Kanchanaburi is Thailand's third largest province. Kanchanaburi
over some 19,485 square (and oftentimes mountainous) kilometers,
and borders Myanmar (Burma) to the west of Bangkok.
Kanchanaburi is the site of the world-famous Bridge Over The
River Kwai, immortalized in books and movies, and is noted for
rugged natural beauty where mountains and river valleys have
inspired development of hydro-electric power and where
labyrinthine dam reservoirs provide further scenic elements to
the province's natural beauty. Beyond the compact provincial
capital, some 130 kilometers, and a comfortable two hour drive
from Bangkok, where the Kwai Yai and Kwai Noi Rivers unite to
form the Mae Klong River, Kanchanaburi unfolds in progressively
arresting scenic beauty in a landscape characterized by several
waterfalls, caves. Opportunities abound for bucolic living
aboard rafts on dazzling rivers and reservoirs, and provide the
focal point for memorable holidays for nature lovers who delight
in natural surroundings and pleasures without sacrificing basic
Attractions - in the city
The provincial capital is a relatively new town, dating merely
from 1831. Major tourism attractions are inextricably connected
with the Second World War, and more specifically, the years 1942
The Bridge over the River Kwai
Internationally famous, thanks to several motion pictures and
books, the black iron bridge was brought from Java by the
Japanese army and reassembled under Japanese supervision by
Allied prisoner of war labor as part of the 'Death Railway'
linking Thailand with Burma. Still in use today, the bridge was
the target of frequent allied bombing raids during 1945, and was
rebuilt after the war ended. The curved spans of the bridge are
the original sections. The bridge, which spans the Kwai Yai
River some 4 kilometers northeast of the Tourism Authority of
Thailand's Kanchanaburi office on Saeng Chuto Road, is the focal
point of a riverside area of restaurants, souvenir and jewelry
shops. Second World War vintage steam locomotives and a peculiar
hybrid road/railcar from the same era comprise a small Railway
Museum on the bridge's eastern approach.
Japanese War Memorial
This occupies a small plot of land just south of the bridge.
The Kanchanaburi War Cemetery
On Saeng Chuto Road, opposite the Railway Station, this
immaculately maintained enclave contains the remains of 6,982
Allied prisoners-of-war who perished during the construction of
the 'Death Railway'. An estimated 16,000-Allied prisoners-of-war
and 49,000-forced laborers, died during the construction of the
'Death Railway' and Bridge over the River Kwai.
The Chong-Kai War Cemetery
2 kilometers south of town, on the bank of the Kwai Noi River,
this occupies the former site of the Chong-Kai Prisoner-of-War
Camp. This second cemetery is more peaceful, attractively
landscaped, and contains some 1,750 remains.
The JEATH War Museum
This enclave in the riverside precincts of Wat Chaichumphon has
been constructed largely in the form of an allied prisoner of
war camp. The name JEATH is derived from Japan, England,
America, Australia, Thailand and Holland. The thatched detention
hut with cramped, elevated bamboo bunks contains photographic,
pictorial and physical memorabilia dating from the Second World
War. Several prisoners-of-war who survived appalling conditions
have donated items from that time to add to the museum's
Wat Tham Khao Pun
1-kilometer southwest of the Chong-Kai War cemetery, this
Buddhist temple is locally renowned for a cave containing
stalactites and stalagmites, and many beautiful Buddha images.
Attractions - out of the city
Essentially, there are two major land routes for exploring
conveniently accessible tourism attractions in provincial
Kanchanaburi. The more western Route 323 largely parallels the
Kwai Noi River to the Khao Laem Dam reservoir (153 kilometers
from the provincial capital). Route 3199 follows the Kwai Yai
River to Sri Nagarind Dam (69 kilometers from the provincial
The center, located at the Rajpatara Institute, some 14
kilometers beyond the provincial capital, houses a permanent
exhibition of ancient and modern lifestyles.
Phu Phra Cave
15 kilometers from town, this cave is where a legendary
character from Thai literature is said to have studied magic.
Prasat Muang Sing Historical Park
Well-signposts from Route 323, and 43 kilometers from town, this
ancient site is located on a steep bank of the Kwai Noi
Waterfall, flows directly into the river. Wildlife in Sai Yok's
deciduous forests include small mammals such as bats, squirrels
and deer, and numerous bird species, including wreathed
hornbills and blue-winged pittas. Human presence at Sai Yok is
known to date back to the Stone Age, and the Sai Yok Yai
waterfall has been repeatedly celebrated in Thai poetry and
song. Bungalow accommodation, river rafts and camping facilities
Hin Dat Hot Springs
130 kilometers from town, these occupy a hollow some 3
kilometers northeast of Route 323.
Phra That Waterfall
The three-tiered cascade, 140 kilometers from town, is some 12
kilometers northeast of Route 323, along the same track.
Khao Laem Dam
153 kilometers from town, this imposing structure has a 9-hole
golf course, tennis courts, guesthouse and motel accommodation,
and a scenic reservoir upon which several private complexes
offer opportunities for boat rides, swimming and fishing. Areas
beyond Khao Laem Dam meriting visits either edge the extensive
reservoir or nestle against the Thai-Myanmar border.
