|Kanchanaburi Travel Information and Travel Guide|
|Introduction | City Attractions | Accommodation | Transportation | Out of City Attractions | Special Interests|
|West to Kanchanaburi and Three Pagoda Pass- Crossing into Burma | Local Culture | Major Events|
|Thai Etiquette | Shopping | Dining | Map of Kanchanaburi|
is Thailand's fourth largest province. Kanchanaburi covers some
19,486 square kilometres, and borders Myanmar (Burma) to the west
The Bridge Over The River Kwai is the reason why so many visit Kanchanaburi. It was importalised in David Lean's epic movie that was actually filmed in Sri Lanka with a wooden bridge that gave a far more dramatic explosion than the actual metal one would have done. Today the bombing of the bridge is celebrated annually on it's anniversary with The River Kwai Bridge Festival held 28 Nov-7 Dec.
In June 1942 the Japanese High Command ordered a single-line 1 metre gauge railway to run 250 miles from Ban Pong in Thailand via Three Pagodas Pass to Thanbyuzayat in Burma. Its purpose was to carry 3,000 tons of cargo daily to support their invasion of India, the a part of the British Empire. Construction started in October 1942 and by late October 1943 was completed at the cost of lives of 16,000 prisoners of war and 100,000 impressed Asian slave labourers of Chinese, South Indian, Malay, Burmese, Japanese and Dutch Indonesian origin. One life was lost for every sleeper on the track.
Some 6,982 POW's are buried under the immactulately clipped turf of Kanchanaburi War Cemetery (Don Rak) 1km from the centre of town and a further 1,700 at Chungkai Cemetery.
Kanchanaburi Town is 128 kms west of Bangkok and can be easily reached either by train from Hualamphong Railway Station, by bus from the Southern Bus Terminal or driving on the new express way from Pinklao. Every Saturday and Sunday a special train leaves Bangkok at 6.30am. After a 40 minuate stop at Nakom Pathom it continues to the River Kwai Bridge where it stops for 10 minutes photo opportunity after which it passes the site of the former POW Camp before cautiously edging its way along the cliff-hugging track built by the allied troops.
At Nam Tok Waterfall there is a Buddhist Memorial built by the government of Japan for those of all nationalities and religions that lost their lives in the construction of the Death Railway.
Beside the waterfall stands a spirit house and State Railway Steam Train 702, built by Mitsubishi in 1935 and was sold to the Thai Government at the end of WW II. This was part of a package of one and half million pounds for the track and rolling stock seized from the Japanese Army. The State Railway of Thailand still has in working condition seven of the original steam trains which are used every Saturday and Sunday for special trips from the River Kwai Bridge to Nam Tok.
45km west of Kanchanaburi is Muang Singh , the most westernly Khmer Temple in Thailand. The name translates to "Sanctuary of the City of the Lion".
The temple's importance is its strategic location, on the road to the west of Three Pagoda Pass that crosses into Burma.
There is little doubt that this was a garrison town to protect the western limit of the Khymer empire and was probably an important trading post.
In addition it is possible to continue
from Kanchanaburi to Three Pagoda Pass where subject to prevailing
political conditions it may be possible to cross into Myanmar.
Japanese War Memorial This occupies a small plot of riverside land just south of the bridge.
The Kanchanaburi War Cemetery On Saeng Chuto Road, opposite the Railway Station, this immaculately maintained enclave contains the remains of 6,982 Allied prisoners of war who perished during the construction of the 'Death Railway'. An estimated 16,000 Allied prisoners of war, and 49,000 forced laborers, died during the construction of the 'Death Railway' and Bridge over the River Kwai.
The Chung-Kai War Cemetery 2 kilometres south of town, on the bank of the Kwai Noi River, this occupies the former site of the Chung-Kai Prisoner of War Camp. This second cemetery is more peaceful, attractively landscaped, and contains some 1,750 remains.
