Kanchanaburi (population 52,000) is the gateway to Kanchanaburi Province. For most visitors the main sight of interest is the Bridge over the River Kwai, the start of the infamous World War II Death Railway to Burma (Myanmar),as well as its associated museums. There is an increasingly thriving backpacker scene taking advantage of the chilled-out riverside vibe for those that need to get away from Bangkok. More foreign visitors are discovering why Thais know it as one of the most beautiful provinces in the country with its easily accessible waterfalls and national parks.
Orienting yourself in Kanchanaburi is very easy. The main road, Thanon Saeng Chuto, runs through the length of town from north to south, connecting the River Kwai Bridge, the train station and the bus station. Running parallel to this, closer to the river, is Thanon Mae Nam Kwae where most of the guesthouses and the local bar scene can be found.
BKS public buses (line 81) leave from Bangkok's Southern Bus Terminal (Sai Tai Taling Chan สายใต้ตลิ่งชัน). In Kanchanaburi, there are two separate but nearby bus terminals, with 1st class buses departing from an office off Thanon Saengchuto, and 2nd class buses from the larger terminal one block east.
- 1st class buses should leave Bangkok every 15 minutes from 05:00 to 22:30, take about 2 hours, and (as of February 2006) cost 99 baht, including a bottle of water.
- 2nd class buses (new route) leave Bangkok every 20 minutes from 03:30 to 19:00 and take about 2 hours.
- 2nd class buses (old route) leave Bangkok every 15-30 minutes from 04:00 until 18:00 and take about 3 hours.
There are also tourist minibuses directly to/from Khao San Road, departing Kanchanaburi at 13:30 and 18:30.
From Nakhon Pathom, there are direct buses (2nd class only) every 15 to 30 minutes between 04:00 and 18:00, which take two hours. Alternatively, you can hop off a 1st class bus when it passes by Nakhon Pathom, but double-check with staff to ensure the route allows this and they know your plans.
From Sangkhlaburi to Kanchanaburi, you're spoilt for choice:
- Air-con VIP buses leave at 08:45, 10:45 and 14:30 and take 4 hours.
- Air-con minibuses leave at 06:30, 07:30, 11:30, 13:00, 15:30 and take 3.5 hours.
- Standard buses leave at 06:45, 08:15, 10:15, 13:15 and take 5 hours.
Trains leave Bangkok's Thonburi Train Station at 07:45 and arrive at Kanchanaburi at 10:20, also at 13:45 and arriving at 16:35. You may be interested in buying a ticket all the way to the River Kwai Bridge, since these two trains are the only ones which cross the bridge each day. Since December 2005, the fare is 100 baht for foreigners..
Be warned that reaching Thonburi Station from Khao San Road is harder than it looks; tuk-tuk drivers will try to charge you outrageous rates, and walking involves crossing two bridges and looping back a ways. The best way is probably to take the passenger boat from Banglamphu Pier and connect to a cross-river ferry that reaches the railway pier, then walk or take the open minibus from there.
Return trains leave at 07:25 and 14:48 from the main railway station; from the River Kwai Bridge they leave 6 minutes earlier. Riding 3rd class is an adventure in itself, and a must do for everyone who hasn't travelled this way before.
Both train services continue to/from Nam Tok (17 baht), the current terminus of the Death Railway. The 10:30 train has a special tourist section, where the low, low price of 300 baht gets you air-con, a soft drink and a certificate of having ridden the Death Railway. This service has occasionally been operated by a steam engine, but usually uses an ordinary diesel DMU, and railfans will have to content themselves with the Japanese-era steamers plinthed at the main and bridge stations.
Kanchanaburi is about 3 hours drive from Bangkok, along the highway no.338 from Bangkok to Nakhon Pathom and Ratchaburi. There you can take a detour to the famous Damoen Saduak floating market for some sightseeing and lunch. Then switch to highway no.4 heading towards Kanchanaburi.
