The Ultimate Guide to the City of Kanchanaburi in Thailand
Kanchanaburi is a beautifully tragic city in Western Thailand. It is found in the largest province of the country, though few visitors get the chance to make their way to this historic town as they find themselves gravitating to more tourist-alluring metropolises. That being said, all who visit Thailand must try to make way for a few days in this city. To help you do just that, we are here with the ultimate guide to the remarkable and scenic city of Kanchanaburi.
Getting to Kanchanaburi from Bangkok
The city of Kanchanaburi is but a few hours’ drive west from Bangkok. It can be reached by departing from the Mochit Bus Station, and tickets are ฿150 (approximately $US4.70) per person. Visitors can take both minibuses and buses to get there.
Things to do in Kanchanaburi: learn about the city's history
Kanchanaburi is a riverside city that seems to be one that was frozen in time, as relics of its haunting past are found throughout. During World War II, the Japanese came to control much of Asia after Singapore fell to their army. British and Australian soldiers here were captured and forced to build a railway line deep in the Thai jungle, and Kanchanaburi is one of the cities in which they worked.
Asian labourers also suffered at the hands of the Japanese soldiers. Locals were lured from Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, and Indonesia with false contracts and many were worked on the railway to death. In total, some 100,000 men died building the railroad. The project was so crucial to the Japanese because they had hoped to use the railway to continue sending their troops into Asia and eventually connecting the rail to India, giving them access to all of the significant Asian capitals.
The city of Kanchanaburi was made an even more famous destination by the movie The Railway Man, starring Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth. The film portrays the aftermath of those soldiers forced to build the railway and follows Eric Lomax’s (Colin Firth’s) struggle as he tries to cope with the pain and torture him and the other prisoners endured. This film is undoubtedly one worth watching before venturing to Kanchanaburi, as it gives visitors a better idea as to what took place here.
Things to do in Kanchanaburi: go to the JEATH War Museum
One way in which to honour those who died is by visiting the JEATH War Museum in Kanchanaburi. It is here that visitors are met with haunting photographs that portray the conditions in which Asian labourers and POWs had to suffer through during the construction of the Thai-Burma railway, which was more commonly known as the Death Railway. The JEATH War Museum is open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Things to do in Kanchanaburi: go to the Death Railway Museum
The Death Railway Museum is also an informative venue in which visitors can further their knowledge of all the tragic events that took place here. Just across the street from the museum is the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery, known as Don Rak. It is here you will see the tombstones of thousands of victims who died during construction.
Things to do in Kanchanaburi: take pictures at the bridge over the River Kwai
The bridge over the River Kwai that is found in Kanchanaburi is a reminder of all those who died building it. Today, the steel bridge is a significant tourist attraction, and many of visitors will flock to the railroad tracks in hopes of getting a picture of the infamous train running along its track that is found right over the river. The bridge was actually rebuilt in 1946 by the Thai government after it was destroyed in WWII. In addition to the bridge, there is also a small food and souvenir market found at the entrance of the bridge. It is here tourists can purchase a plethora of jewellery, Thai-inspired clothing, fresh fruit, and more.
Things to do in Kanchanaburi: visit the Hellfire Pass Memorial Museum
After seeing the bridge over the River Kwai, visitors should make the journey out to the Hellfire Pass Memorial Museum. This museum is a tribute to those who suffered and died building the railway, and it is at this site that the most dangerous and back-breaking of work took place. The museum is located about an hour outside of the city, and the views from the sites are, ironically enough, quite spectacular.
It makes it hard to imagine the prisoners that were forced to work here with very few tools. The Asian labourers and POWs were punished if they did not steadily and successfully cut throughout the mountainous train, though many were given nothing but a hammer and nail to cut through the mountains in the Thai jungle. The Hellfire Pass Memorial Museum is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Things to do in Kanchanaburi: visit Erawan National Park
In addition to all of the historical finds, the city is also home to one of the most stunning of national parks in the entire country: Erawan National Park. A seven-tiered waterfall runs through the east side of the park and is some 1.5 kilometres in length. In 1975, it became the second national park to be established in Thailand after Khao Yai National Park. Erawan National Park is open daily from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Things to do in Kanchanaburi: rent a motorbike after visiting the park
Though motorbikes can be rented for about ฿300 (approximately $US9.30), the drive out to Erawan National Park from the city center is a long one. The ride is meant to only take an hour, but being that a motorbike is not as fast as a vehicle, it ends up taking longer. Driving back in the dark is not the best idea, either. Tuk-tuks and their drivers can be hired to take groups to the Erawan National Park, and they will stay put until visitors are finished. The price will vary depending on how many people you get to split the costs. Entrance into the national park is ฿300 (approximately $US9.30). Otherwise, renting a motorbike is a great way to see the city.