfire Pass Memorial.
- Hellfire Pass. Only relocated in the 1980s, Konyu Cutting (known as Hellfire Pass by POWs and Asian labourers who cut and blasted through rock by hand to clear this pass for the Death Railway) has been reclaimed from the jungle as a profound war memorial funded by the Australian government. Excellent museum and self-guided walking tour facilities are available (donations welcome). Highly recommended. The descent through the jungle down to the pass (listening to oral histories through audio headsets) is a moving experience. Before leaving, take a moment to reflect at the peace lookout overlooking the beautiful Kwai Noi Valley. More challenging walking options are available. Annual Anzac Day Dawn Service are held here. 80 km northwest of Kanchanaburi. For a day trip, consider taking the morning train from Kanchanaburi to Nam Tok (2.5 hr), then samlor to the memorial (20 min); return by bus (1 hr) or afternoon train. Nam Tok to the Museum is quite a distance. It may be that your only option is a bus from the main road, which means walking from the station to there. Songthaews may be available.
- Tiger Temple (Wat Pa Luangta Bua Yanasampanno (วัดป่าหลวงตาบัว ญาณสัมปันโน)). Popularly known as the Tiger Temple, is the biggest tourist trap of the region. Admission starts at 600 baht per person, but depending on the "experience" you'd like, goes as high as 5,000 baht. The temple is nowhere to be seen, but the tigers are lounging in a dusty canyon, surrounded by minders in yellow shirts and overseen by a monk off in the corner. When they are not sitting unnaturally still, the tigers are kept in barren concrete cells. You can watch the tigers from a distance, and when your time comes, the minders will take your camera and snap a few photos of you crouching behind the dazed tiger, as well as a few close-ups of the tigers themselves. You can also pay a 1,000 baht extra for a "special" photo with a tiger, where you can have the head of a semi-unconscious one put in your lap. It's all kind of odd, but the pictures will certainly wow your friends, unless they value animal welfare over souvenirs, in which case you might seriously disappoint them. Unverified reports of a tourist being seriously mauled by the tigers abound, although it is only common sense to not annoy tigers. A few years of domestication will not erase centuries of innate wildness.
Also, you are not allowed to wear bright yellow, pink, or orange tee shirts, or they will not allow you inside. You must also sign a release form, just in case you're harmed by the many animals at the temple (there are also water buffalo and deer roaming the parkland). You must bring your own camera, because the trainers do not have any.
The tiger temple is off the road heading to Sai Yok. you can take a bus heading towards Sai Yok or Sangkhlaburi. There is a sign about 1 km before the Tiger Temple. Once you see the sign make a big fuss and run up to the front of the bus and motion that you want to get off. The temple itself is about 1-2 km down the side road. to get back to Kanchanaburi, you can either try and flag down a bus on the main road going towards Kanchanaburi or you might be able to buy a ride with one of the minibus tour groups. you can also rent a motorcycle and ride there yourself.
There have been reports from Tiger Temple volunteer workers and staff released that the tigers were maltreated and abused by the abbot of the temple and his staff. A 2008 report from the British conservation group Care for the Wild International (CWI) reveals disturbing evidence of animal abuse and illegal tiger trafficking at the temple. It has since been revealed that the animals are drugged on a daily basis, although there are some travellers reporting otherwise. There are numerous conservation and animal welfare groups campaigning against the controversial Tiger Temple, which has a track record of ill-treatment of the animals, including tigers disappearing in trucks during the night.
If you'd like to ignore the warnings of many travelers before you, as well as the reports of conservation experts, then to get to the temple, you can approach a songthaew driver at the bus terminal and ask to hire him for an afternoon as you should best visit the temple then and not in the morning. He should charge about 700 baht for a hire from 13:00-18:00.
