Updated June 5th, 2018.
Just a two-hour bus journey from Bangkok, Kanchanaburi is a lovely countryside escape. The charming riverside town is mostly famous for the ‘River Kwai Bridge’ which draws coach loads of tourists every day.
The town itself is quiet, apart from a few backpacker type bars which have live music in the evenings.
The real draw of Kanchanaburi is the beautiful countryside all around. Hire a motorbike in the town for about 150 baht and within ten minutes you are out amongst mountains, rice fields and waving locals.
Apart from visiting the famous ‘Nam Quoc’ Waterfall, there are loads of outdoor adventures to be had from here; rafting, trekking, elephant trekking and more.
Places to stay in Kanchanaburi
River Kwae Road: This main backpacker drag is the best place to find cheap accommodation in Kanchanaburi. You can get a room for as cheap as 70 baht at the popular traveller hang out ‘Jelly Frog’ but if you’re willing to splash out to around 400 baht you can get a really nice place with a pool.
Try these cheap and cheerful places!
Things to do in Kanchanaburi
- Visit the River Kwae Bridge and Museum:
From 1942 to 1945, over 275,000 labourers toiled on the construction of the Thailand-Burma railway line that goes straight through the town of Kanchanaburi. During the building 16,000 Allied workers, the majority of which included British, Dutch and Australian prisoners of war and an estimated 100,000 Asian workers, whom are rarely given the remembrance they deserve, died in severe and merciless conditions. Those who did survive, suffered extremely harrowing conditions.
It was a project organised by the Japanese Imperial Army who wanted to make a strategic connection between their Base Camp in Burma to Singapore, through Malaya and Thailand. 415 kilometres of track over undulating ground. An ambitious feat for the Japanese engineers and a devastating one for the workers involved. As the guide book to the museum states ‘every kilometer of track cost the lives of 38 workers.’ The town of Kanchanaburi was made famous in the story of ‘the Death Railway’ by the classic World War II film, ‘Bridge on the River Kwai.’ (1957)
- Visit ‘Death Railway’ and ‘Hellfire Pass’:
Such death and torture are in stark contrast with the lovely, peaceful and friendly town of Kanchanaburi today. Names such as ‘Death Railway’ and ‘Hellfire pass,’ just outside of the town, seem somewhat incongruous with the friendly atmosphere created by the welcoming people and the spirit of travel and adventure in the air.
- Visit Erawan Waterfalls:
One of the most spectacular tiered waterfalls in all of Thailand (in the rainy season!) – walk up the seven tiers, relaxing and swimming in each pool. The journey is about an hour outside of Kanchanaburi Town.
- Trekking, rafting and outdoor adventure:
There’s an abundance of adventure activities; rafting, trekking, (on foot or with the help of an elephant) swimming in freshwater pools, visiting waterfalls and relaxing in hot springs.
- Drink 10 baht Whiskey & Coke!
Look out for the smiley lady on the stall on the street. And in the evening, you can head to the traveller hub ‘River Kwai Road’ where there are some cute little bars and restaurants. What more could a backpacker want I ask you?
Getting to Kanchanaburi
Minibuses can be booked easily at travel agents in the Khao San Road, leaving every day regularly. If you want to catch a minibus independently, they leave from Victory Monument or Mochit Station. Either way, the minibus takes you directly to River Kwai Road.
Where to go next?
Sangkhlaburi: (4-hour bus trip west) If you want to get off the beaten track a bit, (without going too far!) From Kanchanaburi, Sangkhlaburi is a 4-hour bus trip west, heading towards the Burmese border. It’s a less visited, but no less beautiful spot where you can enjoy outdoor adventures and visit some of the local villages of the Mon and Karen people. If you’re looking to get out into the Thai countryside and explore this is a great spot.
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