Photo: Thailand's most famous bridge?

Things to see and do

Death Railway Bridge
Crosses the river at the northern end of Maenam Kwai Rd, Kanchanaburi

Kanchanaburi's signature landmark gets a lot of hype thanks to the 1957 film, Bridge Over the River Kwai, but many are a tad disappointed as it's not really that spectacular to look at. Even so, the history makes it special and it's the centre of tourism in Kanchanaburi -- you'll see its simple dark iron arches painted on walls, samlors and T-shirts all around town. The original iron ... Read more about Death Railway Bridge .

Exploring Kanchanaburi by train

The daily local train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi is certainly not the fastest way to travel but as a change from blue government coaches or cramped Khao San minibuses it’s well worth considering, and if you’re not in a hurry it can be a lot of fun. Many of the somewhat decrepit third-class carriages still have wooden seats and rusty old ceiling fans but then you can walk up and down the ... Read more about Exploring Kanchanaburi by train .

Elephant's World Kanchanaburi

Many travellers feel that no Thailand adventure would be complete without an elephant trek. The sad fact is that many elephants are overworked, underfed and mistreated at tourist-driven attractions, and their backs are not suited to carrying people for long stretches. In an idyllic slice of Kanchanaburi province, however, Elephant's World is a non-profit elephant refuge that offers a fun and ... Read more about Elephant's World Kanchanaburi .

Roll your own Kanchanaburi

Many travellers to Kanchanaburi book themselves straight onto a bunch of tours so they can plug as many sights and attractions as possible into their scant time available. Our man on the ground took a local's advice and skipped the tours to roll his own Khanchanaburi -- read on to find out how he ... Read more about Roll your own Kanchanaburi .

The bridge over the River Kwai festival

When most people think of Kanchanaburi, the first images to pop into their mind are of lazy days by the riverside, a few waterfalls and perhaps a jungle trek with an elephant thrown in. Bangkok resident Mark Fenn visited Kanchanaburi in late 2005 for the River Kwai Bridge Festival and found attractions and a festival well worth searching ... Read more about The bridge over the River Kwai festival .

Helping the Karen of Burma

It was a frigid winter day in the US state of Vermont when I first met with a recently resettled refugee family back in 2008. The resettlement program had told me they were Burmese, so I was confused when only one 17-year old family member could understand what was written in an English-Burmese phrasebook. I soon learned how they were part of the ethnic Karen minority, displaced by the world's ... Read more about Helping the Karen of Burma .

Huai Mae Khamin Waterfall

He hiked through thick bamboo forest to majestic falls cascading into pools painted emerald by the calcite deposits. After a long swim with no one else around, he returned to his tent to gaze at a mountain lake and doze to the sound of falling water. We heard this story several years ago, when a friend from Kanchanaburi first told us about the remote Huai Mae Khamin Waterfall. Thanks to a newly ... Read more about Huai Mae Khamin Waterfall .

Death Railway Museum
Off Sangchuto Rd, opposite the War Cemetery

In terms of human lives, the laying of the Death Railway was among the most tragic events of World War II. An estimated 16,000 POWs and more than 49,000 forced labourers lost their lives during its construction, and about 12,000 people are buried around Kanchanaburi in various cemeteries. A total of 61,000 Allied prisoners were transferred to Kanchanaburi from various camps in the region. All ... Read more about Death Railway Museum .

JEATH War Museum
Chaichumphon Rd, Kanchanaburi

Brief but striking captions accompany each image and help to give a sense for what life was like for the POWs. Expect to see dramatic depictions of skin-and-bones prisoners toiling with pick axes and lying on bamboo platforms, too weak to move. The images are in fact laid out on a platform similar to those that the actual prisoners would have slept on. One of the paintings shows a prisoner ... Read more about JEATH War Museum .

Hellfire Pass
80 km west of Kanchanaburi, off Route 323

Midday heat topped 40 degrees Celsius as we sipped our last drops of water under a scorching sun. We’re not out of shape, but the extreme weather and rugged terrain left us exhausted just 45 minutes into the hike. Only then did we begin to imagine how horrific this place must have been for those who were forced to chisel through solid rock for 18 hours a days. Only then did we begin to ... Read more about Hellfire Pass .

War Museum and Art Gallery
By the Death Railway Bridge, Kanchanaburi

One building is devoted mainly to the history of the many Thai-Burmese wars that have taken place over the centuries. Here you'll find displays of ancient swords, sculptures of Thai kings and dramatic murals of warfare on elephant-back. Two huge bomb shells greet visitors to the main building, which houses dozens of mid-20th century fire arms and several anonymous human remains from people who ... Read more about War Museum and Art Gallery .

Chung-Kai War Cemetery
Around 5km south of Kanchanaburi

Some 1,750 POWs are buried here, most of whom died in the hospital. The cemetery is at the original site of the base camp hospital and a church that was built by the POWs. The atmosphere here is quiet and, particularly because it was an actual camp site, it's perhaps a better place to reflect than the larger war cemetery in town. Some of the markers have just the name and (often very young) ... Read more about Chung-Kai War Cemetery .