- Erawan National Park (อุทยานแห่งชาติเอราวัณ). Formerly called Khao Salop National Park (อุทยานแห่งชาติเขาสลอบ), it was proclaimed a national park on 19 June 1975, with an area of 373,735 rai (597,976,000 m2). Later, its name was changed to Erawan National Park as the highest level of the waterfall, Namtok Erawan, looks like Elephant Erawan's head.
- The Erawan Falls are contenders for the most beautiful waterfalls in Thailand, and a must-see if time and budget allow. Entrance fee is 300 baht for foreigners. The falls are composed of seven tiers, all of which are picturesque and great for swimming. Plan to spend at least two hours hiking plus the time you want to spend swimming in the falls.
- Don't come unprepared. Wear a swimsuit and bring sunblock, since you'll want to have a dip in the turquoise pools on most levels. Don't forget to bring a towel. When swimming, watch out for fish feasting on the soles of your feet. They won't hurt you and are only looking for a meal on dead skin cells, but the feeling can be disconcerting.
- Everyone can do the hike, but don't underestimate it. Good shoes will make the trip more pleasant, though flip flops are commonly worn. At the highest levels, one may have to walk through shallow water. The first four tiers are relatively close together and the walk is very straightforward. For the more adventurous, there is a large rock at the fourth tier that can be used as a water slide. Beyond the fifth tier, the hike will become slightly more difficult. The sixth and seventh tiers are not far from each other, but the paths are not well defined at this point, so be sure to look for the hard-to-spot signs. Additionally, beware of hornets at the top tier.
- Bicycles can be rented at the entrance for 20 baht/hr, however you can only bike to the first level, which is only a 5 min walk, so they aren't really useful. Many Thais don't go further than the second level as beyond this food and beverages, except a water bottle after leaving a deposit, are not allowed.
- If you walk on the right hill side of the road leading to the park gate, rather than the road itself, you will pass nice bamboo forest and you won't be asked to pay entrance fee, since they collect it only at the toll gate if you enter by main road.
- Getting there:
- Public transport: Public Bus 8170 leaves the Kanchanaburi bus terminal every 50-60 min between 08:00-17:20. The fare is 50 baht and the ride takes ~90 min. If you stay far away north from the bus terminal, and you probably will, you can just walk to Saeng Chuto Rd from your guesthouse and hail the bus there. A good spot to hail from is right next to the war cemetery. Be sure to get an early bus, since there will be fewer people at the falls and you won't have to hurry to get back. The last bus leaves for Kanchanaburi at 16:00.
- This bus is small and rudimentary and can get completely full and this can be an uncomfortable experience if you don't get a seat (if you're tall you may not be able to fully stand). For the ride back to Kanchanaburi the schedule is: 08:30, 10:00, noon, 14:00, 15:00, 16:00, 17:00 (as read from sign at stop, edited 1/2018).
- Transport tour: Tour agencies in Bangkok commonly sell a package that includes Toyota minibus transport from your Bangkok hotel to the falls and back, with lunch and the park entrance fee of 300 baht included, for 1,100 baht. The packages are generally standardised and non-negotiable in price. Some tours also include a stop at the Bridge over the River Kwai, so inquire.
- Tour packages that visitors can purchase from the nearby hotels/resorts in Kanchanaburi may include a stop to the Erawan waterfalls and other selected tourist attractions such as elephant riding, bamboo rafting, Tiger Temple and Hellfire Pass. These packages cost around 1,600 baht and include all transportation to and from the resort, park fees, lunch and an English-speaking guide.
- Sleeping:It is possible to spend the night in the national park, meaning you get to experience the falls without the day tripper crowds. Camping sites are available on a nice green area by the riverside. The national park rents out tents from 50-300 baht (for the biggest). The park also rents out accessories such as sleeping bags, lanterns, and stoves for a very small amount. The accommodation services office is just past the car park. Bungalows are also available from 800 baht.