You can catch a taxi to Kanchanaburi, return to Bangkok for the day for around 2000 baht. This should include stopping at the Bridge over River Kwai and museum, Kanchanaburi township, the local dam and the cemetary for the prisoners of war. You may need to pay a bit extra to visit Erawan Falls which is about an hour out of the town centre and the Tiger Temple.
Kanchanaburi is just a little too stretched out to be comfortably walkable. Small orange and large yellow songthaews (converted pickups) cruise up and down Saengchuto, connecting bus station, train station and the bridge, and charge a standard 5 baht. Motorbike taxis and tuk-tuks are also available, with negotiable prices, and some guesthouses offer bicycle rental. A number of places in town (mostly along Maenam Kwai Rd) rent bicycles for 50 baht/day, or motorcycles for 150-200 baht, depending on whether it is an automatic. In the area near to budget accommodation / guesthouses such as Ploy, you can rent bicycles or motorcycles from Yanee at 197 Maenumkaew Road. Remember to ask for a map and directions to popular sights.
Bridge over the River Kwai
Located some 3 km north of Kanchanaburi (down New Zealand Rd off Saeng Chuto), this iron bridge (Saphan Mae Nam Kwae) across the Kwae Yai river is the main attraction for many visitors. Immortalized in the famous movie and novel, it was a part of the infamous Death Railway to Burma, constructed by POWs working for the Japanese in hellish conditions during World War 2. Some 16,000 POWs and 100,000 Asian workers died during the railway construction. The present iron bridge is the second wartime incarnation (a part of the original can be found in the War Museum), but 2 central 'boxy' spans were rebuilt after the war to replace three sections destroyed by Allied bombing.
- You can cross the bridge on foot. While the center of the track has been thoughtfully turned into a steel-plated walkway and there are little side platforms between the spans for sightseeing and avoiding trains, there are no guardrails so vertigo sufferers and small children should steer clear. Off the end of the bridge, you can feed or ride an elephant bare-back at negotiated price of 600 baht per ride.
- The State Railway of Thailand operates a little tourist train with which you can drive across the bridge and back again, at 20 baht for the 15 minute round trip.
Art Gallery and War Museum
This well-signposted complex is located about 50 metres from the bridge and houses a bizarre collection of museums and exhibits, most of which are poorly maintained and labeled. Open 08:30-16:30 daily; admission to the whole lot is 30 baht.
- War Museum. To your left as you enter is this four-story building encrusted with statues, which starts off with a little Burmese shrine but is mostly devoted to pre-WW2 Thai history through the ages and is filled with wall paintings of kings and racks of rusty pistols. There are good views of the bridge from the roof of the riverside building.
- World War II and (old) JEATH Museum. Lurking in the basement, this is the main drawcard and features a section of the first wooden bridge, recreations of the POW barracks and random military paraphernalia. Downstairs is an exibit of prehistoric Thailand complete with semi-erotic murals.
- Jewelry Museum. Above the WW2 museum is the most bizarre section, housing (among other things) dusty stamp collections and a gallery with wall paintings of all Miss Thailand winners.
Other sights & attractions
- Hellfire Pass
- Chongkai War Cemetery
- Kanchanaburi War Cemetery- A sombre, yet very peaceful reminder of what went on here.
- Somdet Phra Sri Nakharin Park
- Don Chedi Archaeological Site
- Giant Tree
- Kuan Yum
- Wat Ban Tham
- Wat Tham Sua
- Wat Tham Khao Noi
- Wat Tham Khaopoon
- Wat Tham Mungkornthong
- Thailand-Burma Railway Centre - next to Kanchanaburi War Cemetery (WW2 rail history). Generally considered to be the best source of information regarding the brige and its construction. Very moving exibits. Admission 100 baht
- Amphoe Sri Sawat
- Many day-trips to Kanchanaburi include a visit to the Tiger Temple . Admission is 500 baht, and comes with a nice book about the tigers. The temple is nowhere to be seen, but the tigers are lounging in a dusty canyon, surrounded by minders in yellow shirts and overseen by a monk off in the corner. You can watch the tigers from a distance, and when your time comes, the minders will take your camera and snap a few photos of you crouching behind the tiger, as well as a few close-ups of the tigers themselves. (You can also pay a few hundred baht extra for a "special" photo with a tiger.) It's all kind of odd, but the pictures will certainly wow your friends. Unverified reports of a tourist being seriously mauled by the tigers abound, regardless of which it is only common sense to not annoy tigers - a few years of domestication will not erase centuries of innate wildness.
