Kanchanaburi province is certain to be difficult to beat when it comes to accessibility, activities, natural beauty and history. It is approx 128 km from the capital city, Bangkok and a destination that should be included on any Thailand family tour itinerary for those interested in exploring temples, waterfalls, majestic rivers, cavernous caves and pristine national parks.
Situated at the confluence of the Kwai Yai and Kwai Noi Rivers, this city is near the Mae Klong River, which helps to define the charming characteristics of the region.
A stay in Kanchanaburi gives the perfect opportunity to relax while sitting in a riverside restaurant, inside a raft house, or on the banks of the river.
Many travellers visit Kanchanaburi for a one or two day trip, but because of the wide range of attractions on offered there is the change of staying for a week or more. Beyond the lush forests and striking waterfalls, there are also popular activities like golfing, elephant trekking, white water rafting, and three large reservoirs to explore. This is one destination in Thailand that is certain to appeal to tourist that has an interest in nature.
The preferred time to visit Kanchanaburi on the Thailand tours holidays is most of the year – except for the months of March, April and May when the temperature gets quite intense (up to 40° C). The average temperature for the rest of the year is in the region of 20° C to 30° C, which is more acceptable to travel the country and visit the sights. Also, the coolest month is December when the temperature is about 19.1° C to 25.1° C.
How to get there
The preferred transport to reach Kanchanaburi is by bus, which has a regular service, leaving from Bangkok’s Southern Bus Terminal. Buses run from 4 am to 8 pm on a daily basis with the journey time in the region of 3 hours. There is also a first-class bus service with air-con which leaves from the same terminal but at less frequent departure times.
Other bus routes include from Nakhon Pathom which has a journey time of about 90 minutes, while the service from Suphan Buri and Ratchaburi can take up to 3 hours to complete.
A train service from Thonburi station in Bangkok leaves twice a day and takes about 3 hours to arrive in Kanchanaburi. But the train ride is more expensive for tourists at about $3 (compared to about $0.50 for locals).
An alternative travel option is the minibus which is a faster option compared to the regular buses, but the travel conditions are quite cramped and not practical for those with several pieces of luggage.
The most common transport option on arrival in Kanchanaburi is the motorbike taxis – although there are a few pedal-powered rickshaws and Bangkok-style tuk-tuk in the local area. Most of the local trips cost $2-$3. A regular service is provided by songthaews that drive in a loop around town and cost less than a dollar to ride.
One of the most convenient options to tour on the Thailand travel packages is to hire a bicycle for the day from a local guesthouse. There are plenty of rental places, so there shouldn’t be any difficulty in finding a ride at about $1-$1.50 per day. Most of the town is within 5 km of the river which makes it very easy to explore. Motorbikes are also available to hire and cost about $5-$8 per day.
Where to stay
Kanchanaburi has plenty of guest houses and hotels which are located on the banks of the River Kwai. The accommodation can range from the luxury rooms, comfortable mid-range places, to the thatch shacks that are very cheap. Because the low-cost places aren’t the best when it comes to cleanliness it is usually best to spend a little more for the high-quality room.
The Apple's Retreat has a peaceful and quiet riverside setting with the cost per night for up to $15. It is well located and only about a 10 minute walk to reach the popular town attractions. A stay at the Apple's Retreat gives convenient access to the Blue Rice Restaurant, which is a popular place for tourists, expats and locals that love the traditional Thai food. Most of the rooms are spacious and clean and include an en suite bathroom, air-con and free Wi-Fi.
A stay at the more upmarket Dheva Mantra is certain to be appreciated by the tourists that want the luxury experience with rooms costing in the region of $115-$225 per night. The building has a tasteful colonial style with features like a saltwater swimming pool with children’s pool and large patio area. Plus, it has various cafes and bars, a fine dining restaurant, full service spa and fitness studio. The actual rooms are well laid out with hardwood floors and plenty of other appealing features. Booking early can help to achieve significant discounts on the nightly rates.
A great option for the budget traveller on the Indochina tour packages is the Bamboo House that floats across a stretch of riverweeds and palm trees; the cost per person is in the region of $15. Most rooms are quite primitive with just a mattress, but travellers do get the laid-back riverside atmosphere. Plus, there are a few luxury rooms that come with bathrooms with hot water, fridges, and TVs. It is about 10 minutes from Maenam Kwai Road, which means it stays quiet and peaceful.
Eat and drink
Kanchanaburi has plenty to offer travellers on the Thailand tour packages from the tourist-friendly bars and restaurants to the night market stands.
A visit to the Blue Rice is great for several reasons, including the fantastic flavours, brilliant menu and relaxing riverside setting. The chef puts a unique spin on many of the Thai classics for the more refined dining experience. The dishes cost in the region of $4-$5.
For the most authentic experience, the floating restaurants may not always have the best quality food, but they still have the atmosphere. The dishes cost about $2.50-$6.50.
The Sitthisang is well located on the Heritage Walking Street, which offers a great spot for relaxing with a cup of coffee and cake. Most of the bakery items cost in the region of $1-$2.
Kanchanaburi can offer a great place to shop for the high-quality gemstone. This part of Thailand is in the centre of the gemstone mining industry. For this reason, there are many stalls trading in a variety of precious and semi-precious stones. One of the finest places to go for the quality stones is Bo Ploi which has a lot of blue sapphires. Other items of interest include the paper parasols, bronzeware, lacquerware, ceramics, Thai musical instruments, bamboo crafts and home decor items.
Things to see and do
Bridge on the River Kwai
Kanchanaburi has the well-known landmark known as the Bridge on the River Kwai. It was constructed throughout WWII using the forced labour of American, Dutch and British prisoners of war. This bridge is also referred to as the "Death Railway", because of the amount of men that died in their attempt to build the bridge. The project was overseen by the Japanese forces who wanted the railway in place to assist with a supply line for troops based in neighbouring Burma. Today, it is possible to take a ride on the bridge with certain areas still made up of the original structure.
Hellfire Pass & Memorial Museum
The Hellfire Pass is a stretch of rock at a length of 500 m that was dug out by hand using up to 1,000 prisoners. The intention of the pass was to create a path for the construction of the Death Railway. Over a period of 12 weeks, nearly 700 hundred of the prisoners died in their efforts to clear the path. There is now a local memorial museum to honour those that died and includes a wide range of artefacts, photographs and tools. Plus, parts of the old railway track are still in place and can be walked along into the jungle.
JEATH War Museum
The JEATH War Museum was created to act as a sobering museum that relates to what a real prisoner of war camp was like. It is based close to the Wat Chai Chumphon and open for visitors to see what life may have been like for those held in the camps. This exact replica has plenty of authentic items, including photos and bunks, as well as written accounts of the war times sourced from authors who interviewed POWs, their family members and actual prisoners of war. JEATH (Japan, England, America, Thailand, and Holland) relates to the countries directly involved.
Sri Nakarin National Park
A visit to the Sri Nakarin National Park on the Thailand tour holiday packages makes it possible to relax after a long spell of exploring the country and visiting the sights. The Kwae Yai River is found in this park and a rich source of slow lorises, leopards, bats and civets. Other great attractions in the park include the stunning Huay Mae Khamin Waterfalls which are easily reached by a four-wheel vehicle or boat.