- For food, try the market which is a one km walk back up the road towards the highway. There it is also possible to find cheaper snacks, drinks or other items. Just remember to bring your park ticket with you to prove you have already paid. If staying in the park, there are also restaurants on the side of the parking lot of the park. Do note that they close around 18:00-19:00.
- Srinakarind National Park (อุทยานแห่งชาติเขื่อนศรีนครินทร์). It was made a national park on 23 December 1981. It has an area of 953,500 rai (1,496,800,000 m2). Attractions include Tham (cave) Sawan (ถ้ำสวรรค์), Tham Neramit (ถ้ำเนรมิต), Tham Nam Mut (ถ้ำน้ำมุด), Tham Phra Prang (ถ้ำพระปรางค์), Namtok (waterfall) Huai Mae Khamin (น้ำตกห้วยแม่ขมิ้น). Another area of beautiful natural scenery is the Srinakarind Reservoir, which is right behind the Srinakarind Dam. Unfortunately, there is no public bus service here. The beginning of this waterway is called Lumnam Jone, which is the headwaters of the famous River Kwai. It has some beautiful surroundings and crystal clear water. It is hard to get to: on foot it will take a few hours walk, and by boat it takes around 5 hr from the ferry pier at Srinakarind Dam. Lumnam Jone can only be reached by one tour operator to limit the amount of visitors to the region. The trip takes two days and one night and can only be booked for the first weekend of the month. Some other interesting sights in the area are the Phra That Cave, the Huay Mae Khamin Waterfalls and the Tham Than Lot Cave. The Srinakarind Dam has a nice cafe serving mostly Thai food and is open every day. The area has two main ethnic groups, Thais and Karen. There are several villages of mostly Karen people in Naasuan of Amphoe Sri Sawat. Near the amphoe is a small Mon village. Beyond Ong Sit village and off a side road is a Lao village called Jerot. The villagers originally came here to help clear the forest when the dam was built and ended up settling in the area. Although many of the Karen women do a wonderful job of weaving (sarongs, blouses, bags), there is no local shop that sells these products. Occasionally there will be a house that will have items for sale, but they may be hard to find.
- Elephants and Friends Conservation Camp, ☏ . The camp has the goal of helping mistreated, sick, and old elephants in Thailand and to give them a good home. As a visitor you will help in the daily care of the elephants, such as riding them (bare back) to the river for their bath, growing or collecting food (banana trees), or just playing with them. It's impossible to get there by public transport. You can get there by (rented) motorbike or arrange a pick-up from Lat Ya or Kanchanaburi. If you want to come and help, the only way to make a reservation is to call Phot Nadee, the owner, who speaks English. With him you can make an arrangement for a pick-up.
- Taweechai Elephant Camp (easy to get to from Kanchanaburi, essentially a straight line drive for 40 km along Rte 3199. There are English road signs indicating the camp. If coming by bus, take Bus 8170 bound for Erawan Falls and tell it to stop at Taweechai. You'll need to take a motorcycle taxi to the camp for 30 baht), ☏ . One of the largest elephant camps. Home to nearly 30 elephants, including one born in late-2009, Taweechai offers elephant rides, bathing with elephants (suitable for children), bamboo rafting (swimming optional) and special elephant training mahout courses. You can also buy photo frames made from elephant dung. The camp is well-maintained and nicely decorated. For example, it features the mounted skeleton of a 100 year old elephant. The elephants are well-treated and fed almost constantly. The camp owns large areas of nearby forest and at 16:00 the elephants leave the camp to spend the night wandering and grazing. They are given a very long chain so as not to be confined and in the mornings they are usually very dirty. Taweechai is halfway along the route from Kanchanaburi to the Erawan Falls and so can be included in a day trip to the falls. The majority of Western tourists have not yet discovered the camp as it seems to be visited almost exclusively by Thai and Russian tour groups. It is very busy so calling ahead to book is a good idea for groups. For couples or small groups it may be possible to turn up and ride, particularly in the low season. Admission prices vary depending on activity and group size so again it is a good idea to call ahead.
