River Kwai Tours & Travel Guide

Kanchanaburi Province & River Kwai Region



Home to National Parks

The fertile region features a landscape blanked with with sugar cane fields, lush jungle greenery, and peppered with limestone hills. The River Kwai was made famous in the West by the 1957 film, “Bridge Over the River Kwai”. Thousands of allied prisoners of war and forced laborers lost their lives in Kanchanaburi during the construction of a Japanese supply line linking Bangkok to Burma, lending to the route's infamous “Death Railway” moniker. In addition to the rich historical attractions that dominate many visits to Kanchanaburi, nature lovers could not hope to find a more pristine area in the whole of Thailand. Spread across a total of almost 20,000 sq km in total, Kanchanaburi is home to seven national parks that offer many opportunities for exploration and a serene landscape that inspires.

A misty morning on the River Kwai


River Kwai Tour Packages

Bridge Over the River Kwai

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. 

Bridge on the River Kwai


Bridge Over the River Kwai

One of Kanchanaburi’s main attractions for foreign tourists is undoubtedly the infamous Bridge over the River Kwai, Kanchanaburi city’s signature landmark. Approximately 100,000 prisoners of war and forced labourers lost their lives building the Death Railway, as it became known in later years. The Kwai Bridge is still utilized for local transport and visitors that have made the journey to Kanchanaburi can cross the bridge on a special walkway. Visitors can also take a look at the genuine World War II locomotives displayed near to the bridge.

The famous bridge by day


Hell Fire Pass

One for History Buffs

History buffs often make the 80km journey from the main city to the Hellfire Pass, a section of the railway that was cut through solid rock by hand. The Hellfire Pass, also known as Konyu Cutting, is widely acknowledged to have been the most deadly section of the Death Railway for construction workers. For some this can be an emotional experience. For others, its a lesson in one of the many human dramas that played out in WWII. Either way, Thai's have preserved Hell Fire Pass and when combined with the WWII museum it makes for an interesting off the beaten path travel experience. However, the resorts themselves on the river are always a relaxing highlight.

Hell Fire Pass through solid rock dug by hand


Museums

Jeath War Museum

Visitors can learn more about the construction of the Hellfire Pass with self-guided audio tour headsets from the nearby Hellfire Pass Museum as they walk along selected parts of the Cutting to the viewpoint at the end that overlooks the Kwai Noi Valley.

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.

Yes its a big bomb


Caves

Wat Tham Khao Pun

Wat Tham Khao Pun, a temple comprised of a cave network, is perhaps one of Kanchanaburi's most unique cultural attractions. In the Thai language, Wat means temple and Tham means cave. You will find that Thai's make good use of caves in this fashion. Visitors can reach the main temple by ascending a flight of stairs before encountering a Buddha statue that is illuminated by the sunlight gleaming through the roof of the cave. Another of the region's famous caves is Tham Lawa, which is a 45 mile jaunt from the city, where visitors can explore the many cave chambers. If you stay at Floathouse Resort, be sure to check out the close by cave.

Fantastic cave a 15 minute hike from Floathouse River Kwai Resort


National Park

National Parks

Erawan National Park boasts some of Kanchanaburi’s finest natural attractions, including a seven-tier waterfall that bumels down over craggy limestone hills and rich, tropical greenery. Each level of the waterfall has a pool for visitors to refresh themselves with a quick dip, and an area for sunbathing. Khao Lem National Park is accessed via Thailand’s longest wooden bridge, Mon Bridge. Visitors engage in the tradition of giving monks alms before crossing the bridge and visiting the Bo Ong Temple, one of the park’s spectacular cultural treasures. A trip to the Khao Laem reservoir and Kreng Kra Wai caves are also a must if you have made the journey out to the park.

Erawan Waterfalls


River Activity

Activities on the River

Visitors who want a reprieve from exploring the tragic sites associated with Kanchanaburi's World War II history have a host of natural and cultural attractions to choose from.

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.

Elephant riding near Jungle Rafts Resort


River Swimming

A Refreshing Float Downstream

A popular past time on the River Kwai is to float down the river, just let the current take you for a ride. It's an enjoyable way to cool off or just relax. Don't worry, arrangements are easily made to pick you up and bring you back to your Jungle Rafts, Floathouse River Kwai Resort, Hintok River Camp or Home Phutoey Resort. An effortless float can be as short or as long as you like and its a nice way to take in the scenery.

A refreshing dip in the River Kwai


Temple

Hilltop Temples

Wat Tham Seua can be found approximately 10 miles south of Kanchanaburi city. The Tiger Cave Monastery, as it's also known, is home to an impressive 60 ft Buddha statue, which is adorned with a striking gold mosaic. Nearby, visitors can visit the Wat Tham Khao Noi, which can be reached by foot or by cable car if you are in the mood for something a little more exciting.

Markets & Shopping

The majority of visitors make the trip up to Kanchanaburi province to explore the region’s rich history and natural treasures rather than for a day of retail therapy. However, there are still a number of locations in Kan City where it is possible to burn some of the baht that may be burning a hole in your pocket. Kanokkarn is an indoor mall where shoppers can expect to find everything that they would expect in a Western department store, including branded clothing and electrical gadgets. The top floor of the mall is a bustling hotspot for phone and computer tablet accessories.

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.


Restaurants & Nightlife

Kanchanaburi is the perfect destination for visitors who want to indulge in some of Thailand’s world famous and delectable street food dishes. At the evening market in front of the train station, hungry passers-by can gorge themselves on Pad Thai noodles, chicken curry and spicy papaya salad for the cheapest of prices. It is wise to check how much the locals are paying at street stalls to make sure you aren’t overpaying. The area surrounding Mae Nam Kwai Road offers visitors more of a local experience, where they can purchase delicious snack-type morsels from the same stalls as the locals.

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. 

Quiet evenings are guaranteed at Floathouse Resort on River Kwai

Floating Restaurants

The city’s nightlife comprises a selection of bars, pubs and karaoke joints, all of which are equally as popular with local Thais as with visiting foreigners. Most of the bars are near to the guest houses on Mae Nam Kwai Road. For visitors in need of their “pub” fix, Four 9’s Bar/ Red Kangaroo is a British/ Australian style bar which shows live sports and stays open as late as its last customer. If you are partial to smoking a little shisha, head to Sugar Members Bar on the Mae Nam Kwai Road. This venue is usually packed to the rafters with a backpacker crowd enjoying Chang Beer to loud music. For a relaxed way to spend an evening, just stay on your private deck at River Kwai Float House Resort. The peacefulness cannot be matched anywhere.

One of many floating restaurants in and around Kanchanaburi


Getting Around

Getting Around Kanchanaburi

Due to the city’s large size and the way it is stretched out, most visitors have to invest in some form of transport rather than making their way around on foot. Songtaews are a popular and cheap way to get around the city, and to travel up and down the main artery – Saeng Chuto road – between the hours of 6:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. The open-air converted pickup trucks also connect the city bus terminal, the train station and the famed bridge. If you decide to travel by songtaew, you can expect to pay around THB10 (US$0.30) per journey, however, you should always reconfirm your fare with the driver before boarding.

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!


Getting In and Out

Getting in and out of Kanchanaburi

By Taxi

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.

By Minivan

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.

Train and Bus

By Train

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.

By Bus

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.