- Erawan Waterfalls is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Thailand and a must see if you are in Kanchanaburi and your time/budget allows it. Public buses (No. 8170) leave Kanchanaburi bus terminal every 50 (sometimes 60) minutes between 08:00 and 17:20, fare 35 baht, duration 90 minutes. The bus drives on Saengchuto Road up to the north. If you live far away from the bus terminal, and you probably will, it may be a good idea to catch it there. Be sure to try and get an early bus, since there will be fewer people at the waterfall and you don't have to hurry to get back. The last bus will leave for Kanchanaburi at 16:00. Plan to spend at least three hours plus the time you want to spend swimming at the waterfalls. Entrance fee to the waterfalls is 200 baht for foreigners (100 baht Feb to May 2009). Bicycles can be rented at the entrance (20 baht/hour), however you won't be able to use it for 90% of the distance, so they don't really have any use. Be sure to bring your hiking shoes (or whatever matches most closely) and swimming costume for a dip in the turquoise pools (although watch out for fish feasting on the soles of your feet!).
- Sai Yok Noi waterfalls are more accessible but less spectacular than the Erawan falls.
- Lumnam Jone Water Way is the beginning of the River Kwai. It is located in Amphoe Sri Sawat. It has a beautiful surrounding and cystal clear water. The only problem is that it is hard to get to. On foot it will take a few hours walk, and by boat it take 5 hours from Sri Nakarin Dam at the ferry pier.
- Elelphants and Friends Conservation Camp started in November 2005, with the goal to help the mistreated, sick and old elephants in Thailand and to give them a good home. As a visitor you will help in the elephants daily care, such as riding them (bare back) to the river for their bath, growing or collecting food (banana trees) or just play with the animals.
It's impossible to get there by public transport. You can get there by motorbike or arrange a pick-up from Lat Ya or Kanchanaburi. If you want to come and help, the only way to make a reservation is to call Phot Nadee, the owner, (66)8-58475996 (speaks english/thai, please check the time-difference). With him you can make arrangements for a pick-up. More info on elephants-friens.com 
- Thai massage is cheap and a recommended place is "Foot& Thai massage" at 228/2 tambon tamakam (66)87-1666381. It is diagonally opposite to Yanee (bicycle or motorbik rental).
- Azure comsaed Spa Azure Comsaed River Kwai Resort & Spa, 18/9 (Tel: 0 3463 1443 Fax: 0 3458 9094)
- Pung-Waan spa Pung-Waan Resoret and Spa, 72/1 Mu 2, Thamakham (Tel: 0 3451 4792-5 Fax: 0 3451 5830)
- Suan Nanachaat - Garden of Many Nations 36/12, Tambon Nong Bua, Amphoe Muang (Tel: 0 3563 3356 (Thai), 08 1699 9052 (English))
Tours to nearby natural attractions can be made with local tour agencies. Local tour operators organize one day excursions and several day treks in Kanchanaburi Province. The single-day excursions range in price from roughly 500 to 1000 baht.
For cheap street eats, the market in front of the train station will fulfill all your 10 baht phad thai needs.
Street venders parade up & down River Kwai Road all day & night - approx 20 Baht per serving.