Independent-minded travellers may wish to hire a songthaew at the bus station the day before you want to travel. It should cost between 1,500-2,000 baht, and you tell the driver where you want to go. He will pick you up from your hotel in the morning as part of the deal and return you there afterwards.
For your day out, check out Hellfire Pass and the museum, 80 km from Kachanaburi. Take a couple of hours or more there, then come back along the same road to Nam tok Saiyoknoi waterfall. Erewan Waterfall is too far away for this trip but well worth a look, and there is also an old preserved steam locomotive. From there ask to go to Wang Pho village, and make sure to get the driver to stop at a market along the way to buy bulk peanuts/bananas because you want to see "ling ling" ("ling" is Thai for "monkey", and the repetition means a lot of them) On the road down to Wang Pho, the driver should veer off to the left near the bottom of the winding road leading towards the River Kwai. Here there are millions of wild monkeys or at least an awful lot of them. Enjoy yourself feeding them peanuts or bananas, they are not aggressive. You can watch all the tour buses driving past this little-known attraction. However, feeding monkeys disrupts their natural feeding habits and can make them reliant on humans for food. So, it's probably better just to watch the monkeys in their natural environment.
In Wang Pho village, take time to have a look at the place. The Death Railway has a station here, the final one before Nam Tok. The villagers are friendly, and one stall does a really good fried banana. Then go to Tam Grasae, a cave a couple of kilometres distant where the railway crosses a trestle bridge built by WWII POWs. It appears to be in original condition. The River Kwai is immediately below you, and the trestle hugs the side of the cliff in skirting it. The cave itself is well worth a look. There is a tourist market here also.
On the way back, on the main road to Kanchanaburi, depending on the time you have left, there is a temple on the way back on the right where the monks are friendly to tourists, and then the Tiger Temple on the left further along.
Events and festivals
Mineral Water and Waterfall Bathing Day (งานวันอาบน้ำแร่แช่น้ำตก); held at Hin Dat Hot Spring, at the beginning of November. In the festival, there are booths of agricultural products and tourism exhibition of Thong Pha Phum District. Visitors watching will have a chance to bathe in the Hin Dat Hot Spring and enjoy the view of Namtok Pha Tat.
Boat and Raft People's Day (งานเทศกาลชาวเรือชาวแพ); held every year at the beginning of November at Song Khwae Road near the riverside in front of the city of Kanchanaburi. Activities are folk performances, Thai typical music performance, academic exhibition concerning conservation of rivers and canals, water sports such as riding long-boat, speed-boat and jet-skiing.
River Kwae Bridge Week (งานสัปดาห์สะพานข้ามแม่น้ำแคว); held every year around the end of November until the beginning of December to commemorate the significance of the Death Railway and the Bridge over the Khwae River taking place in World War II. Visitors can see the historical and archaeological exhibition, folk performances, booths of products, entertaining activities, and light and sound show.
There are many massage parlours along Mae Nam Khwae Rd in Kanchanaburi.
- Azure Comsaed River Kwai Resort & Spa, ☏ , fax: .
- 1 FicusSpa, Felix River Kwai Resort, Block C, 9/1 Moo 3, Thamakham Amphur Meung (at Felix River Kwai Resort, walking distance from the bridge, on the opposite side of the touristy area), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. 10:00-22:00. A modern day spa set amidst lush tropical gardens beside the tranquil River Kwai (next to bridge). Spa facilities consist of 16 beds with private rooms, guest showers, and trained therapists. 560 baht.
- Foot & Thai Massage, 228/2 Tamakam Rd (Diagonally opposite Yanee (bicycle or motorbike rental)), ☏ .
- Pung Waan Resort and Spa, 72/1 Moo 2, Thamakham, ☏ , fax: .
- Rest & Relax Massage (Mae Nom Kwae Rd next to Bell's Pizza). Comfortable and relaxing interior. Convenient location. Variety of services offered. Massage starts at 150 baht/hr.
