The famous River Kwai passes through this town which is situated 120km to the West of Bangkok and towards the Burmese border. It is not a ‘go to’ place for many tourists but it is a town rich in WWII history and outstanding natural beauty.
When: August 2015
How Long for: 3 days
5) Visit the WWII Cemetery’s
Kanchanaburi War Cemetery is the main prisoner of war cemetery for victims of the Japanese imprisonment while building the Burma Railway. There are just under 7,000 graves there, mainly British, Dutch and Australian. It is beautifully maintained and the Thailand-Burma Railway Centre across the road offers a great history lesson. The railway was used as a supply route to Burma by the Japanese in WWII. It is suggested that over 100,000 of the workers on the railway died. This was manly due to horrific conditions of starvation, maltreatment and sickness. A sombering place to visit and to understand some of the history of Thailand during the war too.
4) Sleep on the River Kwai
I was inspired to visit the River Kwai after watching the famous film (which is actually not very realistic). I never thought I would be sleeping on the river one day a stones throw from the iconic bridge! I would recommend staying at the Sugar Cane 2 Guest House. Don’t get me wrong, it is basic, very basic but it was an amazing experience and I still reminisce about sitting on the balcony of my floating shack sipping local beer and eating meats on a stick. If you are looking for a little luxury then maybe this place isn’t for you. The guest house is a short walk away from the busier part of the River Kwai Road (where there are plenty of bars to drink the night away) and a short walk the other way to the bridge. This was my first night as a solo traveller and I have great memories of this place as it gave me an insight to solo travelling and set me up for many more trips.
3) Take a cooking class
As a carnivore I have that typical attitude that every meal must be built around the meat. I walked past On’s Thai Issan which was a vegan restaurant a couple of times and it looked great and was always busy. I then checked it out on the internet and there were rave reviews. The chef and owner, On, cooked every dish to order out at the front on the street. What an incredible woman! I went in to eat and ordered the Thai red curry. It was unbelievable. It wasn’t the most Instagram worthy visually but the flavours were incredible, my taste buds were experiencing an explosion of flavour. At first you would get the kick of the ginger followed by the garlic, then the creamyness and sweetness of the coconut milk and then the underlying subtle heat from the chilli kicked in. I did not miss the meat at all, some of the best food I have ever eaten.
I saw on the poster that On did cooking classes and this was one of the items on my list when I came to Thailand. It was 600Bht which was really cheap in comparison to other places and you could learn 3 recipes as well as a free dessert. On was a brilliant teacher and definitely gave me a helping hand where needed! She gave me recipe sheets for each recipe and the best bit is you can eat all of your creations. An unforgettable experience.
2) The Bridge over the River Kwai and the Death Railway
I could see the bridge from my floating shack but up close it was even more impressive. This is the most famous part of the Thailand-Burma railway. The first wooden bridge built here was in 1943 followed by concrete and steel ones. The bridges were bombed in 1945. Post war the British Army removed thousands of kilometres of the track. Make sure to walk the length of the bridge and have a wander around the temple on the other side. Grab some local street food which costs next to nothing. Today you can take the train from here to Nam Tok which is a 2 hour ride. I took the train to Tham Krasae station where there is a small set of shops and the Krasae cave with a small Buddha inside. The views here are astonishing across the river with the mountains in the distance. This part of the railway clings to the cliff and required the deepest rock cuttings along the entire route. Almost every POW who worked on this part of the railway died.
1) Erawan National Park
Alongside the Bridge over the River Kwai this was the main reason I came to Kanchanaburi. The Erawan National Park had popped up on internet articles when I was researching Thailand and it looked epic. The main attraction is the seven tiered waterfalls. They are said to resemble Erawan (The three headed white elephant of Hindu mythology). The falls are beautiful and you scale up the falls gradually with natural pools along the route that you can take a dip in. You can slide down some of the smaller waterfalls too into the pools below. You can even get a free pedicure off the local fish! You can hire your own transport to make your way to the National Park or there are many tour providers that will take you there. Perhaps the most scenic way of getting there would be taking the Death Railway train as mentioned above all the way to Nam Tok.
Enjoy your visit here and please feel free to comment if you want any more information.