In western Thailand’s lush Kanchanaburi region, you can experience the good, the bad, and the ugly…
Updating this post and splitting it into two parts for your easy reading.
In Part 1 – the good – of Thailand’s Kanchanaburi, I share where Kanchanaburi is in Thailand, how to get there from Bangkok, where to eat, and where to sleep. Check Part 2 for an incredibly moving experience to historical sites such as the infamous Death Railway, Hellfire Pass, Bridge over River Kwai, and of course, Kanchanaburi War and Chungkai Cemeteries. Travelling in SE Asia during 2014 while also volunteering.
Where is Kanchanaburi?
Nestled in western Thailand’s jungle-clad mountains and high plains, the infamous Kanchanaburi is at the confluence of the Khwae Noi and Khwae Yai Rivers, which converge into the Mae Klong River.
This area of Thailand is renowned for its untamed jungle but mostly, for the ugly part that it played during the inhumane treatment of POWs in WWII.
Getting there from Bangkok
Hoping to take trains as much as possible when starting this long-term travel through Asia, mainly to avoid the treacherous roads, this sketchy plan proves futile. I’m not keen on the locals’ driving in Thailand as it can be quite dangerous with many accidents – although nothing like drivers in Vietnam.
Trains in Thailand are either non-existent, take much longer, and are more expensive than buses, although decide to indulge a little this time. The train from Thonburi station in Bangkok to Kanchanaburi leaves at 13:55hrs for the two-and-a-half-hour journey. A surprisingly easy and pleasant trip but just wish there were more trains in Thailand.
A little on Kanchanaburi
Beautiful River Kwai Valleys dominate Kanchanaburi’s northwest area and with great natural beauty, numerous waterfalls, lakes, caves, and mountainous scenery, it’s a not-to-be-missed destination.
You can visit many attractions from Kanchanaburi as a day trip. The best way to visit the sights is by hiring a scooter as typically, local trains and buses are slow and infrequent.
Because of Kanchanaburi’s proximity to Bangkok, this makes it easy for many locals and foreign tourists to use Kanchanaburi as a chill-out spot getaway. And so, the town is also experiencing an ever-increasing and thriving tourist scene including a plethora of backpackers.
Wat Tham Khaopoon
Save yourself 10B (increased to 20B in 2015) and don’t bother with this cave as it is nothing special – a cave with Buddha images, but perhaps I am being too harsh.
You have to get there by scooter or other transport (if available) as the cave is 5-kilometres out of town, past Chongkai War Cemetery, and too far to walk from Kanchanaburi.
Walking around in the cave only takes ten minutes and there isn’t much of anything on offer really. I hear that there are more impressive caves in this region than the Wat Tham Khaopoon.
After the walks and sights above, and if you’re still feeling energetic, Kanchanaburi is surrounded by easily accessible waterfalls, national parks, and as always, a plethora of temples to explore on your visit.
Where to sleep
The small but comfortable double room with a private bathroom in the Baan Ma Feung Guest House (257/1 Baannue, Sangchuto Road), does not include breakfast. Although, the small restaurant on the premise offers the best coffee in Kanchanaburi and a good breakfast, at reasonable prices.
The service is great and you won’t be disappointed. The guest house’s location is around a 20-minute walk to the museums but only a 10-minute walk before you hit roadside food stalls and restaurants selling deliciously scrumptious food.
Where to eat
As with everywhere in Thailand or SE Asia for that matter, the street food surrounds you and it isn’t far before running into a food hawker, typically, on the next block!
This is where we eat each night as it is cheap, fresh, delicious, and no-frills but definitely hits the hunger pangs.
There is a local that cooks delicious soup dishes out of the back of his utility truck and is busy with locals every night; ate here a couple of nights as the food is good, fast service, and very cheap at 30-40B chicken soup bowl, at the time of writing.
If you feel like splashing out on an expensive meal, then Kanchanaburi offers many expensive touristy restaurants also offering western food as the city is a major tourist destination.
Wanting to do another stint but shorter this time volunteering for the Foundation for Education and Development (FED), the same organisation again as in Khao Lak, so venture by bus to the next destination.
The small city of Mae Sot in Western Thailand is along the Burma-Thailand border. Visiting Mae Sot in 1989 when it was only a small gem-trading village, I can only imagine the changes over the past decades and hope that the changes are for the better.