The halfway town of Thong Pha Phum is nestled under limestone hills at the southern end of Vajiralongkorn Lake, 147 kilometres from Kanchanaburi, 70 kilometres short of Sangkhlaburi and just off Route 323.
Though it lacks the tourist amenities of Kanchanaburi and the rustic appeal of Sangkhlaburi, it's still an attractive little town surrounded by a spectacular landscape. With only a few narrow roads and a colourful market, facilities for Western tourists are limited and the town can be easily explored in a couple of hours. Locals are charming and seem excited to see foreign travellers making time for their quaint town, which offers a good opportunity to get off the beaten track and see something different in the kingdom.
Until the construction of Route 323, Thong Pha Phum was a remote outpost of Kanchanaburi province, best known to Thais as one of the last diehard communist strongholds during the 1970s. Nowadays it's better known to the trickle of Thai tourists who stop here for its natural beauty. Vajiralongkorn Dam, which was built in the early 1980s to create the lake that submerged old Sangkhlaburi village, is found at the northern crest of Thong Pha Phum and offers sweeping views of the valley and lake.
If you decide to stay, you'll find a decent range of good value accommodation, and some restaurants offering delicious local fare.
By David Luekens.