Not far from Bangkok you can find the cozy town Kanchanaburi. It is especially famous for its train bridge over the Kwai River, which is part of the so-called Death Railway. Unfortunately, just very few people know the sad history behind this bridge and that its construction has cost many lives. I will tell you more about that later in this post. First, I want to give you a small overview about Kanchanaburi and the Sai Yok National Park.
What to find out in this post
- 31.000 inhabitants (2006)
- 123 km away from Bangkok
- The grounds in this area are known to be pretty fertile, thus an intensive rice production is being run here
How to get from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi?
The probably easiest and most interesting option is to take the train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi. The journey takes about 3 hours and costs 100 Baht/ 2,60€/ $3.
The train to Kanchanaburi from Bangkok leaves every day at 7.45 am and 01.35 pm from the Thonburi Train Station in Bangkok.
This station is located on the other side of the Chao Phraya River. The fastest way to get here is by ferry (3 Baht). Anyway, the time can get kinda tight if you are trying to catch the train at 7.45 am. The other options are walking over the bridges or taking a taxi. (We walked over the bridge and took a taxi on the other side to save money)
The train ride offers a nice opportunity to get nearer to the Thai culture and meet some locals. We were super lucky meeting this nice Thai couple on the way that planned to spend their free weekend in Kanchanaburi.
If you don’t feel like going by train you can as well take a bus from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi. It will leave you in the Kanchanaburi Bus station which is located in the city center.
Kanchanaburi has been the only city during our trip where we actually had some trouble finding a good accommodation downtown. You might want to consider looking for an accommodation near the Bridge over the River Kwai or booking your accommodation in advance.
I won’t recommend any accommodation this time though, because, to be honest, we were not really happy with neither of our rooms in Kanchanaburi.
(Anyway, if you could book your accommodation with booking.com with this link, I’d be super thankful. If you make a booking, booking.com will share a little part of their commission with me at no extra cost for you. This commission is used to expand this blog. Thank you so much for your help!)
While looking for a place to stay in Kanchanaburi we actually came by a place which was meant to be for men bringing Prostitutes. But since no one spoke any English and the price seemed super fine, we decided to take this room. It took us around 5 minutes to realize that the price we paid was not for one night, but just for a 3 hours stay and what kind of place this actually was.
We got our money back without even saying anything. (I guess, the owner was super confused about us taking the room in the first place. But since he couldn’t speak any English, he hasn’t said anything)
Best Food in Kanchanaburi
Depending on where your accommodation is located there will most probably one of the night markets be near your place. The night market Kanchanaburi downtown seems more local, while the night market near the Death Railway is more touristy. We liked the night market downtown much more actually as it offered authentic Thai Food rather than touristic souvenirs.
Try the ginger soup with sesame balls and the sticky rice with mango. Yummy!
How to get around?
Since most of the accommodation is located near the biggest attraction in Kanchanaburi, the River Kwai Bridge, there are not many taxis from there to downtown. (Downtown is way less touristic) In case you decide to choose your accommodation anyway inside of the city center, you should try to negotiate a good price with the taxi drivers.
If you want to check out the other attractions in this area, such as the Sai Yok and the Erawan National Park, you can get there by public bus, which leaves several times daily from the Kanchanaburi Bus Terminal, by taxi or by joining a tour. But there are also the options to rent a motorcycle or car. (By motorcycle you might not be able to get everywhere as the distances can get kinda far though)
We joined a little road trip in a rented car with this lovely Thai couple we met the prior day on the train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi.
If you want to join a tour, you can just ask in your accommodation. Most probably, they will have information for you and can offer you a good price. (If you have the chance, try to compare prices though, as the prices might vary a lot between different places)
Sights in and around Kanchanaburi
River Kwai Bridge – Death Railway
Entrance Fee: free of charge
Now popular as a tourist sight, back then a living nightmare for all of the construction workers. The history of the Death Railway and the Hellfire Pass is cruel and dark.
The construction of the Burma-Thailand-Railway has taken place between 1942 and 1943. It has been arranged by the Japanese, who had occupied Thailand at that time.
The main goal of this train route was to have a more advantageous position in Burma (Myanmar) against India.
The construction has been executed mostly by prisoners of war under inhuman conditions. Many of the workers lost their lives while working here or suffered for the rest of their lives under the impacts of the hard work they had gone through.
Today you can walk around the remaining train bridge and railway tracks. If you don’t feel like walking you can as well take the train. The train goes absolutely slow, in order for passengers of the tracks to get to the sides to let the train pass. Every few meters you will find a little platform to stand while the train is passing through.
From the Bridge over the River Kwai, you can also find this huge Chinese temple, by the way. It might be worth having a visit there.
If you forget the history of this place for a moment, you might even be able to think of it as a really nice walk through nature.
The overall route of the Death Railway used to be of 415 km/ 258 miles length. Some of it is still remaining and can be visited along the Hellfire Pass. You can either walk the whole remaining route or turn back along one of the many branches.
We actually planned to walk the whole path, but since we have been surprised by monsoon rain we had to go back at some point.
It is worth it to have a look at the museum, which you can find at the start of the Hellfire Pass. It teaches the history and details of this area and the Death Railway.
Sai Yok National Park
Opening Times: 07 am – 05 pm
Entrance Fee: 300 Baht (ca. 7,75€/ $9)
Sai Yok National Park Facts
- Opened in October 1980
- 11. National Park of Thailand
- 500 km2 area
- The majority of trees here has been planted just in 1954 after the Japanese have felled a huge amount of random trees
- If you get super lucky, you could even encounter wild tigers or elephants
- This park is way less touristic than the Erawan National Park
Sai Yok Lek and Sai Yok Yai Waterfall
Those waterfalls are probably the main attraction of the Sai Yok National park. They are nice to watch and invite you to relax in beautiful nature.
Before your visit, you might wanna check whether they contain water though. As during high season they can run out of water.
But if there is water, you can bring your swimsuit and have a refreshing bath. It’s worth it!
On our trip, we could certainly not complain about not enough water. On the contrary, it was raining cats and dogs. After having lunch near the waterfall, we decided to go back and skip the Hin Dat Hot springs, which actually had been next on our list.
Have you been to Kanchanaburi or the Sai Yok National park? What was your highlight? If not what would you like to see in this area? Let me know in the comments below!
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