Located less than a two hour drive from Bangkok, Kanchanaburi is celebrated for her splendid natural beauty, rich history and easy accessibility of the region. While many foreign visitors flock to the area to explore the region’s World War II past, the dazzling national parks, waterfalls, caves, rivers and lakes scattered across the region are also well worth a visit. The origins of Kanchanaburi date back to the reign of King Rama I, who pinpointed the city as a strategic defensive location against invading Burmese troops in the 1780s. The provincial capital, Kanchanaburi, is nestled at the confluence point of the majestic Kwai Noi and Kwai Yai Rivers. Tucked away by a range of mountains behind the city, the temperature in Kanchanaburi is often a little cooler than Bangkok, despite the relatively small distance between the cities. However, its close proximity to the capital means that Kanchanaburi often acts as a gateway destination for visitors exploring the rest of the Kingdom.
The museum itself houses many relics that have been preserved from the construction of the railway, which include tools and personal items that belonged to the prisoners.
Other attractions documenting the region's tragic history include the JEATH War Museum within Kanchanaburi. Constructed in the 1970s, the museum is positioned on the grounds of an ancient temple at the confluence point of the Kwai Noi and Khwae Yai Rivers. "JEATH" is an acronym which stands for the Japanese, English, American, Australian and Holland nationalities who took part in the construction of the Death Railway, and the museum offers visitors a moving insight into what everyday life would have been like for the prisoners forced to build the railway.
Elephants: For many tourists, a trip to Thailand would not be complete without encountering an elephant, which happens to be the national animal of the Kingdom. Kanchanaburi's Elephant World offers a safe home for elephants that have suffered serious injuries, or are too old for other elephant camps. Visitors can help care for the elephants by feeding and bathing them before leading them to the protected forested area where they sleep. Taweechai Elephant Camp is another option.
Tourists who want to pick up a few local souvenirs should make their way to the River Kwai Park Market, which is located directly adjacent to the famous bridge. They will find a treasure trove of stalls selling a range of souvenir knick-knacks, in addition to a collection of jewelery stalls that have become a favorite with many of the local Thais.
Kanchanaburi’s Night Market is the place to go to rub shoulders with the local community whilst they are doing their shopping. Situated in front of the train station on the Saeng Chuto Road, shoppers should not expect to find any goods that are wildly out of the ordinary, but can enjoy haggling for bargains with the local stall owners.
Kanchanaburi is also home to a variety of eateries for visitors who would prefer to relax after a long day of sight-seeing with a sit-down meal. For authentic Isaan flavors, head to Jok Isaan Food, a small Thai- run hole in the wall near to the Land Pole bar. Issan dishes such as larb, som tam and khao niew are some of the specialties visitors can expect to devour at Jok’s, for reasonable prices. For a real protein feast, the all-you-can-eat barbecue in Sang Chuto Road will leave diners’ waistlines uncomfortably tight after cooking up a selection of food at the table.
A vibrant nightlife scene has emerged in recent years in Kanchanaburi.
Motorbike taxis and tuk-tuks are also common means of transportation in Kanchanaburi, and again, prices should be negotiated with the driver before hopping aboard.
Visitors who don’t mind challenging themselves with a little exercise may prefer to rent a bicycle, or even a motorbike. Many rental places can be found along the Maenam Kwai Road, and renters can expect to pay somewhere in the region of THB50 (US$1.60) per day for a bicycle, or THB150-200 (US$4.80 – 6.40) per day for a motorbike. Alternatively, many visitors choose to rent out a bicycle or motorbike through their guest house.
Visitors who want to explore the sights of Kanchanaburi’s selection of national parks would be wise to rent a car, as the most popular sights and viewpoints are very spread out. If you are planning on exploring the delights of Kanchanaburi independently, it is wise to invest in a map to find your way to the most popular sights, then back to your hotel at the end of the day!
Kanchanaburi is give or take three hours from Bangkok. Taxis go on a fixed fare for routes out of the capital, which averages out to approximately THB 2,000 (~US$60) per trip depending on how hard you negotiate. However, it is not recommended that you take a taxi for reasons of driving safety. Bangkok taxis can be notorious for unnecessary speeding and unsafe driving.
Minivans to Kanchanaburi depart from the BTS station at Victory Monument in Bangkok. Minivans leave regularly, approximately every 15 minutes on average, or whenever they have enough passengers to fill all of the seats. Each seat from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi costs approximately THB 150 (US$4.80. However, if getting to a River Kwai Resort is your goal, you are in for a long day of many stops along the way and then of course the mini van only drops you off at one location in Kanchanaburi and your Thai speaking skills will need to be very good in order to find your way to "the pier" which you need to be at, at very specific times in order to catch a long tail boat to your resort.
We highly recommend visitors take any one of the many River Kwai 2 night / 3 day tour packages. Whether you stay at exciting Jungle Rafts, or luxurious Floathouse River Kwai or adventurous Hintok River Camp. These tours include pick up and drop off at your Bangkok Hotel.
Visitors traveling into Kanchanaburi by rail can take one of two trains from Bangkok’s Thonburi Station that leave at 07:50 a.m. and 1:55 p.m., arriving within three hours later.
Travelers hoping to visit cross the Kwai Bridge may prefer to buy a ticket all the way to Nam Tok terminal station, which will add another two hours approximately to the journey.
As Thonburi Station is not centrally located in Bangkok, the best way to access it is generally to cross the river in the passenger boat from Phra Arthit Pier and either walk to the station or catch an open minibus upon disembarkation.
Public buses depart from Bangkok’s Southern Bus Terminal, Sai Tai Mai in Taling Chan. First class buses leave Bangkok regularly throughout the day, and take about two to three hours. The cost per ticket is approximately THB110 (US$3.50).
Visitors can save a little money by taking the second class bus, which costs only THB95 (US$3) and leaves the terminal around every 20 minutes. However, travelers should note that buses traveling on the old second class route often take up to one hour longer to reach Kanchanaburi.
For visitors based in the Northern part of Bangkok, buses also depart for Kanchanaburi from the Mo Chit Bus Terminal, although less frequently, and the bus journey is slightly longer at about four hours.