No pic at the moment -- Sorry!
About 5 km southwest of town in Ko Samrong

A string of more than half a dozen floating nuns have served time here -- a few still live here and can be seen walking (not floating) around the compound. Although performed in front of Nikon-wielding devotees in a small round pool, the performance is worth seeing as the nun really does seem to float on top of the water while assuming various yoga positions. Sceptics have been known to taste ... Read more about Wat Tham Mongkon Thong .

Organised trips

These trips, as unimaginative as they are, are often excellent value. The only disappointing fact is that in a province with such a great wealth of national parks and attractions, the choice of tours available is limited. Three general-purpose tours are pretty much on offer everywhere -- little differentiates the individual operators so go with a personal recommendation if you have one. It's also ... Read more about Organised trips .

Erawan National Park
65km from Kanchanaburi

The very popular Erawan National Park sprawls over 550 square kilometres of the Salop mountains in rural Kanchanaburi province. While cave enthusiasts, bird watchers and orchid hunters could keep busy here for weeks, most come specifically for Erawan Waterfall, a wondrous multi-tiered set of falls named after a divine three-headed ... Read more about Erawan National Park .

Sai Yok National Park
95 km northwest of Kanchanaburi

The main attractions are Sai Yok Yai and Sai Yok Lek waterfalls, both of which emerge as streams out of the forest before plummeting eight to 10 metres into the River Kwai. A suspension footbridge has been set up near Sai Yok Yai, which takes you across the river to a viewing point. You'll need to pay a longtail boat 300 baht to take you the half-kilometre down river to see Sai Yok Lek, oddly the ... Read more about Sai Yok National Park .

Kanchanaburi War Cemetery
Sangchuto Rd, Kanchanaburi

The very well-kept cemetery has a reverential atmosphere, emphasised by the uniformed veterans who occasionally stroll among the graves. Neatly laid out in row upon row, this is the more commonly visited of Kanchanaburi's war cemeteries and is well worth the time to wander, reading the markers of those ... Read more about Kanchanaburi War Cemetery .

Prasat Muang Singh
43km from Kanchanaburi

Sitting on the banks of the Kwai Noi River, this complex is believed to have once been a large trading centre and probably also acted as an important garrison town protecting the western frontier of the Khmer kingdom. Though it's often overshadowed by Kanchanaburi's many World War II sites, Prasat Muang Singh is one of the more splendid Khmer ruins in all of Thailand and is well worth the trip to ... Read more about Prasat Muang Singh .

No pic at the moment -- Sorry!
About 6 km southwest of town

Various formations in the caves have been said to resemble either a crocodile, an elephant or a tooth. One section of the cave is only reached through a tunnel that you need to crawl through, so dress accordingly. Perhaps the most impressive time to visit the caves is at dusk, when thousands of bats emerge. Upon exiting the cave take the path leading left after the Chinese temple to a large ... Read more about Wat Thum Khao Poon .

Sai Yok Noi Waterfall
45km from Kanchanaburi

It's located immediately off Route 323 around 45 kilometres west of Kanchanaburi. It's also a short walk from Nam Tok rail station, which is the final stop on the Death Railway train ride. To be fair, the falls do cascade elegantly off a limestone head, but the concrete walls that have been added to the natural pool ruin some of the atmosphere. While here, check out the war-era locomotive at ... Read more about Sai Yok Noi Waterfall .

Tham Krasae
30km from Kanchanaburi

The train stops here to allow passengers to jump off, take a look around and buy various touristy knick-knacks. But if you visit at any other time, chances are you'll have the cave and viaduct totally to yourself. Tham Krasae and the viaduct are well off Route 323 and are marked by signs -- if you don't have your own transport be prepared to hitch from Route 323. If you are travelling by ... Read more about Tham Krasae .

Chinese Cemetery
Sangchuto Rd, Kanchanaburi

Though it's almost always deserted, it's an interesting contrast to the immaculately kept Allied graveyard next door and makes for a photogenic 15 minute wander if you happen to be in the area. The Chinese graves are built above ground and some have ornate ceramic artwork. A large pagoda sits at the centre of the ... Read more about Chinese Cemetery .

No pic at the moment -- Sorry!
Various outlets throughout town

Thai cooking classes have become a bit of a craze in Kanchanaburi, and now almost everyone with a kitchen has put out a sign advertising their classes. The most established course is at Apple's Retreat, where for 1,200 baht Chef Noi will teach you how to make four Thai standards. A good, albeit more casual option for vegetarians is On's. For just 650 baht, she'll teach you how to make ... Read more about Cooking Classes .

The Tiger Temple
38 km west of Kanchanaburi off route 323

Update 2 June 2016: In a high profile move reported around the world, the Thai Department of National Parks raided the Tiger Temple and moved all of the 133 tigers to a government-run wildlife facility. Tiger skins, fangs used for amulets and bottled organs probably used for elixers were discovered along with 40 frozen tiger cub corpses -- strong evidence that the temple was involved in illegal ... Read more about The Tiger Temple .

Where to next?

Where are you planning on heading to after Kanchanaburi? Here are some spots commonly visited from here, or click here to see a full destination list for Thailand.

Top of page