60 kilometers west of Amphoe Thong Pha Phum on Route 3272, there
was much mining of wolfram and tin in the Tanaosri Mountain
range marking the Thai-Burmese borders. A temperate fruit and
decorative winter plant orchard, Pilog Hill, 32 kilometers from
the amphoe, can be visited en route.
This petite settlement, some 225 kilometers from Kanchanaburi,
edges the northern most extremities of the Khao Laem Dam
reservoir. The scenic 75-kilometre route from Khao Laem largely
parallels the reservoir, passes several raft complexes,
botanical gardens and roadside cascades, and vistas of partly
submerged trees crowding the reservoir banks.
Three Pagodas Pass
This even smaller settlement, 241 kilometers from Kanchanaburi,
marks the rugged Thai-Myanmar border, and are the site of a
small but thriving border market. Visitors are allowed to enter
the neighboring Burmese settlement between 6.00 AM and 6.00 PM
(when the border is closed). The three miniature pagodas are
memorials to what did Burmese River where the waterway narrows
and becomes fast flowing favor the traditional invasion route.
The 800-year-old city ruins are of considerable archaeological
interest, and the principal structure, the Khmer Prasat Muang
Sing (Tower of the City of Lions) is believed to have been the
westernmost outpost of the Angkor center Khmer Empire. Skeletal
remains dating back some 2,000 years have been unearthed, and a
wide range of artifacts, including temple carvings, religious
statuary, implements and pottery shards indicate the
once-thriving city must have been inhabited from approximately
the 12th to 14th centuries.
Ban Kao National Museum
8 kilometers from Prasat Muang Sing, and 35 kilometers from
town, this also overlooks the Kwai Noi River. The museum was
constructed beside a Neolithic burial site discovered by an
allied prisoner-of war during the construction of 'Death
Railway'. Some 4,000 years ago, Neolithic man lived, roamed and
hunted beside the Kwai rivers, sheltering beneath rock overhangs
or in nearby caves. The Ban Kao museum houses skeletal remain,
pots, axe heads, jewelry made from animal bones, and other
artifacts dating from that era.
Sai Yok Noi Waterfall
Also known as Khao Phang Waterfall, 60 kilometers from town on
Route 323, this is the first of several waterfalls. The roadside
cascade is best visited between July and September when water is
most plentiful, and is 2 kilometers northwest of Nam Tok Railway
Station, the terminus of the branch line originating in the
provincial capital, and which crosses the world-famous bridge.
The Lawa Cave
75 kilometers from town, this largest cave in the area has
stalactites and stalagmites in several chambers. Visitors may
take boats from the Kwai Noi river Pak Saeng Pier, at Tambon Tha
Sao (southwest of Nam Tok Railway Station and Sai Yok Noi
Waterfall) to explore this cave, and travel afterwards upstream
to the riverine Sai Yok Yai Waterfall, 104 kilometers from town.
Sai Yok Yai Waterfall
This flows directly into the Kwai Noi River, and is the most
popular attraction in the 300-square-kilometre Sai Yok National
Park. The park contains several interesting caves besides the
Lawa. The Daowadueng Cave, which also entails a river trip for
visits, is the most popular. South of the Sai Yok Yai Waterfall,
another cascade, the Nam Chon soldiers during the Ayutthaya
Wat Wang Wiwekaram
This extensive temple on the southern outskirts of Sangkhla Buri
edges the Khao Laem reservoir. The complex is constructed in an
unusual pastiche of Thai, Indian and Burmese Buddhist
architectural styles, and the abbot is highly revered among
local people, including tribal folk and Burmese.
Sangkhla Buri Forest Tours
Certain Kanchanaburi travel agents offer one-day elephant
trekking and rafting tours in the immediate vicinity of Sangkhla
Buri. Visitors are advised to contact either local travel agents
or the Kanchanaburi TAT office for current details, since the
tours are not always conducted on a daily basis.
Thung Yai Sanctuary Park
Northeast of Sangkhla Buri, this sanctuary occupies
a terrain of forested mountains and high plains, and hosts
numerous protected wildlife species including tigers, bears,
elephants and deer. The area is necessarily rugged, remote, and
demands 4-wheel-drive vehicles for exploration. Special
permission from the Forestry Department is needed for admission.
Visitors interested in entering the area are required to contact
the Forestry Department, either in Bangkok or in Kanchanaburi.
Some 40 kilometers from Kanchanaburi, and just off Route 3086,
this area is famed for locally mined blue sapphires and
semiprecious materials such as onyx. A Jewelry Handicraft Center
enables visitors to see how these materials are made into
finished jewelry creations.
Kanchanaburi Safari Park
This extensive enclave near Bo Phloi is dominated by a man-made
hill adorned with decorative pavilions. The enclave hosts
numerous African and Asian mammals, including giraffes, zebras,
lions, tigers and elephants in carefully landscaped environs.
