**Written by Kelly Iverson. Chopped, swapped and revised, by J.G
My weekends in Bangkok have consisted of the following: pretending I’m wealthier than I am in sky bars I can’t afford a drink at, having cocktails in Pat Pong and quite possibly being the only straight person on Soi 4 Silom, struggling to survive the inevitable hangovers in Thailand’s intolerable heat.
While I can say with no hesitation that I truly love Bangkok, it has slowly become my crazy significant other, and I needed a break. While many great cities are within bus rides of my apartment, I wanted to avoid the beaches in Pattaya, and the onslaught of buckets and fire shows in Ko Samet– I needed to induce a real and thorough self-city-detox.
So with my desperate need to get away from the city, I set my sites on a place that to be completely honest, had never really been on the top of my bucket list.
The more I looked into Kanchanaburi the more I felt it calling me. I wanted to swim in the waterfalls there, sleep by the river, and most importantly, visit the handful of World War II memorials and museums they have there.
So with an odd collage of nature and history running through my head, I inhaled one last smoggy Bangkok breath and hopped on the bus to Kanchanaburi.
And well… here’s my report for the top attractions & things to do in Kanchanaburi.
Erawan National Park
Foreigner Admission Price: 300 Baht
Thai National Admission Price: 100 Baht
Hours: 7 AM-4:30 PM
Beaches are great, but sometimes nothing beats a waterfall. Erawan National Park, about an hour outside of the main city by motorbike, is a lush, beautiful site, and a place you could easily spend an entire day in.
You can get there by bus, but if you have experience on a motorbike, I would highly suggested renting one (200 baht) for the day and taking the straight shot highway to Erawan National Park. You do (technically) need a driver’s license in Thailand to drive one of these, but the police are less than harsh when handing out punishments and tickets for breaking this law. Usually a small (200-300 baht) fine is required and you are sent about your merry way.
After paying the 300 baht admission fee to enter the park, you embark on your waterfall journey. The unique thing about the waterfall at Erawan is that the water spills down 7 different climbable levels, pooling in many areas where small fish and other marine life can be seen swimming about.
Bask in the deciduous & evergreen air, and try to climb all the way up to the 7th level of the waterfall. Although the waterfall is the main attraction at Erawan National Park, there are also several different caves and hiking trails to explore within the park.
Sleep on the River Kwai
For 300 baht, you can find yourself nestled in a bungalow right on the banks of the River Kwai in Kanchanaburi, Thailand. I stayed at the Sugar Cane Guest House, and my only complaint was that the thin bamboo walls left very little to the imagination with what the couple next door were doing.
After opting out of listening to the romantic backing track from next door unfold, I tried to enjoy the sunset over the river, and I moved to one of the more private bungalows just a few steps off the river’s bank.
If the Sugar Cane isn’t your steeze though, fear not, there are plenty of bungalows and accommodations right on the river, and there are also loads of travel agencies offering trips down the river by canoe or kayak.
However you choose to experience it, the River Kwai is beautiful, and it has a deep history. .
Also located in Kanchanaburi Thailand are the remnants of a famous World War Two railway with a tragic backstory– Hellfire pass.
** Hellfire Pass is about an hour by bus outside of the city. As with many buses in Thailand be prepared for a loose adherence to the time schedule, and a lack of air conditioning in the ride.
Run by Japanese soldiers during the second world war, Hellfire Pass was carved by American, Australian, British and Dutch prisoners of war as well as hundreds of thousands of Asian laborers who were promised good wages and decent accommodation, but received anything but.
The workforce suffered high casualties due to overwork, disease, starvation, and abuse.
Hellfire Pass was just one of many railway paths carved through the mountains for the purpose of constructing the Burma-Thailand Railway.
Today, not only can you walk the historic path in which these very tracks were built, but there is also a Hellfire Pass memorial, with photos and belongings on display.
There is also an amazing audio tour available that follows you every step of the way, so you are not aimlessly wandering the trail wondering what it is you are looking at.
Hellfire Pass isn’t the only memorial in Kanchanaburi though, there is the Death Railway Museum, located right next to a war cemetery.
Tired from my trip to Kanchanaburi, I took a night off, explored through the endless selections of Netflix, and came across a movie called The Railway Man.
As I watched the film, I saw all of the major historical sites we visited in Kanchanaburi pop up on my television.
I really enjoyed the film, and after spending time in the places the movie was based off, I could really feel a deep connection and appreciation for the movie.
And so there you have it, my report on things to do in Kanchanaburi, Thailand.
If you are seeking asylum outside of Bangkok for a weekend or have some time to venture around in Thailand, Kanchanaburi is one city to put on your bucket list, a perfect blend of history and beauty that is not to be missed.
**Are you into checking out places like Kanchanaburi? Check out Phimai! Another city rich with history.
Have an awesome travel story to share? What about information on attractions, accommodations, and restaurants? You should write for Jaiguytravels.com! Contact me for details.
**Kelly is a freelancer and teacher currently residing in Bangkok, Thailand. To hear more about her travels, trials and tribulations, read her blog here.