- Ahaan Fine, Thanon Maenam Kwai (about 75m up from Apple Guest House on the left). Daily 11:00-23:00. A small, tastefully laid out restaurant offering a wide selection of Thai dishes at prices between food stall prices and guest house prices. 30-70 baht.
- Daily Club, Thanon Maenam Kwai (opposite Birdland Books)
Great western & Thai food the Chicken Panang Curry is highly recommended. Nothing costs more than 100 Baht here. Open all day
- BBQ All you can eat, Sang Chuto Road. 200M before Tesco on LHS heading from the town.
90 Baht for all you can eat!! Represents great value if you are hungry. You cook the food at the table (no burgers/sausages e.t.c)they also supply you with rice/noodles e.t.c Good selection of seafood, chicken, liver pork e.t.c Very popular with local residents of the town. 7pm - 11pm
- Apple's Guest House, 52 Rong Heeb Oil; tel. +66-034512017 . This guest house includes a popular restaurant with reasonable prices. The food is made to order and is excellent.
- Floating restaurants just next to the River Kwai bridge uphold the fine traditions of their brethren worldwide by serving mediocre food at inflated prices. Nice views though.
- By de River Restaurant and Massage, On the Mae nam kwai road about 700 meters far from the River kwai bridge, serve homemade thai foods and nicely view near by the river. Enjoy dinner while it is the sunset and feel the spirit of the river kwai. Open 17.00 - 23.00 PM.
- Night Market, also known as JJ's, in front of the train station on Saeng Chuto Road. Nothing out of the ordinary, but quite cheap as it's geared for locals.
- River Kwai Park Market, right next to the bridge. Dozens of stalls selling touristy knick-knacks, but quite a few Thais seem to come here for jewelry shopping as well.
- Tesco Lotus, Saeng Chuto Road (to the south of town). Standard issue hypermarket.
- Kanokarn, off Saeng Chuto Road in the centre of town, behind the area that becomes a food market at night. The first two floors are similar to a Western department store. It is sectioned off by brand and sells clothes and electrical goods. The top floor is like the shopping malls found in Bangkok or Hong Kong. It looks like an indoor market and sells phone cases and accessories, manga figurines and VCDs.
There are numerous locations where you'll be able to enjoy your drinks. Especially around the Guest Houses near the river (River Kwai Road or Thanon Mare Nam Kwai in Thai).
Beer Barrel Bar along the main drag offers cheap drink prices and an unbeatable atmosphere - including free pool tables. Ask about the free ostrich feeding!
Birdland Books River Kwai Road (The main tourist area) Run by 'Big Jimmy' (also in Sangklaburi) a US Ex-pat of 30 years. A bookstore that doubles as the favourite bar for tourists & Ex-pats alike. Good selection of cheap beers, wines & dacquaris, opens early & shuts late!! If you need any information regarding Thailand - ask Jimmy, He's very helpful & has extensive knowledge of Kanchanaburi & most of the country.
49 Bar/Red Kangaroo Situated on the main road in Kanchanaburi opposite the River Kwai Hotel. 'British/Aussie' style pub run by a Scotsman named Don & a Thai lady called Mem. Mem will also organise tours & taxis if required. Premiership football shown here also. Latest bar in town, shuts when the last person leaves!!
I Baa Bar River Kwai Road. Originally located across from Birdland Books has now moved down the River Kwai Road to larger premises, and now has a Pool Table. Still has a waterfall (albeit a modern art one) down one side of the bar. Great atmosphere & good Western & Thai food. Richie, the English owner is a good source of information.
No Name Bar River Kwai Road. Good food & a good place to catch the football. With a slogan of "Get shit faced on a shoe string", its hard to go wrong.
There are lots of guesthouses, resorts and hotels available. The density increases the nearer you get to the bridge. As usual if you book in advance they will arrange a free pick up service for you. If you haven't done so yet, you should try one night in a raft room floating on the river.
- Apple's Guest House, 52 Rong Heeb Oil, ☎ +66-034512017, . Adjoined rooms of bamboo construction with bath and fan 300 baht per night, air-con rooms also available.
