Discover Kanchanaburi

Historical treasure with a rich yet fascinatingly sinister past

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    Kanchanaburi is the third-largest provincial city in Western Thailand located 130 km west of Bangkok, and bordering Myanmar to the northwest. The region has an interesting and sinister past during World War II that continues to fascinate visitors who can discover remnants of Thai history still today.

    Things to do in Kanchanaburi mainly centre around nature and historical sites. One of the most visited attractions is the Death Railway with its menacing history. The Death Railway starts at Nong Pladuk, 80km west of Bangkok and travels northwest to Kanchanaburi, over the Bridge on the River Kwai on to Nam Tok. From Nam Tok, the disused trackbed heads on to the infamous Hellfire Pass and through the Three Pagodas Pass into Myanmar. During WWII, the Japanese forced labour onto local Thais along with allied prisoners of war(POWs) to build the railway line to Burma. The line was completed in 1943, and passenger trains still run from Bangkok to Nam Tok. The Death Railway Museum is continually highly rated amongst travellers as a must-see. Also known as The Thailand-Burma Railway Centre, set over two floors, the museum displays an emotionally rousing depiction of the horrendous events that transpired.

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    Additional places to explore and things to do in Kanchanaburi

    Kanchanaburi War Cemetery

    Almost 7000 soldiers (Allied POWs) who worked on the Death Railway are buried in this immaculately maintained war cemetery.

    There is a register at the entrance for people to look up perished loved ones.

    Mallika R.E 124

    Located at Sai Yok, Mallika City, the “Siamese Living Heritage City,” is a re-creation of the 1905 atmosphere and way of life of the Siamese people in the era of King Rama V.

    Erawan Falls

    Undeniably one of Thailand’s tourist attractions, the impressive seven-tier Erawan Waterfalls located in Erawan National Park has hundreds of little turquoise pools where you can swim and is a very popular place to visit in this region.

    Khao Laem Lake is also a must-see in the park.

    Summary continued

    The Bridge over the River Kwai (originally spelt Khwae) is now surrounded on the Kanchanaburi side by a museum, cafes, shops and a couple of ancient steam locomotives on display. You can walk across the bridge but do keep in mind that the bridge is still operational so be on the lookout for approaching locomotives sounding their horns!

    At the Hellfire Pass, 4 kilometres of the former tracks are currently open to the public and have been established as the Hellfire Pass Memorial to the 13,000 POWs and 80,000 Thai labourers who died building the railway. The site features one museum called the Hellfire Pass Interpretive Centre which runs an extremely informative movie about the railway and detailed displays. It’s recommended that visitors walk the Memorial Walking Trail for a moving experience through the now peaceful shady jungle that was once anything but tranquil.

    Kanchanaburi is home to several native Thai and former Burmese refugee hill-tribes with the most recognized being the Karen people, where the women dorn thick neck rings similar to some tribes seen in Africa. Stacking the neck rings over the years leads to long, graceful necks which are considered a beauty feature among the Karen people. For visitors interested in learning more about Karen culture, you can opt to stay in some local home-stays within the Karen village of Ban Khao Lek.

    Around Kanchanaburi, at the Prasat Muang Singh Historical Park, visitors will discover the ancient ruins of the former Khmer kingdom which stretched from Cambodia into this region. The Khmer temple complex and a military outpost about 50 km from Kanchanaburi town. The complex comprises four significant buildings estimated to be at least 800 years old, and an exhibition hall with artefacts and Buddha images. There is also the Wat Tham Sua (Golden Temple or Tiger Cave Temple) in the middle of neon green rice fields.

    The waterfalls in Kanchanaburi province are best to visit during the rainy season so you will see them in their full glory and even swim, as during the dry season they tend to dry up. The waterfalls worth visiting in the region include the Erawan waterfall located northwest of Kanchanaburi and Huay Mae Khamin Waterfalls further northwest. Also, you will find Sai Yok Noi Waterfall located 60 km northwest of Kanchanaburi and its sister Sai Yok Yai Waterfall another 40 km further. All these waterfalls are located in national parks and are a must-see for nature lovers. Pra That Cave is also worth seeing with its shard-like stalactites hanging from the ceiling.