The JEATH War Museum This enclave in the riverside precincts of Wat Chaichumphon has been constructed largely in the form of an Allied prisoner-of-war camp. The name JEATH is derived from Japan, England, America, Australia, Thailand and Holland. The thatched detention hut with cramped, elevated bamboo bunks contains photographic, pictorial and physical memorabilia dating from the Second World War. Several prisoners of war who survived appalling conditions have donated items from that time to add to the museum's authenticity.
Khao Poon 1 kilometre southwest of the Chung-Kai War Cemetery,
this Buddhist temple is locally renowned for a cave containing stalactites
and stalagmites, and many beautiful Buddha images.
Kanchanaburi offers air-conditioned hotels and resorts ,bungalows, guest houses and riverside rafts within the provincial capital. River raft accommodation is also available in several natural locations, alongside both rivers and the Khao Laem and Sri Nagarind reservoirs.
Visitors wishing to stay at any of Kanchanaburi's national parks are advised to book beforehand, particularly if they wish to make weekend or public holiday outings. Reservations should be made through Bangkok's National Parks Division of the Royal Forestry Department (Tel: 579-5025, 5794842).
wishing to stay at Khao Laem or Srinagarind Dams must make reservations
through the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) in
Bangkok, Tel: 436-3179, 424-4794.
Transportation To Kanchanaburi Kanchanaburi is connected by daily road and rail services with Bangkok and other neighboring provinces.
Air-conditioned and regular coaches leave Bangkok's Southern Bus Terminal throughout the day for the 2 to 3-hour journey.
Trains leave the Bangkok Noi Railway Station daily for Kanchanaburi.
The TAT office in Kanchanaburi issues an updated and current timetable for bus and rail services between Bangkok and Kanchanaburi, and major neighboring provinces.
Travel Within Kanchanaburi Transportation within the provincial capital is most enjoyable on tricycles. These can be hired at the rate of approximately 150 Baht for two to three hours, enabling visitors to see the Bridge over the River Kwai, the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery, the waterfront Song Kwai Road area, and the JEATH War Museum in one circuit.
Motorcycles or jeeps can be rented on a daily or weekly basis at several outlets on Saeng Chuto Road, beside the TAT Kanchanaburi office, and around the Song Kwai Road area. Visitors are advised to shop around since hire rates and conditions vary, and to check with the TAT office for prevailing rates.
The boat trip to the Lawa Cave and Sai Yok Yai Waterfall from the Pak Saeng Pier in Tambon Tha Sao takes around 4 hours for the return trip, and costs between 1,000 and 1,500 baht per boat, each with a seating capacity of 10 to 12 persons.
The 45-70-minute boat ride to Sri Nagarind National Park headquarters, from the Tha Kradan Pier, costs 1,500 baht upwards, again on boats with seating capacities of 10 to 12 persons.
are advised to check with the TAT office in Kanchanaburi for prevailing
rates and the availability of alternate methods of transportation,
such as on public holidays and weekends.
Essentially, there are two major land routes for exploring main conveniently accessible tourism attractions in Kanchanaburi. The more western Route 323 largely parallels the Kwai Noi River to the Khao Laem Dam reservoir (153 kilometres from the provincial capital). Route 3199 follows the Kwai Yai River to Sri Nagarind Dam (69 kilometres away from the provincial capital).
Phu Phra Cave 15 kilometres from town, this cavern is where a legendary character from Thai literature is said to have studied magic.
Sai Yok Noi Waterfall Also known as Khao Phang Waterfall, 60 kilometres from town on Route 323, this is the first of several waterfalls. The roadside cascade is best visited between July and September, when water is most plentiful, and is located 2 kilometres northwest of Nam Tok Railway Station, the terminus of the branch line originating in the provincial capital and which crosses the world-famous bridge.
The Lawa Cave 75 kilometres from town, this largest cave in the area has stalactites and stalagmites in several chambers. Visitors may take boats from the Kwai Noi River Pak Saeng Pier, at Tambon Tha Sao (southwest of Nam Tok Railway Station and Sai Yok, Noi Waterfall) to explore this cave, and travel afterwards upstream to the riverine Sai Yok Yai Waterfall, 104 kilometres from town.
