A walk through Kanchanaburi’s past
Published/Last edited or updated: 11th February, 2017
Displaying and often blending elements of Chinese, European and Thai styles, more than 20 heritage buildings feature information boards detailing some of the history along Pak Prak Road in the heart of Kanchanaburi.
Much of the early 20th-century architecture is similar to what you’ll see in several Thai cities. The difference here is that local historical experts have posted signs in English and Thai explaining the artistic styles, who was behind the construction and what the buildings were originally used for. Most notably, you’ll learn how some buildings and their owners played a role in the Second World War.
Wealthy families that profited from the construction of the Death Railway owned a few, while others housed Japanese officers or munitions. One owner, Boonpong Sirivejabhand, risked his wellbeing by carrying secret messages from POWs to their governments. These accounts display how some of Kanchanaburi’s locals interacted with both the Japanese military and the POWs during the war, filling in a historical gap that’s largely ignored by the museums.
Beginning at the old city gate near the ornate City Pillar shrine, walk north along Pak Prak Road to take in the history while also witnessing how life hasn’t changed all that much in this part of town. Some folks continue to press coconut milk, dish out dim sum or sell traditional paper offerings used in Chinese funerals. Bright Chinese shrines and the scent of Thai sweets keep the senses distracted.
Look up to see delicate gingerbread woodcarvings and Chinese ceramic mosaics adorning some of the second-floor balconies. While some structures stand derelict behind iron gates, others were finely restored and now host coffee shops and eateries. One shop that sold bicycles in the 1920s now rents out bicycles for 20 baht per day. A defunct hotel once rented rooms for two baht per night—and we reckon it won’t be long before a new boutique hotel opens here.
Afterwards you could stroll east to the fresh market; south to the JEATH War Museum and Chukdon neighbourhood, or west to the riverside restaurants on Song Kwai Road.
The heritage section of Pak Prak Rd (also spelt “Phraek”, which is closer to the correct pronunciation) begins at the roundabout next to Wat Thewasangkaram and runs south for a half-km to the old city gate on Lak Muang Rd.
David Luekens first came to Thailand in 2005 when Thai friends from his former home of Burlington, Vermont led him on a life-changing trip. Based in Thailand since 2011, he spends much of his time eating in Bangkok street markets and island hopping the Andaman Sea.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
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