Updated: Jan 6, 2021
Just a few hours’ drive west of Bangkok lies a favorite destination for nature and history lovers alike: Kanchanaburi. It may only be a short hop from Thailand’s capital, but this town couldn’t be further from the hustle & bustle of the big city. You’re in for a pleasant surprise as you discover all the hidden gems this captivating area hosts.
The forest-covered jagged mountains of Kanchanaburi frame a landscape of great beauty. Kanchanaburi is home to the Western Forest Complex, one of the largest protected forests in Southeast Asia lining the Thai - Burmese border, and is home to a number of critically endangered species of animals.
Kanchanaburi’s geography forms a natural passageway from the plains of Central Thailand to lower Burma, carving a natural valley through which the armies of many nations and kingdoms have marched and fought from ancient times up until World War II.
The story which attracts most curious visitors to Kanchanaburi is the that of the Japanese occupation and the horrendous conditions the allied POWS labored under during the construction of the infamous Death Railway that stretches from Thailand to Myanmar.
5 Must-dos and Must-sees in Kanchanaburi
1. The Bridge on the River Kwai is the railway bridge over the Kwae Noi, better known as the River Kwai that inspired a 1950s war film. Due in part to the movie, this has become one of Kanchanburi’s best-known landmarks.
2. Ride the historic Siam - Burma Railway! There are several trains a day from Bangkok to the waterfall at Nam Tok. One of the most scenic sections of the railway is a trestled section along the river bluff above the Kwae Noi River and is worth a ride.
3. Hellfire Pass today is a museum and memorial to the 13,000 allied prisoners and 80,000 Asian labourers who died building the railway. This section of the railway was particularly difficult to build, and laborers often worked around the clock in brutal conditions. At night they worked by torch light which reminded the prisoners of the fires of hell, hence the name Hellfire Pass. The highlight of the visit is hiking an abandoned section of the rail bed as you walk through living history.
4. Sai Yok Yai Waterfall in Sai Yok National Park is a picturesque waterfall of limestone cascades not far from the last station on the railway. The Sai Yok National Park, part of the Western Forest Complex, is primarily a wildlife preserve but is also has numerous waterfalls, caves and hiking trails for visitors to enjoy. This lush national park is an idyllic setting for a nice walk!
5. Prasat Muang Singh National Historical Park is the site of an ancient outpost of the Khmer Empire. Two temples, built at the height of the Khmer Empire, are styled after the famous Bayon and fascinating pieces of history.
The best way to experience the captivating natural beauty of Kanchanaburi is to explore by bike & boat. The riding is not demanding, as you’ll cycle through flat fields and forest on well-maintained rural roads during the mornings, then in the afternoons, relax on the boat as it cruises up the river - unforgettable!