Where the color of dream vacations is green
Many Thailand visitors probably first heard about Kanchanaburi because of the River Kwai. The province, Thailand’s third largest, is home to the “Bridge of River Kwai” immortalized by Pierre Boulle’s novel and the subsequent Hollywood movie starring David Lean. But there is more to this province known for that infamous river, the Death Railway, or any of its roles in Thai history.
Located 130km west of Bangkok, Kanchanaburi province covers an area of 19,480km. Since the capital town’s establishment (also called Kanchanaburi), by King Rama I — as a first line of defense against the Burmese, whom he thought might use the old invasion route through the Three Pagodas Pass on the Thai-Myanmar border – the destination had become of major importance to the country’s national security concerns, particularly during WW II. Among the reminders of this is the “River Kwai Bridge Festival” held every November and December, which includes a spectacular sound-and-light show that commemorates the history of the Death Railway and the bombardments during the Second World War.
Kanchanaburi is in fact an underrated beautiful green destination, with so much to offer eco-tourists of all bents.
WHY GO Besides its friendly people, the province’s natural beauty is the main lure, with major attractions such as waterfalls — several of them, mountains, prehistoric caves, national parks and forests, hot springs and last but not least, the River Kwai. The unique Erawan Waterfalls – which rank among Asia’s most beautiful — is certainly worth a visit. It has an amazing seven levels set among rough jungles in the Erawan National Park.
WHAT TO DO & SEE Understandably, major tour providers anchor on the River Kwai bridge to attract visitors, but there’s so much to do and see. For historical and cultural sightseeing, there are the three war museums, two war cemeteries, a national museum, a historical park, some Thai and Chinese temples, and the one and only Death Railway. There’s also the Three Pagodas Pass and the Tiger Cave. For green tourists, the abundant natural beauty mentioned earlier and more makes Kanchanaburi a place with several possibilities to spend a green dream vacation. You can go trekking, do elephant and horse riding, immerse yourself of the beauty of the Royal-initiated dams, have a picnic, play golf, and more. You can experience a romantic stay in houseboats on river.
SLEEP Most accommodation in Kanchanaburi are close to the River Kwai for obvious reasons. But you can also stay on houseboats on the raft, in a bamboo hut, in a wooden bungalow, or in a concrete building — really a wide selection of guesthouses as well as resorts and hotels. Some popular names include the River Kwai Botanic Garden in Kwai Noi (14/7 Moo 1, Tambol Bankao, Bt1,423 inc. breakfast), Royal Riverkwai Resort & Spa in Kwai Yai (88 Kanchanaburi-Saiyok Rd, Moo 2, Kangsean, Bt 1,300 with breakfast), Pung-Waan Kwai Yai Resort (72/1 Moo 2, T.Thamakham, Bt 1,274 with breakfast), Mida Resort Kanchanaburi (199 Moo 2, Latya-Srisawat Rd, Wangdong, Bt 1,130 with breakfast), The Cave Tarzan River Kwai Resort (224 Moo 2 Kho-Samroung, Bt1,274 with breakfast), Lakeside Chalet by Mida (123 Moo 7 Tambon Lad Ya Muang, Bt939 with breakfast), River Kwai Hotel (284/15-16 Saengchuto Rd, Bt1,003 with breakfast), Dheva Mantra (9/99 Moo 3, Tambon Tha Makham Amphoe Muang, Bt2,676 with breakfast), and U Inchantree Kanchanaburi (443 Mae Nam Kwai Rd, Thamakham,Muang, Bt2,400), among others.(Oh, please double the rates, as they may change with the season of your visit)
EAT & DRINK There are many restaurant by the bridge and there are even floating restaurants such as JR Floating Restaurant, Srifa Bakery, and Sri Rung Rueng to sample authentic Thai dining. But there are many good restaurants with delicious food and reasonable prices elsewhere in the province too, especially on the road to the Bhumibol Dam and Erawan National Park. Popular restaurants that travelers to Kanchanaburi recommend include Mangosteen Cafe and Books, Bell’s Pizzeria, Tai Thai, Friend Bar & Restaurant, Nut Bar and Restaurant, Apple s Restaurant, Paris Kan, Jukkru, Peppers (U Kanchanaburi), Pai-Kan, Schluck Restaurant, peace cafe and boutique, and many more.
SIDETRIP Sangkhlaburi, dubbed as “Thailand’s Wild West” is a great place off the beaten tourist path. One particular attraction is the submerged temple in an area resembling a sunken Atlantis. With its cool weather and remote “Wild West” feel, Sangkhlaburi is an excellent choice for discovering a bit of the real unseen and untrammeled Thailand.
WHEN TO GO Any time is a good time as any – and sometimes even the rainy season has its pluses because the rains make the surroundings and the air look even greener, cleaner, and fresher. Between November and January there are lots of activities to pursue.
ESSENTIALS If you’re visiting during hot days or doing a lot of walking, bring a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreens. Wear comfortable clothes too and drink plenty of water.
Kanchanaburi is connected by daily road and rail services with Bangkok and other neighboring provinces. Air-conditioned and non-air conditioned coaches frequently leave Bangkok’s Southern Bus Terminal throughout the day, departing every 15 minutes from about 5 a.m. till 10 p.m. for the two- to three-hour journey. Tickets are Bt95 one-way. Or take a mini bus from Bangkok’s Khaosan Road to go there within two hours. Trains leave the Bangkok Noi Railway Station (Thonburi Train Station) two times a day for Kanchanaburi for a five-hour trip, but only on 3rd class seats: no fan, no wooden seats, and lots of chickens! Alternatively, flag a taxi and get there in about 90 minutes, from anywhere between Bt1,000 and Bt3000. IF you can rent a car, do so by all means as this would allow you access to more places to see – just make sure you bring a reliable map with you.