Would you like to know a Thai city marked by its past? Visit Kanchanaburi! This city was a point of historical relevance during the Second World War. We tell you what to see in Kanchanaburi and what experiences to live in the city, from its famous River Kwai to the Erawan waterfalls Kanchanaburi is a city in central Thailand with a population of approximately 29,400. It may not be one of the best-known cities in Thailand, but it was of great importance during World War II. Especially for its famous bridge over the River Kwai, of which a movie was made. Perhaps this is already more familiar to you! If you want to know a little more about Kanchanaburi, keep reading! We explain what to see in Kanchanaburi and what to do to take advantage of your visit to this historic city during your trips to Thailand .
What to see in Kanchanaburi
There is much to see in Kanchanaburi, beyond its renowned bridge. We tell you the essential things to see in Kanchanaburi: museums, temples, the Hellfire Pass railway section and, of course, the famous bridge.
Bridge over the River Kwai and Death Railway
As you may have already read, the Bridge over the River Kwai is the main point of interest in the city of Kanchanaburi. And it is that this construction was a very relevant point during the Second World War. This bridge was built by order of the Japanese Imperial Army, who forced 250,000 civilian workers from various Asian countries and 61,000 Western prisoners to build the bridge under inhumane conditions. During the construction of the bridge, about 90,000 people died. Many died from the overexertion of having to make great physical efforts at high temperatures, while others perished from diseases such as cholera.
The purpose of the bridge was to communicate Thailand with Burma (present-day Myanmar). The railway line that passed through this bridge was known as the Death Railway or Death Train. Currently this bridge can be crossed on foot. If you want to see it on foot, there are even some small entrances in the bridge itself to locate yourself when the train passes. This bridge is based on the classic war film The Bridge on the River Kwai, shot in 1957 and winner of seven Oscars. The film deals with the construction of the bridge and its role during the war.
Jeath War Museum
The JEATH War Museum is located next to the River Kwai itself. It is a not very big museum that explains how the Allied prisoners who built the railway lived between 1942 and 1945. The museum is divided into two parts: one that focuses on the construction of the railway and another that contains weapons, tools, photos and illustrations from the time. It is a recommended visit if you want to delve into the role of the area in the Second World War.
- Location : Ban Tai, Mueang Kanchanaburi District
- Hours : from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
- Price : 30 baht (approximately €0.87)
The war cemetery is also known as the Don-Rak War Cemetery. It was designed by Colin St Clair Oakes, a British architect, and was built as a memorial to those who died during the construction of the railway line. In this cemetery there are around 7,000 prisoners buried, mainly British, Dutch and Australian.
- Location : 284/66 Sangchuto Rd, Tambon Ban Tai, Amphoe Mueang Kanchanaburi
- Hours : from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Price : free entry
Wat Tham Suea Temple
Wat Tham Suea temple is also known as Cave Temple. Without a doubt, it is one of the most important temples in the city and an essential visit if you are interested in knowing the culture of the place. It is located on a small hill , about 15 kilometers from the urban center of Kanchanaburi. You can climb the mountain on foot or by funicular. If you decide to climb on foot, you can do so through the 157 steps that will take you to the top. Once you arrive at the Wat Tham Suea temple you will be able to see a 15-meter-high Buddha next to the main stupa. This huge Buddha, known as Chin Prathanporn, was built in 1973. There are also two other smaller stupas. Once you are there, take the opportunity to enjoy the views! From the top of the Cueva del Templo you will see panoramic views of the area that are well worth it.
- Hours : from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Price : free entry. The price of the funicular is 10 baths (0.3€, approximately).
Things to do in Kanchanaburi
Now that you know what to see in Kanchanaburi, it is time to find out what activities are the most recommended once you are in the city. They will make your visit much more complete! Here we explain what to do in Kanchanaburi to enjoy the best activities in the city.
Cruise down the River Kwai
Navigating the River Kwai is an experience for the more adventurous. The journey is made on a bamboo raft. You will be carried by the current down the river, equipped with a life jacket until you reach the resort. The current is very smooth and pleasant. A totally unforgettable experience ideal for those looking for something different to have fun alone, with a partner or with friends or family.
Sleep in a houseboat on the River Kwai
One of the most authentic and unique experiences you can have in Kanchanaburi is sleeping on a houseboat on the River Kwai. These floating houses, or raft houses, are surrounded by vegetation and are characterized by the tranquility of the area. An activity that perfectly complements sailing on the River Kwai
Visit the Erawan waterfalls
A visit to the Erawan National Park will allow you to discover one of the most special natural corners of the place: the Erawan waterfalls. These waterfalls are made up of 8 different levels. They are a recognized place throughout Thailand, since its 7 waterfalls form landscapes of great beauty. To get to the waterfalls you will have to do a very pleasant 2-kilometre walk, in the middle of nature. By the way! If you feel like bathing in the waterfalls you can do it. This visit is ideal for nature lovers or for those who want to disconnect from the big cities. The park is about 45 kilometers from urban Kanchanaburi In the park you can also explore 4 caves. The price to enter the park is 200 baht (approximately €5.7)
Tour the Hellfire Pass or Corte del Infierno railway section
If you want to take a tour of the Hellfire Pass railway section and cross the bridge over the River Kwai, another option, beyond going on foot, is to take the train tour. As we have mentioned, it is a very iconic place that is worth getting to know in depth during your visit to Kanchanaburi.
Disconnect in Sai Yok National Park
Thailand is a country with bustling cities and, therefore, sometimes you want to be able to go into corners that allow you to disconnect and recharge your batteries during your trip. One idea that we suggest is to visit the Sai Yok National Park in Kanchanaburi. This park is actually 100 kilometers northwest of Kanchanaburi. Waterfalls await you in this national park (the Sai Yok Yai and Sai Yok Noi waterfalls are two of the best known in the park), caves –the most notable being the Tham Lawa cave, 500 meters long–, in addition to its flora and its wildlife.
How to get from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi
Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, and Kanchanaburi are approximately 150 kilometers apart. There are several options to go from one city to another. These are some that we recommend:
- By train: the journey time is about 3-4 hours. It is not an expensive option, especially if you have flexible hours.
- By minivan: the journey by road takes between two and a half and three hours. It is an economic option, although if you opt for the bus you will still get better prices.
- By bus: it is a highly recommended option since they depart quite frequently from Bangkok at an affordable price.
Now that you know what to see in Kanchanaburi and what are the most recommended experiences, do you dare to start preparing your trip? Here you can see our itineraries to Thailand, some of which include a visit to Kanchanaburi. You can also request a free quote from our advisors and they will explain how to add Kanchanaburi to your route.