- Animal Safari, 40/2 Moo 5, Nongkum, ☏ , email@example.com. See tigers, lions, leopards, giraffes, zebras, monkeys, binturongs (bearcats). Western volunteers ensure animal welfare is constantly being improved. Minimum stay, 1 week. Volunteers pay €140 (5,356 baht) per week.
- 2 River Kwai Canoe (Kayaking), 11 Maenamkwai Rd, Tha Ma Kham, Mueang Kanchanaburi, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Guided and self-guided canoe trips in the Kanchanaburi area. Trips can be arranged.
- There are plenty of ATMs, with a 150–200 baht surcharge for using foreign cards.
- Night Market (Also known as JJ's) (In front of the train station on Saeng Chuto Rd). Nothing out of the ordinary, but quite cheap food as it's geared to locals.
- River Kwai Bookshop, 293 Maenam Kwai Rd (opposite Im-Jung open-air restaurant), ☏ . 12:30–21:00, closed W. Thousands of new and used books, categorized for easy browsing, including author-signed titles. Books bought, sold, exchanged. Ordering service. Also 2 big roofed river rafts on River Kwai for overnight (sleep aboard or ashore), day or half-day private hire. Dinner cruise, disco, karaoke, educational field trip, just viewing, or lazing in a hammock with a good book amidst idyllic river and mountain scenery.
- River Kwai Park Market (next to the bridge). Dozens of stalls selling touristy knick-knacks, but quite a few Thais seem to come here for jewellery shopping as well.
Department stores & supermarkets
- Big C Super Center, Saeng Chuto Rd (north part of town). Has a big department store & supermarket
- Tesco Lotus (Saeng Chuto Rd, to the south of town). 08:00-23:00. Large hypermarket. There is also a Tesco Express on Mae Nam Kwai Road.
- Tops Market Robinson, 110 Pak Phraek. Daily 10:00-21:00.
For cheap street eats, the market in front of the train station will fulfil all your 10 baht pad Thai needs. Street vendors parade up & down River Kwai Rd all day & night. Approximately 20 baht per serving. Many stop outside of 7-Eleven by Jolly Frog selling sausages, roti, and other small snacks. Ice cream and pastries during the day.
- Jok Isaan Thai Food. This small entirely Thai-run place doesn't actually have a name but all the locals know Jok makes some of the best food. Her location changed in early 2011 to a small, clean, building right next to the large reggae bar, Land Pole. She specialises in Isaan dishes such as lab, som tom, gai yang, and khao niew.
- Jolly Frog Restaurant, 286 Maenamkwai Rd, ☏ . 07:00-22:00. Huge menu. Lots of Thai and Western food at low prices. Fried rice with beef or pork 40 baht, egg salad 40 baht, pizza, vegetarian selection, beer from 45 baht.
- Bell's Pizzeria, 24/5 Maenamkwai Rd, ☏ . 16:00-23:00. Italian and Thai food. Bar during the afternoon. 170-220 baht for a pizza.
- Floating restaurants (next to the River Kwai Bridge). These seem to uphold the fine traditions of their brethren worldwide by serving mediocre food at inflated prices although some travellers find the food good and the price reasonable. Nice views and great atmosphere though. However, the main problem is transport back into town if you are staying there. The river and bridge are a little distant unless you are really into walking (there are songthaews though).
- Good Times Restaurant. Good Times Restaurant is open between 10:00 to 22:00 daily for lunch and dinner. The restaurant, overlooking the River Kwai with beautiful sunset view, is very popular for both locals and foreigners, with both Thai and international cuisines. Cocktails menu and Thai dessert menu. Signatures dishes there include Fried Fish with Fish Sauce Thai Style, Tom Yum Kung and Fried Banana Balls. It's inside a 40-room lodge with a garden and pond. Room rates are between 1,500 baht to 2,300 baht.