Sai Yok Yai Waterfall This flows directly into the Kwai Noi River, and is the most popular attraction in the 300-square kilometre Sai Yok National Park. The park contains several interesting caves besides the Lawa. The Daowadung Cave, which also entails a river trip for visits, is the most popular. South of the Sai Yok Yai Waterfall, is another cascade flowing into the river, the Nam Jone Waterfall. Wildlife in Sai Yok's deciduous forests include small mammals such as bats, squirrels, and deer, and numerous bird species, including wreathed hornbills and blue-winged pittas. Human presence at Sai Yok is known to date back to the Stone Age, and the Sai Yok Yai Waterfall has been repeatedly celebrated in Thai poetry and song. Bungalow accommodation, river rafts and camping facilities are available.
Hin Dat Hot Springs 130 kilometres from town, these occupy a hollow some 3 kilometres northeast of Route 323.
Pha That Waterfall The three-tiered cascade, 140 kilometres from town, is some 12 kilometres northeast of Route 323, along the same track.
Khao Laem Dam 153 kilometres from town, this imposing structure has a 9-hole golf course, tennis courts, guest house and motel accommodation, and a scenic reservoir upon which several private raft complexes offer opportunities for boat rides, swimming and fishing.
Areas beyond Khao Laem Dam meriting visits either edge the extensive reservoir or nestle against the Myanmar border.
Pilog Mine 60 kilometres west of Amphoe Thonphaphum, on Route 3272, there was much mining of wolfram and tin in the Tanaosri Mountain range marking the Thai-Burmese border. A temperate fruit and decorative winter plant orchard, Pilog Hill, 32 kilometres from the amphoe, can be visited en route.
Sangkla Buri This petite settlement, some 225 kilometres from Kanchanaburi, edges the northernmost extremities of the Khao Laem reservoir. The scenic 75-kilometre route from Khao Laem largely parallels the reservoir, passes several raft complexes, botanical gardens and roadside cascades, and vistas of partly submerged trees crowding the reservoir banks.
Three Pagodas Pass This even smaller settlement, 241 kilometres from Kanchanaburi, marks the rugged Thai-Myanmar border, and is the site of a small but thriving border market. Visitors are allowed to enter the neighboring Burmese settlement between 6.00 AM and 6.00 PM (when the border is closed). The three miniature pagodas are memorials to what was the traditional invasion route favoured by Burmese soldiers during the Ayutthaya period (1350-1767).
Wat Wangka Wiwekaram This extensive temple on the southern outskirts of Sangkla Buri edges the Khao Laem reservoir. The complex is constructed in an unusual pastiche of Thai, Indian and Burmese Buddhist architectural styles, and the abbot is highly revered among local people, including tribal folk and Burmese.
Sangkla Buri Forest Tours Certain Kanchanaburi travel agents offer one day elephant-trekking and rafting tours in the immediate vicinity of Sangkla Buri. Visitors are advised to contact either local travel agents or the Kanchanaburi TAT office for current details, since the tours are not always conducted on a daily basis.
Thung Yai Sanctuary Park Northeast of Sangkla Buri, this sanctuary occupies a terrain of forested mountains and high plains, and hosts numerous protected wildlife species including tigers, bears, elephants and deer. The area is necessarily rugged, remote, and demands 4-wheeldrive vehicles for exploration. Special permission from the Forestry Department is needed for admittance. Visitors interested in entering the area are required to contact the Forestry Department, either in Bangkok or in Kanchanaburi.
ROUTE 3199 Major attractions along Route 3199 include beautiful waterfalls in three national parks.
Bo Phloi Some 40 kilometres from Kanchanaburi, and just off Route 3086, this area is famed for locally-mined blue sapphires and semiprecious materials such as onyx. A Jewellery Handicraft Centre enables visitors to see how these materials are made into finished jewellery creations.