Chaloem Rattanakosin National Park or Tham Than Lot
97 kilometers from Kanchanaburi, and north of Bo Phloi, along
Route 3086, this 54-square-kilometre park encompasses
Kanchanaburi's aforementioned parks offer opportunities either
camping, and/ or fishing, or trekking along nature trails.
Camping facilities, which customarily provide cold running water
and simple toilet facilities, are available at Chaloem
Rattanakosin, Sai Yok and Erawan national parks. Trekking along
either well-defined waterfall trails, or nature trails, to visit
caves or appreciate local flora and fauna is a popular activity
at all national parks.
This is popular on both Kwai Rivers, and the Khao
Laem and Sri Nagarind reservoirs. Several raft resorts offer
hired rods. Edible and popular fish include the Giant Gourami,
the Transverse Bellbarb, the Giant Snakehead Fish and the
Striped Tiger Nandid. Each is delicious when freshly cooked,
either simply fried or in Thai culinary styles.
Rafting & Canoeing
Trips are available from the provincial capital and several
holiday resorts. Raft trips leaving from the famous bridge, or
the waterfront Song Kwai Road area, cost between 2,000 and 4,500
baht for 10-15 persons, depending on durations and destinations.
Trips may entail 7-10 hour return journeys, or include an
overnight stay on either the Kwai Yai or Kwai Noi Rivers.
Railway enthusiasts may travel along one of Southeast Asia's
most historical tracks, namely the surviving stretch of the
'Death Railway', from the provincial capital to the Nam Tok
Railway Station near the Sai Yok Noi Waterfall. The winding
track crosses the world-famous bridge and provides a clear
indication of how difficult constructing the original track
(long since repaired and restored) must have been. One
particularly exhilarating stretch sees the line parallel the
curving Kwai Noi on a wooden viaduct towering above the river
and hugging a steep, cave-ridden cliff.
Golf has become very popular in recent years and can be enjoyed
at the courses listed below. Most offer clubhouse, pro shop and
caddy facilities, and have rental equipment; Green fees vary
widely, weekends generally being more expensive. Unless
otherwise specified, courses listed below are each 18-hole, par
Green World Hot Spring
Peaceful forests, waterfalls and several caves. The
300-metre-long Than Lot Cave near the park headquarters is the
most popular attraction. Bungalow accommodation and camping
facilities are available.
Erawan National Park
65 kilometers from Kanchanaburi along Route 3199, this
550-square-kilometre national park is the site of the 7-tiered
Erawan Waterfall, widely regarded as being one of Thailand's
loveliest cascades. A mountainside forest setting includes dense
bamboo groves, which support numerous bird species. The park's
other major attraction is the spectacular Pra That Cave, which
contains monumental stalagmites. Bungalow accommodation and
camping facilities are available.
Sri Nakharin Dam
69 kilometers from Kanchanaburi, and just 4 kilometers north of
the Erawan National Park, this massive structure marks the
southernmost extremity of an extensive reservoir, which is part
of yet another National Park.
Sri Nakharin National Park
This park covers 1,532 square kilometers. Park headquarters are
105 kilometers from Kanchanaburi. Major park attractions include
the lovely 7-tiered Huai Khamin Waterfall, boat trips on the
scenic reservoir, and encroaching deciduous forests and bamboo
groves where kingfishers, parrots, bee-eaters, hornbills,
thrushes, woodpeckers, babblers and numerous other bird species
are readily seen. Larger, more elusive animals within the park's
remoter areas include deer, elephants and tigers. Phra and
Niramit Caves near the park headquarters comprise other
attractions. Bungalow accommodation is available. The park's
relative inaccessibility necessitates either a punishing
40-kilometre drive along a dry weather track, and negotiable
only by motorcycle, pick-up trucks or 4- wheel-drive vehicles,
or a 45-75 minute boat ride from the Ta Kradan Pier 24
kilometers north of the Sri Nagarind Dam.
Boat & Raft Day
Local longboat teams race boats with great gusto at the
waterfront area of the provincial Kwai Yai River to celebrate
'Boat & Raft Day', generally during October.
River Kwai Bridge Week
Each year, late November and/or early December, the world-famous
bridge becomes the focal point of celebrations. Highlights
include exhibitions and historical and archaeological displays,
a carnival featuring sideshows, roundabouts, folk entertainment
and cultural performances, rides on trains hauled by World War
Iivintage steam locomotives, and a nightly light & sound
presentation re-enacting the bridge's Second World War history,
including an Allied bombing raid.
Major souvenir shops are concentrated around the eastern
approaches, and riverine environment, of the world-famous
bridge. Almost every handicraft produced in Thailand can be
purchased there. Browsing to compare quality, and good-humored
but determined bargaining, will ensure favorable prices for
readymade leisurewear and other apparel, and popular souvenirs
such as bamboo musical instruments, palm leaf mobiles, ceramic
decorations, lacquer-ware and bronze-ware receptacles, paper
parasols, and Thai silk and cotton lengths. Kanchanaburi is a
major source of high-quality Thai blue sapphires. These are
mined at Bo Phloi, as are onyx and topaz. Purchasers of finished
jewelry creations can be made at Bo Phloi's Jewelry Handicraft
Center, and other satellite outlets.