A two hour drive out of Bangkok toward the Burma (or Myanmar) border lies Kanchanaburi, a quiet town on the River Kwai. These days, Kanchanaburi is one of the most peaceful places I’ve visited in Thailand, which seems fitting after its horrible history as the start of the Death Railway and surrounds of POW camps in WWII. Kanchanaburi has earnt its peace. Steeped in history, this is a town well worth a visit if you have enough time, even for two or three nights.
Jolly Frog Backpackers
I stayed here back in early 2011, so it may well have changed by now, but Jolly Frog was a great basic option for backpackers, with fan rooms at around 150 baht per night that open onto a lovely garden with hammocks. Beautiful views of the sunset over the River Kwai.
The 10 Baht Bar
This is one of my favourite finds ever when travelling. The 10 baht bar is a tiny shack of a bar that has been set up roadside – the Thai, alcoholic equivalent of an American child’s lemonade stall on a tree lined suburban street. The name is fairly self explanatory: the sign over said shack literally just says “Get Drunk For 10 Baht”. I mean, sure.
The 10 baht bar’s stools are upturned paint cans and the tiny tables are made out of a single plank of wood. You have a limited choice here: rum or whisky. Mostly local Asian varieties, but with some exported brands if you want to spend a bit more than 10 baht for each drink. The bottles are lined up in rows, you point to one, the lone “bartender” will pour a measure into a small glass filled with a couple of cubes of ice, adding a dash of soda or coke if you fancy it. All for 10 baht. That’s roughly 20p. I challenge you to not spend your whole night here and wake up with a horrific Sangsom hangover the next day.
THINGS TO DO
Erawan National Park is home to seven picturesque waterfalls, all at different levels of a mild hike (doable in flip flops but trainers definitely the preferred option). A good way to spend a few hours, Erawan is often teamed together on a tour with the Death Railway and the Bridge over the River Kwai, so all three can be covered in a day if you’re short on time.
A word of warning: you know those fish spas that are just about everywhere in Asia and have even made it to the UK? Yeah, the ones where the little bastards eat the dead skin off your feet like it’s some sort of treat for you to have fish nipping at your body for half an hour. There are fish in the pools at Erawan that will do the same, so you may hear some screeching every so often as unsuspecting travellers pose for photos in the falls. Avoid or splash around a lot if you don’t like it, and if you do – well, you get a free spa treatment too.
The Thailand-Burma Railway Centre Museum, opposite Kanchanaburi War Cemetery, open every day between 9.00am – 5.00pm, Entry Fee: 120Baht, Tel: +66 (0) 34 512721
This museum takes you through the construction of the Death Railway during WWII. There are lots of visuals and models to tell the story of the construction and the Prisoners of War who built the railway, including a look into the living conditions and the methods of medicine used in the POW camps. Well worth a look in, and the largest of Kanchanaburi’s war cemeteries are right outside.
JEATH War Museum, near the bridge. Tel: +66 (0) 34 511 263
Death Railway and The Bridge Over The River Kwai
These are must sees whilst you are in Kanchanaburi, and well serviced by all local tour companies and travel agents. I would recommending dedicating a day to a combination tour that takes you to Erawan National Park, Death Railway and the Bridge.