Kanchanaburi Safari Park This brand new enclave, near Bo Phloi, dominated by a man-made hill adorned with decorative pavilions, hosts numerous African and Asian mammals, including giraffes, zebras, lions, tigers and elephants in carefully landscaped environs.
Chaloem Rattanakosin National Park or Tham Than Lod 97 kilometres from Kanchanaburi, and north of Bo Phloi, along Route 3086, this 54-square kilometre park encompasses peaceful forests, waterfalls and several caves. The 300-metre long Than Lod Noi Cave near the park headquarters is the most popular attraction. Bungalow accommodation and camping facilities are available.
Erawan National Park 65 kilometres from Kanchanaburi along Route 3199, this 550-square-kilometre national park is the site of the 7-tiered Erawan Waterfall, widely regarded as being one of Thailand's loveliest cascades. A mountainside forest setting includes dense bamboo groves which support numerous bird species. The park's other major attraction is the spectacular Prathat Cave which contains monumental stalagmites. Bungalow accommodation and camping facilities are available.
Sri Nagarind Dam 69 kilometres from Kanchanaburi, and just 4 kilometres north of the Erawan national park, this massive structure marks the southernmost extremity of an extensive reservoir, which is part of yet another national park.
Sri Nagarind National Park This park covers 1,532 square kilometres. Park headquarters are 105 kilometres from Kanchanaburi. Major park attractions include the lovely 7-tiered Huay Kamin Waterfall, boat trips on the scenic reservoir, and encroaching deciduous forest and bamboo groves where kingfishers, parrots, bee-eaters, hornbills, woodpeckers, thrushes, babblers and numerous other bird species are readily seen. Larger, more elusive mammals within the park's remoter areas include deer, elephants and tigers. Phra and Niramit Caves near the park headquarters comprise other attractions.
accommodation is available. The park's relative inaccessibility necessitates
either a punishing 40-kilometre drive along a dry weather track, and
negotiable only by motorcycles, pickups or 4-wheel-drive vehicles, or
a 45-75-minute boat ride from the Tha Kradan Pier 24 kilometres north
of the Sri Nagarind Dam.
National Parks Kanchanaburi's a forementioned parks offer opportunities for either camping, and/or fishing, or trekking along nature trails. Camping facilities, which customarily provide cold running water and simple toilet facilities, are available at Chaloem Rattanakosin, Sai Yok and Erawan national parks. Trekking along either well-defined waterfall trails, or nature trails, to visit caves or appreciate local flora and fauna is a popular activity at all national parks.
Fishing This is popular on both Kwai rivers, and the Khao Laem and Sri Nagarind reservoirs. Several raft resorts offer hired rods. Edible and popular fish include the Giant Gourami, the Transverse Bellbarb, the Giant Snakehead Fish and the Striped Tiger Nandid. Each is delicious when freshly cooked, either simply fried or in Thai culinary styles.
Rafting Trips are available from the provincial capital and several holiday resorts. Raft trips leaving from the famous bridge, or the waterfront Song Kwai Road area, cost between 2,000 and 4,500 baht for 10-15 persons, depending on durations and destinations. Trips may entail 7-10 hour return journeys, or include an overnight stay on either the Kwai Yai or Kwai Noi rivers. Visitors are advised to contact TAT's Kanchanaburi office for current information and prices.
Rail Trips Railway enthusiasts may travel along one of Southeast Asia's most historical tracks, namely the surviving stretch of the 'Death Railway', from the provincial capital to the Nam Tok Railway Station near the Sai Yok Noi Waterfall. The winding track crosses the world-famous bridge and provides a clear indication of how difficult constructing the original track (long since repaired and restored) must have been. One particularly exhilarating stretch sees the line parallel the curving Kwai Noi on a wooden viaduct towering above the river and hugging a steep, cave-ridden cliff.
Golf Golf has become very popular in recent years and can be enjoyed at the courses listed below. Most offer clubhouse, pro shop and caddy facilities, and have rental equipment. Green fees vary widely, weekends generally being more expensive. Unless otherwise specified, courses listed below are each 18-hole, par 72.