    For people interested in wildlife conservation, Elephant’s World is an elephant conservation camp that cares for retired elephants who used to work in the tourist industry and provide them with a place they can enjoy their last days. Tourists are welcome to volunteer to work in the camp by for instance washing the elephants and gathering food for them and can even stay onsite for a few days in the camps lodgings.


    Frequently Asked Questions

    How do you pronounce Kanchanaburi?

    It’s pronounced “Kan-cha-na-boo-ri”.

    How far is Kanchanaburi from Bangkok?

    Kanchanaburi is a town in Kanchanaburi province, the largest of the western Thailand provinces, approximately 135 kilometres from Bangkok.

    How do I get to Kanchanaburi Thailand from Bangkok?

    You can travel by train, bus or private taxi. By far the most fun is by train. From Bangkok, you will need to take a train from Thonburi station to Kanchanaburi and cross the Bridge on the River Kwai using the Death Railway itself and continue along the river.

    Is Kanchanaburi worth visiting?

    Nature lovers and enthusiasts of Thai ancestry and history would love to visit Kanchanaburi, which played a significant role during World War II. Thus, the province has a few war cemeteries and a historical park. With mostly mountainous terrain, the province hosts the most extensive wildlife sanctuaries in the country plus sensational national parks to explore and enjoy native flora and fauna, waterfalls, rivers, lakes and caves. With accommodation options from luxury hotels to attractive floating raft houses, Kanchanaburi holidays with your family and children will be an unforgettable memory!

    Is the bridge over the River Kwai still standing?

    The real bridge over the Kwai River was never destroyed and stretches over a part of the Mae Klong river and remains a popular tourist attraction of a Kanchanaburi holiday.

    Is Kanchanaburi safe?

    Kanchanaburi Thailand is a popular weekend escape from Bangkok for those looking for a more peaceful natural place. Living conditions in the region is one of the safest and perfect for families and solo travellers.

    How much is the train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi in Thailand?

    The train fare from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi costs 100 baht (AUD 4.50) each way.

    Can you swim in Erawan Falls?

    One of Thailand’s beautiful waterfalls the Erawan Waterfall in Erawan National Park has seven tiers and hundreds of little turquoise pools. You can swim in most of the lower-tiered pools but the upper tiers will take a bit of effort to reach.

    How long do you need in Kanchanaburi Thailand?

    There are many things to do in Kanchanaburi. In just 2.5 hours by bus or car from Bangkok, you can be in Kanchanaburi where you can visit World War II relics, the notable River Kwai Bridge and WWII museums and war cemeteries like the Death railway museum or Hellfire Pass museum which you can cover in a couple of days. You can visit the unique Wat Tham Sua or “Tiger’s Cave Temple”, with tigers everywhere and an impressive golden Buddha right in the heart of the temple complex, situated upon a mountain with beautiful views of the River Kwai bridge; the Wat Tham Khao Noi, a sacred Anam-Nigaya Buddhist temple notable for its Chinese-influenced architecture located on the hilltop of a Noi hill.
    Other things to do in Kanchanaburi include a day trip visiting an ancient market, the floating market and several national parks with cascading waterfalls such as Sai Yok and Erawan National Parks along with Khao Laem Lake. Both have excellent trekking routes so you will need at least a day in both parks to appreciate the natural habitat. Kanchanaburi tours will usually take time walking some of these attractions. Your family can avail of hotel services that offer cooking classes, especially Thai cooking classes for learning Thai delicious recipes like the Pad Thai.

    How do I get to Erawan Falls in Thailand?

    To get to Erawan National Park where the Erawan Waterfall and other falls are situated, take the bus (# 8170) from the Kanchanaburi Bus Station then travel for two hours to the Srinakarind Market stop. From there, the trip takes approximately 1 km to walk to the national park entrance. Be sure to wear waterproof slip-proof footwear in the rainy season.

    Is the bridge over the River Kwai a true story?

