The Bridge over the river Kwai Kanchanaburi

Kanchanaburi, The Perfect Trip From Bangkok!

If you’re looking for an unforgettable vacation getaway, look no further than the beautiful Kanchanaburi province in western Thailand. Filled with stunning natural scenery, a fascinating historical legacy, and plenty of opportunities for leisure activities, it’s no surprise that this province is one of Thailand’s most popular tourist destinations.

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Located just 130 km west of Bangkok, Kanchanaburi is a popular destination for tourists and locals alike looking to escape Bangkok’s craziness for the day. Many people take one of the many organised day trips available. However, the area is a beautiful place to stay for a few days to explore, relax and enjoy the peaceful surroundings.

Kanchanaburi Province is a beautiful part of Thailand; the hectic town centre is surrounded by beautiful scenery and river views but also has a dark history. One of the main reasons visitors flock to Kanchanaburi for the day is to visit the so-called ‘Death Railway’ and the ‘Bridge Over the River Kwai’ as well as the many memorials and museums associated with them.

The ‘Death Railway’, also known as the Thai-Burma Railway, was a 415 km stretch of rail track that was built by thousands of allied prisoners of war (POW) and Asian labourers during World War 2 under the order of the imperial Japanese army.

Most of these men were Australian, Dutch and British, who were made to live in squalor with a near-starvation diet as well as being subjected to severe brutality. Many of these POWs died due to injury, starvation or disease and, after the war, were collectively buried in the War Cemeteries.

Things To Do In Kanchanaburi:

Ride The ‘Death Railway’

Today, only a limited section of the original rail track is still in use, with passenger services now only running as far as Nam Tok to the north of Kanchanaburi. The most famous part of the track is the ‘Bridge over the River Kwai’, made famous by the 1957 film of the same name based on the novel Le Pont de la Rivière Kwai (1952) by Pierre Boulle.

The Bridge is a popular tourist attraction. You can walk along its stretch of track across the River Kwai. It’s also fun to stand on one of its side platforms along the bridge and wave at the passengers hanging out the windows as the train passes by; just be careful!

By spending more time in Kanchanaburi, you will have the time to take the whole 2-hour journey along this stretch of line from the town’s central station to Nam Tok, known as one of Thailand’s most scenic train rides. As the journey begins, it heads over the famous ‘Bridge over the River Kwai’. It then leads into the beautiful Thai countryside before curving around the Wang Po viaduct, which consists of a series of wooden trestles built initially by POWs.

As the journey progresses, you will see some of the most beautiful parts of Thailand. As you pass the Wang Po viaduct, the track curves along with the river to one side and cliffs to the other. Further on, you will be met with beautiful stretches of countryside.

You can also get the train in the opposite direction, starting in Nam Tok or further down the line. The easiest way to do this is to take a tour. While staying in Kanchanaburi, I took a full-day tour of Erawan waterfalls and Hellfire Pass, including the train back to Kanchanaburi from Tham Kra Sae station.

This station is unique in itself as you can wander down the track towards a Kra Sae Cave. However, be careful, as the tracks can be dangerous, with no barriers along the edge. The cave is small, with a small Buddhist shrine inside, but the best part is the views along the river, which are stunning!

The trains themselves are pretty basic, with no air conditioning, but the large open windows blow in a lovely cool breeze. You can also stick your head out of the windows to check out the scenery, but be careful when passing trees! The cost of a train ticket is 100 Baht.

Hell Fire Pass

About a 20-minute drive from Nam Tok, you will find the Hell Fire Pass Memorial and museum. The Hell Fire Pass was considered one of the most complex parts of the ‘Death Railway’ to be built. This was because the railway had to be cut through hard mountain rock!

This 500m stretch was carved mainly by hand by POWs using only small hand drills, picks and shovels; surprisingly, it only took six months to complete. The Pass is no longer in use but has become a memorial to all the allied POWs and Asian labourers who suffered and died Here.

You can walk along the cutting and through the Pass and visit the museum, which not only describes the story of the Pass and the suffering that went with it but also allows visitors to reflect and remember the tragedies of the past with the hope of a more peaceful future.

Entrance is free and it is open daily from 9 am – 4 pm. However, maybe closed on Thai public holidays.