World Hot Spring Resort & Golf Club Km
Garden & Golf Club
Laem Golf Course (9 holes)
Nagarind Golf Course (9 holes)
Resort & Country Club
Saiyok & Sports Club Singha, Sai Yok
Hill Golf Club
Kwai Golf & Country Club
Hills Golf Club
Kanchanaburi is about 128 kms west of Bangkok and the drive via Nakhon Pathom takes about two and half hours comfortable drive on well maintained dual carriage way. Alternatively regular coaches depart from Southern Bus Terminal and trains leave Bangkok Noi Railway Station . Kanchanaburi sits on the confluence of Kwai Noi and Kwai Yai rivers and is perhaps most famous for The Bridge over The River Kwai.
The River Kwai Bridge Festival is a spectacular light and sound show held in November to commemorate the first Allied bombing of the bridge on November 28, 1944.
The actual World War II history of the Death Railway is somewhat different from that from the novel and subsequent David Lean movie. In June 1942 the Japaense Imperial General Headquarters directed its army to build a single-line, one meter gauge railway 250 miles from Ban Pong in Thailand to Burma. It was intended that the railway would carry 3,000 tons daily via Three Pagoda Pass on the Burmese boarder to Thanbyuzayat.
Work started in October 1942 and was finally completed a year later at the end of October 1943. More than 16,000 prisoners of war and 100,000 impressed labourers including Chinese, South Indians, Malays, Burmese, Japanese and Dutch-Indonesian Euruasians died lmainly from disease , malnutrition and exhaustion, laying the track though the dense jungle. One life for every sleeper along the line.
In David Lean's Oscar winning movie The Bridge over The River Kwai,which was filmed in Sri Lanka , the bridge that was bombed by Allied forces was built of wood to make the explosion all the more dramatic.
The Kanchanaburi War Cemetery (Don Rak) 1km from town is kept immaculately and the unusually finely bladed grass for Asia is neatly cropped like an English lawn. It contains the remains of 6,982 POW's.
The most westerly Khmer ruins in Thailand can be found 45km west of the town at Prasat Muang Singh which translates to "Sanctuary of the City of the Lion" and it's name may well reflect its origin. The inscription on the steel at Preah Kha at Angkor mentions Srijayasimhapura (City of the Victorious Lion) as one of the places that Jayavarman VII had sent a Jayaduddamahanatha statue.
Muang Singh's importance lies in its strategic location, on the route west of Three Pagodas Pass crossing into Myanmar. It was almost certainly a garrison town to protect the western limits of the Khmer empire and likely to have been an important trading centre. Open daily 8.30am-4pm admission B40 for foreigners, B10 for Thais and B50 for a car.
Route 323 twists through the dense mountainous forest to Si Nakharin Dam, an impressive hydro-electric power plant project with lakeside picnic area and golf course, an ideal stopping point on the way to the town of Sangkhla Buri where visitors will find an ethnic mix of Mon, Karen and Burmese mingle with indigenous Thais at the early morning market. Many wearing the checked longyis a yellow Burmese face powder to protect them from the elements. Sangkla Buri is also home to the Mon Bridge the longest wooden bridge in Thailand that links the town with the Mon villages.
The Three Pagoda Pass conjures up a magical and mysterious image and is 280km from Kanchanburi and 340 km from Bangkok. Over the centuries it has been the invasion route for the Burmese, a station for the Death Railway during World War II, and a stronghold for the Mon and Karen rebels fighting for autonomy. Since it was captured back from the Mon and Karen etanic rebels in 1990, foreign tourist have made their way up to the border but according to TAT statistics only 15% of visitors to Kanchanaburi go onto visit the boarder.
A one day pass costs B250 for foreign tourists and Baht 20 for Thai ID cardholders. Once across the border the town of Payathonzu offer the opportunity to buy fabric and cloth from Burma, India and Pakistan to decorative wooden handicraft and, local and foreign cigars (cherots) and cigarettes.
