Kanchanaburi is a large mostly rural province in the Western part of Central Thailand bordering Burma. The province is known for its natural beauty with its landscape of mountains, forests, rivers, caves and waterfalls. Two rivers, the Khwae Noi (river Kwai) and the Khwae Yai flow through the province merging at the capital Kanchanaburi town forming the Mae Klong river. The provincial seal depicts the three chedis of the Three Pagodas Pass in Sangkhlaburi district.
To do & see in Kanchanaburi
Kanchanaburi houses many natural, historical and cultural attractions.
Prasat Muang Singh
Prasat Muang Singh marked the most Western outpost of the Khmer empire. A temple where Hindu Gods were venerated, Prasat Muang Singh is believed to also have served as a military stronghold, to defend the Khmer against Burmese invaders. The sanctuary was build between the 12th and 14th century in Bayon style. The central prang, a Khmer style tower where Shiva was venerated, is well preserved. The temple is located about 40 kilometers West of Kanchanaburi town.
Bridge over the river Kwai
Probably Kanchanaburi’s best known attraction, the Bridge over the river Kwai is part of the infamous Death Railway, build in World War II to bring Japanese troops and supplies from Thailand to Burma. The railway was constructed by Prisoners of War and Asian forced labor in a mountainous jungle area. Living and working conditions were extremely harsh, and tens of thousands died. A section of the railway is still in use today, up to Nam Tok station. Nearby are the war cemetery where 7,000 POW’s are buried and the JEATH war museum where visitors can view an exact copy of a POW camp, a collection of photographs, maps and other historical objects.
On the border with Burma is Sangkhlaburi district, a remote mountainous area. Its main attractions are the Three Pagodas Pass, the wooden Mon bridge, the sunken temple and the Mon village Wang Kha.
Erawan National Park
Erawan National Park is a large protected nature reserve best known for its beautiful seven tiered waterfall named after Erawan, the multi headed elephant from Hindu mythology. A scenic 2 kilometer trek through the forest leads to Erawan falls, considered to be among the most beautiful waterfalls in Thailand. Visitors can climb up the seven levels to the top of the falls and swim in the pools.
Erawan National Park is located about 75 kilometers North West of Kanchanaburi town. A bus takes about 1½ to 2 hours, one way fare is 50 Thai Baht. The last bus back to Kanchanaburi town leaves at 4 pm. The National Park opens daily from 8 am until 5 pm. Admission is 200 Baht per person. During weekends and Thai National Holidays the park can get very busy with Thai tourists.
Konya cutting is a section of the Death Railway cut out of the mountains. The cutting was called Hellfire Pass by POW’s and Asian laborers because of the extremely harsh conditions and the emaciated appearance of the people working on the cutting. Today visitors can walk a four kilometer trail along a section of the previous railway to Hellfire Pass, listening to stories of POW’s through an audio headset. The pass itself is about 500 meters long. An informative museum exhibits maps, photographs, models and other items related to the construction of the pass.
The site opens daily except National Holidays from 9 am until 4 pm. Hellfire Pass is located about 80 kilometers North West of Kanchanaburi town. To get there, take a train to Nam Tok station. From there, charter a samlor for the 20 kilometer ride to the pass.
Kra Sae cave
Kra Sae cave or “Tham Kra Sae” is a natural cave in a very beautiful setting. Inside is a large seated Buddha image. During World War II the cave was used to store items for the construction of the Death Railway. The cave is located near Tham Kra Sae train station. Visitors can walk on the railroad track crossing Kra Sae bridge at about 10 meters above the ground overlooking the river Kwai.
A climb up the hill leads to the narrow entrance of Lawa cave, a large cave with several chambers and numerous stalactites and stalagmites. Lawa cave is located on the Khwae Noi river (river Kwai). To get there, charter a boat at Pak Saeng pier. The trip takes between 45 minutes and 1 hour.
Wat Tham Sua & Wat Tham Khao Noi
Wat Tham Sua and Wat Tham Khao Noi are two temples build on neighboring hilltops. Wat Tham Sua features several buildings in various architectural styles as well as a large seated Buddha image on top of the hill. From the top visitors have great views of the surrounding rural area and the mountains in the distance. The top can be reached by climbing a steep stairway or using a cable car (20 Thai Baht). The Wat Tham Khao Noi’s most distinctive structure is a multi storied Chinese style pagoda. The temples are in Tha Muang district, about 30 kilometers from Kanchanaburi town. Opening hours are daily from 8 am until 5 pm.
Getting to Kanchanaburi
Kanchanaburi town is located at around 130 kilometers West of Bangkok. You can get there by train, bus or private taxi.
There is no airport in Kanchanaburi.
Trains to Kanchanaburi depart from Thonburi station, located West of the Chao Phraya river. To get to the station, cross the river by Chao Phraya express boat to Wang Lang pier. From there take a songthaew. Two trains daily serve Kanchanaburi station. The trip takes about 2 hours and 45 minutes, one way fare is 100 Thai Baht. This train continues to Nam Tok, along a section that remains of the infamous Death Railway. Check the State Railway of Thailand website for more details.
Air conditioned busses to Kanchanaburi depart from both Bangkok’s Northern bus terminal Mo Chit II on Kamphaeng Phet 2 road and Bangkok’s Southern bus terminal called Sai Tai Taling Chan on Borommaratchachonnani road. First and second class busses take between 2 and 3 hours. One way fare varies between 100 and 200 Thai Baht.