- Mangosteen Cafe and Books, 13 Maenamkwai Rd, ☏ . Daily 08:30-17:00. Thai and Western food with good service. Great coffees, apple pie, cocktails and fresh fruit drinks. One of the cleanest and best run places on the strip. Also 1,000 English language books for sale and small reference library for cafe guests.
- Schluck, 222 Mahadthai Road, ☏ . Daily 17:00-23:00. Western and Thai food. Pizza and steak are home-made. Euro-oriental décor and jazz music. from 40 baht for Thai food, 90 baht for European-style food.
There are many places where you'll be able to enjoy drinks, but most of the bars are close to the guest houses along Mae Nam Kwai Rd. Most of the bars are noisy karaoke bars popular among the locals or the usual British pubs with football on TV. Some bars have young Thai ladies on the hunt for rich foreigners.
|This guide uses the following price ranges for a standard double room:|
|Budget||Under 500 baht|
|Mid-range||500 baht to 1,500 baht|
|Splurge||Over 1,500 baht|
There are lots of guesthouses, resorts and hotels available. The density increases the nearer you get to the bridge. As usual if you book in advance they will arrange a free pick up service for you. If you haven't done so yet, you should try one night in a raft room floating on the river.
- Apple's Guesthouse, 153/4 Sutjai Bridge Moo 4 Thamakham (at the south end of Mae Nam Khai Rd), ☏ . This guesthouse features a bunch of rooms adjacent to a nice big garden outside. The rooms are fairly spacious and luxurious, and contain a hot shower. Rooms have either fan or air-con rooms, with the fan-rooms being cheaper. Rooms do not feature TVs, due to the owner's environmental concerns. There is a good restaurant attached as well, but breakfast is lacking. Portions are small, it is served late (not before 07:30) and it is not included in the room price. 490-690 baht.
- Bluestar Guesthouse, 241 Maenamkwae Rd., Thamakham (between the two 7-Elevens), ☏ . Near Sud Chai Bridge, all rooms with private toilet. Wi-Fi streams from the main counter. About half the rooms are within range. 200-450-550-750 baht.
- Nita Raft House, 27/1 Pak Parek Rd, ☏ . Check-out: 12:00. Fan single and double rooms with shared baths. Single 150, double 200..
- Ploy Resort, 79/2 Mae Nam Kwai Rd, ☏ . All rooms in Siam-style with air-con, private toilet and hot shower. Restaurant/bar with river view. Walled garden outside your room with incorporated open-air shower. Double rooms from 550 baht (Internet rate) or 650 baht, including coffee and toast for breakfast.
- Pong Phen Guesthouse, Soi Bangklated, River Kwai Rd, ☏ , email@example.com. Swimming pool, motorbike hire, shuttle/taxi services to Bangkok & the local area, and local sightseeing tours. Friendly staff, Wi-Fi, movie screenings on a large TV at 18:00. The reception is shared with the restaurant and is a good place to meet other guests. 400-950 baht.
- Rainbow Lodge, 48/5 Soi Rong Heep Aoi, Chao Kunnan Rd T (Head office at See Thailand Travel next to 7-Eleven on River Kwai Rd (Maenumkwa Rd)), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Fan single room with outside bathroom. fan double room with outsidebathroom. Peaceful location right on the banks of the River Kwai. 5 min stroll from main tourist street. Call on arrival for free pick up. single 100. double 200 baht.
- 1 Sam's Guesthouse, 14/2 Moo 1 Maenawkwae Rd, ☏ , email@example.com. All rooms come with air-con, most are wooden bungalows in a quiet area on the River Kwai. 400-1,000 baht.
- Tamarind Guesthouse, 29/1 Thamakham Rd (close to the night market), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Rooms overlook the River Kwai. Raft house and new building. Internet and Wi-Fi, travel advice, tours, transfers to other places in Thailand. Friendly staff. fan double 350 baht, a.c. double 500 baht.