Kanchanaburi War Cemetery

A visit to the War Cemetery and Thailand-Burma Railway Centre is a must. The War Cemetery is the resting place for nearly 7000 Australian, Dutch and British prisoners who died during the construction of the Death Railway. Walking through the cemetery can be a genuinely sobering experience, especially when you realise that these graves only represent a small number of prisoners who died.

The Thailand-Burma Centre, situated opposite, provides an excellent overview of the brutal conditions suffered by the POWs and Asian labourers, showing poignant personal accounts, artefacts, photographs and videos to highlight this dark slice of history.

JEATH War Museum

The museum’s name stands for the countries involved in these events, including Japan, England, Australia, Thailand, and Holland.

Although this museum houses many artefacts, photos, and displays, it is starting to look a little run down and isn’t at the same standard as other museums in the area. However, with just a tiny 40 Baht entrance fee, it makes up for this. The museum is in a prime location just across the road from the Bridge over the River Kwai.

Erawan National Park

Not only is Kanchanaburi full of emotionally charged historical places, but it is also known for having some of the most stunning scenery in Thailand. One area of particular natural beauty is Erawan National Park, which has a beautiful seven-tiered waterfall surrounded by lush vegetation and a hiking trail leading up to the top tier. 

The trek, however, gets more difficult the higher you go, and at certain times of the year, it may be impossible to pass some sections due to wet, muddy conditions. However, even the lower tiers are worth walking to and stopping along the way to have a dip in the turquoise waters brings welcome relief from the heat. Watch out for the fish nibbling at your feet; it’s a peculiar sensation!

It is best to try to arrive early at Erawan Falls to beat the bus tours and have the falls almost to yourself. If you have time, you can also visit the Phra That Cave, where you can wander through stalagmites and stalactites.

Elephant World

Many people come to Thailand hoping to interact with elephants. Although these creatures are Thailand’s most revered animal, many ‘sanctuaries’ have been known to torture their elephants to make them work. Therefore, it is crucial to seek out ethical companies that offer no riding and treat the elephants with the love and appreciation they deserve.

One such sanctuary is Elephant Nature Park, Kanchanaburi (part of the same group in Chiang Mai). This park is a true sanctuary for elephants, who are allowed to wander freely and interact with visitors only in limited ways (no riding).

Adult Price 2500 Baht, Children 1250 Baht

Getting To Kanchanaburi:

By Train:

Whilst not the fastest way to travel, the train is probably the cheapest and most scenic option, passing through beautiful lush countryside. There are two trains a day departing Bangkok’s Thonburi station at 7.50 am and 1.55 pm for 100 Baht each.

By Taxi:

Taxi prices can be negotiated with individual taxi drivers, but most will cost between 1200 and 1500 Baht.

By Minivan:

You can catch a minivan at most bus stations in Bangkok for around 200 – 250 baht each, or you can arrange this by going to one of the many travel agencies in Bangkok or from your Hotel.

12Go is a useful app for finding the best transport options around Asia. I used it many times to book trains, buses, and ferries throughout my time in Thailand and Cambodia.

Where To Stay In Kanchanaburi:

As I was backpacking Thailand, I was on a low budget. However, I found a lovely hotel with a swimming pool called the Sky Resort Kanchanaburi for 800 Baht a night. This was a charming hotel with a great little restaurant overlooking the river and only a short walk into town. However, there is a vast variety of accommodations to choose from, including cheap hostels, guest houses, hotels and luxury resorts.

For booking accommodation, I recommend using This website offers the best prices and caters to all budgets and styles. Just pop in your requirements, and it will give you a list of available accommodations. This is perfect for picking out the best hostels, B&Bs, or even some luxury escapes.

Final Thoughts

Kanchanaburi is a beautiful province in Thailand with many things to see and do. So if you have the time, I suggest spending a few days in the city, as there is so much to explore and a beautiful place to chill out and relax. I believe I have only just scratched the surface, and next time, I would check out some other areas of interest, such as:

  • Boat trips along the River Kwai
  • Chung-Kai War Cemetery
  • Wat Tham Mongkon Thong
  • Sai Yok Noi Waterfall
  • Chinese cemetery
  • Thai Cooking Class
  • Night Market
  • Tham Phu Wa Temple
  • Hindad Hot Springs

Read more:

Thanks so much for stopping by; I appreciate everyone who takes the time to read and make it to the end! I have lots of exciting new content in the next few weeks, so make sure you pop back to catch up! 

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Happy travels!

Exploring Kanchanaburi Thailand
Exploring Kanchanaburi Thailand

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