    During World War II, the Japanese ordered British prisoners of war (POWs) to build a railway from Thailand to Burma so they could supply their army with arms etc on land instead of by sea. The Japanese literally worked them to death. Many prisoners died under appalling conditions and the railway was aptly coined the ‘Death Railway.’ A film of the same name,” Bridge on the River Kwai” was inspired by true World War II events and an exact replica was built in the making of the film.

    Where in Thailand is Kanchanaburi?

    Kanchanaburi is a town in western Thailand, around 110 km northwest of Bangkok, Thailand’s capital. West of Kanchanaburi lies the Tenasserim Hills with its limestone cliffs which form a natural boundary between the country and its neighbour Myanmar.

    What are the top attractions to visit in Kanchanaburi?

    – Erawan National Park: Erawan Falls, Tham Phra That Cave
    – Bridge on the River Kwai (Khwae Noi), also called Death Railway Bridge
    – Thailand Burma Railway Centre including Tha Kilen Station & Kanchanaburi War Cemetery
    – Hellfire Pass and Memorial Museum
    – Elephant’s World – a peaceful spot for retired and rescued abused elephants
    – Chungkai Cemetery, former POW camp turned POW cemetery
    – Khuean Srinagarindra National Park: Huay Mae Khamin Waterfalls
    – JEATH War Museum, a sobering place when you absorb the significance of the collection of documents and memorabilia of WWII
    – Prasat Muang Singh National Park, a lovely place that is slightly off the beaten path
    – Ban Kao National Museum
    – Sai Yok Yai National Park: Sai Yok Yai Waterfall, Sai Yok Noi Waterfall; also the bat-filled Lawa Cave with its striking rock formations
    – Mallika City

    What are the best outdoor activities in Kanchanaburi?

    1. Safari Park Open Zoo
    2. Sai Yok National Park
    3. River Kwai Jetski Tours
    4. Water sports, Stand up Paddleboarding; surfing,
    5. Tours: Canyon and Rappeling, Eco-tours, Nature & Wildlife Tours, Historical & Heritage Tours, Biking Trails, Horseback Riding, River rafting and Tubing
    6. Golf

    How much is the train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi?

    Train rides from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi are pleasurable, passing through the scenic Thai countryside. The trains have only fan-cooled carriages and ticket costs are fixed at 100 Baht for tourists. The train journey takes around 2 and a half hours.

    How long is the train ride from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi?

    The ride is 2 1/2 hours long.

    Does Kanchanaburi have an airport?

    The city has no airport.

    How do I get from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi?

    You can take either: train, taxi, minivan, private car from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi.

    Does the Burma railway still exist?

    Only the Thai railway track is operational, with daily trips from Bangkok to the Nam Tok Terminal in Sai Yok.

    How do you get around Kanchanaburi?

    You can hire a tour guide, a motorbike taxi or a ricksha to take you around. Or you can rent a motorcycle or scooter, or bicycle to explore by yourself. All at a reasonable cost.

    How far is River Kwai from Bangkok?

    The River Kwai is 112 km from Bangkok.

    What comprises Kanchanaburi Town?

    Kanchanaburi town is 123 km west of Bangkok and is made up of Ban Nuea and Ban Tai tambons, Pk Phraek and Tha Makham of Mueang Kanchanaburi District and Tha Lo tambon.

    Who are memorialized in the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery?

    The Kanchanaburi War Cemetery, locally called Don-Rak War Cemetery, was set up for the allied POWs who were victims of imprisonment by Japanese forces while constructing the Burma Railway. It is located on Saeng Chuto Road, the main road of Kanchanaburi town.
    There are almost 7,000 Allied prisoners of war (POWs), Australian, British, Dutch.

    Why is the track called the Death Railway?

    Starting in Thailand through Burma and originally called the Thailand Burma Railway, the nickname “Death Railway” was given for the one hundred thousand labourers (taken from the POW camps) who died during its construction between 1942 and 1943 lasting for 16 months.

    Is Kanchanaburi a good destination for family holidays?

    Kanchanaburi is the first consideration in a family holiday, safe. Then it has the natural attractions for a fun outdoor holiday adventure for families.
    Kanchanaburi hotels are also of varied accommodation classes and budgets, as well.

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