- Jolly Frog Backpackers, Soi China, Mae Nam Kwai Road, ☎ +66-34514579, . Popular with budget travellers. Relaxed atmosphere. Unusually, for a guesthouse restaurant half the customers are local Thais. Jolly Frog has a beautiful garden with hammocks and palm trees. A book exchange, nightly DVDs, massage and laundry on site make this one of the best deals in all Thailand. Single rooms with fan and shared bathroom 70 baht, air-con rooms 290 baht.
- C&C Guest House, 265/2 Mae Nam Kwai Road, ☎ 01-9217644, 05-8336466, 034-624547(firstname.lastname@example.org, fax: 034-624548). Fantastic value for the rooms situated on the houseboat on the River Kwai and the bamboo huts on the picturesque riverside. Garden, restaurant, basic sanitary facilities. Close to the Death Railway bridge.rooms from 100 baht/night.
- Ploy Guest House, 79/2 Mae Nam Kwai Road, ☎ +66-34515804, . All rooms in Siam style with air-con, private toilet and hot shower. Double rooms from 550 baht (Internet rate) or 650 baht, including coffee and toast for breakfast. Restaurant/bar with river view.
- V.N. Guest House, 44 Rong Heeb Oil Road, ☎ +66-34514082(mailto:email@example.com), . Raft rooms from 250 baht, double rooms with bath 250 baht, air-con rooms 400 baht.
- Rainbow Lodge, 48 Rong Heeb Aoi Soi, Caokhunnen Road. Head Office at See Thailand Travel next to Seven Eleven on River Kwai Road (Thanon Maenumkwa).(On arrival in Kanchanaburi call 034513976/Mob 0817630116 for free no obligation pick up), ☎ +66-(0)34513976(firstname.lastname@example.org), . Fan Room:TV toilet B350, fan hot water B350 Standard Room: TV AC hot shower toilet B490 - B590. VIP Room TV AC fridge hot shower toilet B1050 - B1200. All rooms with free WiFi,buffet dinner. Peaceful location right on the banks of the River Kwai. Five minutes stroll from main tourist street with restaurants and night life. Thai cooking classes. Guided tours of Kanchanaburi and the whole of Thailand custom made to your requirements.
- Bluestar Guesthouse, 241 Mae Nam Kwai Road(between the two seven-elevens, from 150B - 650B), .
- River Kwai Hotel, 284/15-16 Saeng Chuto Road, ☎ +66-34511565, . Centrally located halfway between the bus and train stations, this was once the city's fanciest hotel but now it's getting a little long in the tooth. Large swimming pool, restaurant, Internet café, beer garden, dubious massage/karaoke joint, etc. Singles from 900 baht.
- Felix River Kwai Resort, 9/1 Moo 3, Thamakham, ☎ +66-34515061, . Walking distance from the bridge, just on the opposite side from the main touristy area. Nice, well-maintained facilities, with several restaurants, Internet access in the lobby, massage parlor, air-con, etc. Rooms from 1,800 baht.
- Tourist Authority of Thailand, Saeng Chuto Road (just south of the bus terminal). Distributes a useful free map of the city and province. Open daily 08:00-16:00.
- Nakhon Pathom - the world's largest stupa makes a good pitstop along the way to Bangkok (2 hours from Kanchanaburi, 1 hour to Bangkok)
- Three Pagodas Pass - at the border between Thailand and Myanmar, near the town of Sangkhlaburi, 4 hours away by bus
- Thungyai-Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuaries - the largest in South-East Asia, a UNESCO World Heritage site
This page was last edited at 01:49, on 12 March 2009 by Marc Heiden. Based on work by Jani Patokallio, Al, Pradyot Anand and paja, Wikitravel user(s) Osmosno, Texugo, Cacahuate and Morph, Anonymous user(s) of Wikitravel and others.