- VN Guest House, 44 Rong Heeb Oil Rd, ☏ , email@example.com. all rooms have private bathrooms and Free Wi-Fi. rooms with River view add 75 baht. fan double 350 baht, a.c. double 450 baht.
- T and T Guest house, 1/14 Maenam Kwai river road (just south of the Jolly frog.), ☏ . fan single/double rooms with shared bathrooms single 150 baht, double 250 baht.
- Kasem Island Resort, 44-48 Chaichumphon Rd, Chukadon Pier River Kwai, ☏ . Fan-rafting rooms or air-con rooms with private balcony overlooking the River Kwai. An island resort on the River Kwai. Rooms for 2-3 persons.
- River Kwai Hotel, 284/15-16 Saeng Chuto Rd (Mid-way between the bus and train stations), ☏ . Centrally located hotel with a really good breakfast Thai or Western. Was once the city's fanciest hotel but now it's getting a little long in the tooth. Large swimming pool, an OK restaurant. If you want to be adventurous, better walk to the railway station some 600 m distant, turn right as you leave the hotel, go around the night market, and eat there cheaply, because this is where the locals shop and eat. Internet café, though more expensive than many other nearby cafes, beer garden, dubious massage/karaoke bar and disco. 1,000 baht.
- River Kwai Jungle Rafts. Floating rooms in the heart of the jungle near Saiyok Kanchanaburi.
- Saiyok River House, ☏ . Rooms are for two persons, three persons & six persons. There is a three-bedroom house for couples or a family.
- Felix River Kwai Resort, 9/1 Moo3, Thamakham, ☏ . Walking distance from the bridge, just on the opposite side from the main touristy area. Nice, well-maintained facilities, with several restaurants, Internet access in the lobby, massage parlour, air-con rooms. From 1,418 baht.
- Nakakiri River Kwai Resort, Hin Dat, ☏ . One of the largest River Kwai resorts. You can enjoy their hot springs, huge ATV track, giant swimming pool, and nearby waterfall, while staying in jungle river raft houses, one of the fancier hotel rooms overlooking the river, or the top locations — poolside or river view villas. From 1,350 baht.
- Pavilion Rim Kwai, 234 Thanon Lat Ya-Erawan, ☏ . Beautifully landscaped gardens on the banks of the River Kwai.
- Royal River Kwai Resort and Spa, 88 Moo 2 Road Kaeng Sian, ☏ . Great views, OK breakfast, helpful staff but a distance from the town itself. Tranquil environment and twice-daily (10:30 and 14:30) shuttle service that can be booked for the entire afternoon. From 3409 baht.
- U Inchantree Resort, 443 Mae Nam Kwai Road Tha Ma Kham (5 min walk from the bridge), ☏ . 26 small but well-equipped modern rooms. Luxury bed and duvet, LCD cable TV, iPod. Friendly attentive staff, restaurant and riverside terrace. Fitness room, library and free Wi-Fi. Located on a bend in the river offering views of the mountains in the distance. From 3500 baht including continental buffet and bespoke breakfast for 2.
Most of the guesthouses along Mae Nam Kwai Rd purport to have Wi-Fi. Some of the bars lined up along that road also have Wi-Fi.
- Kanchanburi Library, Saeng Chuto road (300 m from war cemetery). Has free internet. There are 10 desktop computers to use. Also has Thai English newspapers.
- Bangkok — most visitors get out where they came from
- Nakhon Pathom — the world's largest stupa makes a good pitstop along the way to Bangkok
- Sangkhlaburi — last town before the Three Pagodas Pass border crossing into Myanmar
- Three Pagodas Pass — the border between Thailand and Myanmar, 4 hours away by bus
|Routes through Kanchanaburi|
|Bangkok ← Nakhon Pathom ←||N S||→ River Kwai Bridge → Nam Tok|