Dec 14 2011
Tis the season to be jolly, or if you are in Thailand, hang out by the beaches, trek alongside elephants, or stand under a waterfall. Thailand, a Buddhist country, may not have a traditional white Christmas, but there are plenty of easy-to-get-to getaways just outside of Bangkok for fun in the sand. If you’re looking for a Christmas chill, or at least temperatures below scorching, one non-beach option is Kanchanaburi, two to three hours (139 km) west of Bangkok along the River Kwai.
The main tourist attraction is the Death Railway Bridge , a creaky iron structure built by prisoners of war and later a prime target of Allied bombing raids. You can wax historic at any number of the museums dedicated to showcasing Kanchanaburi’s involvement in WWII, including the WII Museum, Kanchanaburi Allied War Cemetery, the JEATH War Museum, Chung Kai Allied War Cemetery, and the Thailand-Burma Railway Centre — you can see a full list of things to do here.
You’ll also no doubt hear about the Tiger Temple, a strange place for tourists to take pictures with sedated looking tigers. We don’t recommend a visit; if you’re considering visiting, please read this first.
But the real gem of Kanchanaburi is the sleepy River Kwai itself, which flows sleepily through the town — there are plenty of riverside places to stay.
The food alone is enough of a reason to come to Kanchanaburi. You can eat river prawns and pineapple fried rice inside a carved coconut at Keree Tara Restaurant, a modern eatery with oh-so-fresh tastes and delectable views. At night, the river sparkles, and you can take a river (and karaoke!) cruise to enjoy all of its splendour. Finish off the day strong by hitting up the Night Bazaar by the bus station and then bar-hopping along Maenam Kwai Road.
The riverside city is a bit too big to get around on your feet; the best and most enjoyable way to see the sights while still catching the river breeze is by renting a bicycle.
To fully appreciate what Kanchanaburi and its surrounds has to offer, take a day trip to Erawan National Park or Sai Yok Park, both with a 200 baht entry fee for tourists. You can visit waterfalls, kayak through limestone caves with hidden Buddhist temples, take a bamboo raft along the river, and feed elephants. Now, how’s that for a merry Christmas or a happy Hannukah?
To get to Kanchanaburi, buses leave from the Southern Bus Terminal every 30 minutes to Kanchanaburi’s bus station for 100 baht. Or catch a minibus at Victory Monument/Khao San Road, which will leave as soon as it fills up. Prices may vary depending on the company, but expect to pay 100 to 200 baht. For a slow and scenic journey, take the Bangkok Noi-Nam Tok train line, which leaves from Bangkok Noi Station in Thonburi and takes around three hours (100 baht). You can find a more detailed schedule here.
Keeree Tara Restaurant
43/1, Tha Makham
T: (034) 624 093
Travelfish.org always pays its way. No exceptions.