NOTE: An updated (2016), more indepth look into Kanchabauri is available here!
So I finally made it to Kanchanaburi, and what a place it is. It’s about 2 hours from Bangkok and has become quite a traveler hangout. Laid back atmosphere, plenty of stuff to see and do, dirt cheap accommodation and a chilled but fun nightlife. It’s so accessible too, there’s no excuse not to whack it on your Thailand itinerary. It’s a similar atmosphere to Pai and Chiang Mai but with less people, all in all one of my favourite spots in the whole of Thailand.
Things to see in Kanchanaburi:
Bridge over the River Kwai: Made famous from the movie with the same title, this is the main draw for visitors to Kanchanaburi. It’s found at the end of the town, so hop on your rented scooter and spend 2 minutes burning down the mainstreet to get it to and you’re all set.
You can walk across the bridge or you can actually take the train from Nam Tok to the River Kwai station (2 hours) where you actually cross the bridge by train, to be honest it’s a bit of a waste of time though.
Also, Hellfire pass is worth a mention if morbid tourism is your thing :S The Australian government funded a great museum and cleared the jungle back so you can see the tunnels the POW worked on for 18+ hours a day, months on end. Grim.
Erawan Falls: Maybe not Thailand’s tallest waterfall but arguably it’s best, 7 tiers of ridiculously gorgeous waterfalls, with bright turquoise waters all of which you can swim in. The falls are about 70km from Kanchanaburi, I drove my scooter there and it took about an hour, cool drive too. You can take a bus from Kanchanaburi bus station, every hour for about $2, takes 90 mins.
Also, tour companies run day trips here from Bangkok, it’s certainly possible but it would be a bloody long day, better to make your way to Kanchanaburi, spend a day or two there and venture to the falls from there. I wouldn’t recommend squeezing it all into a day trip.
Sai Yok Falls are worth a trip too, much closer than Erawan and still pretty awesome (complete with hot springs)
Tiger Temple: This is always a bit of an ethical choice, personally I didn’t go but it’s very popular so I thought I should include it. Basically, 30 mins outside the town you can go to Wat Pa Luang Ta Bua, pay exorbitant fees ($20+ to $200!) for various types of photos with strangely subdued tigers (read: drugged up). You may want an awesome new facebook profile pic, but ask yourself is it really worth it at the expense of the tiger’s freedom and health. Also, there have been attacks on people when the tigers get antagonised, which is pretty predictable considering the life they life, some worldwide travel insurance might be a good idea. That, or avoiding the place altogether. End of rant.
How to get to Kanchanburi: From Bangkok, it’s pretty easy.
BUS: From BKK’s southern bus terminal, leaving every 30 mins or so. $4 and 2 hours.
Also, from Khao San Road you can get mini-vans for around $5, easy and convenient.
TRAIN: From Thonburi Train Station, a train leave BKK at 7.45am and arrives around 10am. This is my preferred choice, comfortale and awesome views. Costs around $3.
There are so many guesthouse to stay at, with rooms starting at $4 you won’t struggle to find cheap places. Food is great too, and street food starts at $1. Kanchanaburi is the sort of place you could find yourself staying for a week or two, it’s that nice! Happy travels!