For those who have an eye for what they want there are the potential bargains of jade carvings, precious stones and ivory carvings in addition to amulets and rings with Burmese rubies.There is an abundance of carved heavy wooden furniture for sale. Our bargain purchase was a hand of Red Bananas for B20. The fruit was plump and firm.
A few days after our visit I had heard rumours that the border had been closed again because of unhealthy cattle being brought over from Burma for sale. We contacted TAT in Kanchanaburi who in turn contacted the Immigration Office in Sangkhlaburi (66-34-595335). The Director said " The boarder is open and the situation is safe." There is always the possibility that the situation could change and you may wish to check with the Immigration Office before heading up there.
Kanchanaburi's inhabitants are largely engaged in agriculture, and are mostly of Thai ancestry with notable Mon and Karen minorities. Rural dwellers enjoy folk music and dances dating back at least 500 years and which feature distinctive songs and long drums. Such performances are reenacted during popular festivals each year at Amphoe Phanom Tuan.
Boat & Raft Day Local longboat teams race boats with great gusto at the waterfront area of the provincial Kwai Yai River to celebrate 'Boat & Raft Day', generally during October.
Kwai Bridge Week Each year, late November and/or early December,
the world-famous bridge becomes the focal point of celebrations. Highlights
include exhibitions and historical and archeological displays; a carnival
featuring sideshows, roundabouts, folk entertainment and cultural performances;
rides on trains hauled by World War II vintage steam locomotives; and
a nightly light & sound presentation reenacting the bridge's Second
World War history, including an Allied bombing raid.
What is considered polite in your country is probably considered polite in Thailand, too. However, there are a few cultural pitfalls, mainly social and religious taboos, the breaking of which can cause offence.
For example, Thais revere their royal family. Even social malcontents, who ignore legal and community standards, refuse to tolerate a faintly implied slur on the monarchy.
Outward expressions of anger are regarded as crude and boorish. Visitors who remain calm and smile will find all sorts of doors opened to them.
Visitors should dress neatly in all religious shrines. They should never go shirtless, or in shorts, hot pants or other unsuitable attire.
Shoes should be removed when entering a private Thai home, a Buddhist temple chapel, any of the Islamic community's mosques.
Each Buddha image, large or small, ruined or not, is regarded as a sacred object. Never climb onto one to take a photograph or do anything which might indicate a lack of respect.
Public displays of affection between men and women are frowned upon. Westernized Thai couples may hold hands, but that's as far as it goes in public. It is considered rude to point your foot at a person or object.
Thais regard the head as the highest part of the body, literally and figuratively. Therefore, they do not appreciate anyone patting them there, even as a friendly gesture.
ask questions which are regarded elsewhere as being personal. If the
visitor is asked, 'Where are you going?' or 'How much do you earn?'
such questions are asked in a friendly manner and signify genuine interest.
Joking answers such as, 'I'm not sure' or "Never enough!' are perfectly
Major souvenir shops are concentrated around the eastern approaches, and riverine environment, of the world-famous bridge.. Almost every handicraft produced in Thailand can be purchased there. Browsing to compare quality, and good-humored but determined bargaining, will ensure favorable prices for ready-made leisurewear and other apparel, and popular souvenirs such as bamboo musical instruments, palm leaf mobiles, ceramic decorations, lacquerware and bronzeware receptacles, paper parasols, and Thai silk and cotton lengths.
Kanchanaburi is a major source of high-quality Thai blue sapphires. These are mined at Ban Phloi, as are onyx and topaz. Purchases of finished jewellery creations can be made at Ban Phloi's Jewellery Handicraft Centre and other satellite outlets.
Western cuisine is rarely found beyond hotel coffee shops and guest house or resort dining rooms. Excellent Thai and Chinese cuisine prominently features freshly caught river fish. The most popular dining areas are the Song Kwai Road waterfront area and the riverine restaurants in the vicinity of the River Kwai Bridge. In both areas, several restaurants, some on rafts, offer comprehensive menus. Live music is often frequently offered, particularly in the Song Kwai Road area.
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