Forget Bangkok And Phuket; Kanchanaburi Should Be Your Next Stop in Thailand

It's still not very popular yet.

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Forget Bangkok And Phuket; Kanchanaburi Should Be Your Next Stop in Thailand
Image: Flickr/Chantip Ditcharoen
Thailand is a vast country, though most travellers stick to the same tried and tested tracks.

The Land of Smiles’ third largest province, Kanchanaburi is a microcosm of what makes Thailand such a popular destination, thankfully minus the tourist circuit. It's a land gifted with jungle-clad national parks, scenic waterways, magnificent temples and timeworn traces of World War II.

That being said, here's why Kanchanaburi should make your bucket list:

It's where History And Nature Go Hand In Hand

Definitely not your average train ride.
If you happen to know a little about Kanchanaburi, it could be because of the Death Railway. Sounds spooky and its past is even spookier.

The name acts as a reminder of many deaths of the allied POWs (Prisoners of War) and slaves who constructed this railway under the Japanese Imperial Army supervision during WWII. Yet today, it's more a relaxation activity than a mere transportation.

Precarious cliffs within touching distance on one side, admiring the windswept fields of tapioca and sugar cane on the other and crossing over the Bridge on River Kwai will leave an imprint on your memory forever.

The bridge is one of the most photographed landmarks here and when the train is not passing by, locals and street vendors occupy the viaduct. 

The Bridge on River Kwai.

A scenic slice of Kanchanaburi.Historians at heart, don't miss the Hellfire Pass. It's a 26m-deep, 500m-long passage through a huge rock that 1,000 prisoners dug out by hand so that a train could pass. Within the 12 weeks of chiselling period, 700 of those men lost their lives.

Continue a little further to the Hellfire Museum, rated as one of the best museums in Thailand, as it abounds with extensive information, photographs, tools and testimony to help visualise those hair-raising moments.

You could actually feel the sacrifices put in to carve this pass.You'll also find sites dating further back. The Prasat Muang Singh Historical Park is approximately 45 kilometres from the city and is built in the 12th century during the Khmer empire.

Ruins of laterite walls, rampant, shrines and museums housing bronze utensils and artefacts, within a quaint area dotted by clusters of trees and flowers make this place a popular subject for photographers.

Quiet and interesting at the same time.

You’ll find a number of ancient religious sculptures.

Reconnect with Nature at National Parks

Kanchanaburi does not run out of adventure-filled, postcard-perfect national parks. The most revered one got to be the Erawan National Park, which is home to the Erawan Waterfall - seven-tiered, emerald green waterfall enrobed in dense forest surround.

The distance from the bottom to the top is approximately two kilometres which involve steep hikes, clambering over rocks and greeting wildlife such as gibbons, elephants, monkeys and tarantulas.  

Nature's beauty at its best.Use the boulders as natural sliders or plunge straightaway into the cool, refreshing pools to reward yourself for all the hard work. Enjoy complimentary fish spa too.

If you seek a slight detour, make your way to the park’s Pra That Cave to discover ancient stalagmites and stalactites.

Hey, why you come to my home?At the White Elephant Mountain, the province's third largest peak located in Thong Pha Phum National Park, true-blue adventurers are in store for an experience unlike any other.

Guided by professionals, balance your way along the perilous ridge till you reach the summit to treasure the jaw-dropping views of undulating mountains only interrupted by cottony clouds. You will be forgiven for pinching yourself to question reality.

A dream come true for nature advocates.
Spectacular views from the top.

Also known as Kao Chang Peuk.If height isn't your thing, head to Lam Khlong Ngu National Park. Here lies the 'Alien' Rock - a limestone stalagmite formation crafted entirely by the hands of nature, taking shape just like the creepy creature.

However, reaching here is no easy feat, you'll need to bring your A game. There are also waterfalls, grottoes, large caves, stalagmites and stalactites waiting to be explored. 

Other national parks worth making time for are Srinakarin National Park and Sai Yok National Park.

Within Sai Yok National Park.

Spend Time with Elephants - Ethically, Of Course! 

If you genuinely love elephants, Elephants World is the place to be. The elephants here are rescued from years of labour and abuse, particularly due to tourist-driven attractions.

Visitors from around the world spend the day at this non-profit organisation preparing food, feeding, playing and bathing these amiable animals. With sceneries of River Kwai waiting to flood your Instagram feed and cottage-like stilted huts offering much-needed shelter and view points, this experience feels like stepping into the pages of Jungle Book. 

Cook for your favourite animal.

Volunteers having fun bathing elephants.

Mum said to stay hydrated.

Stunning Temples That Keep Your Senses Primed

There’s no shortage of temples in Kanchanaburi, each with its own unique appeal.

Wat Ban Tham is one that will have you at hello. A bright red staircase sandwiched by naga serpents balustrades lead to a massive dragon mouth and further inside its body, murals, caves and Buddha statues make themselves known. Keep going till you reach its peak to be amazed by the arresting river views and a mountaintop chedi. 

Where colours and culture work together in harmony.Wat Tham Sua and Wat Tham Khao Noi are perched side by side on a limestone hill near Mae Khlong River and can be seen from miles away. Either hike your way up or ride a cable car to reach a breezy platform and be welcomed by an imposing Buddha statue.

Wat Tham Sua is still active, so it's common to see monks uplifting the aura with chants as you embrace the beauty of arts and sculptures within. The latter is equally picture-worthy with Chinese style arts. 

Easily identified from distance.

Endless photography opportunities await.Located next to the Bridge on the River Kwai, Kuang Im Chapel is easily recognised with its towering Chinese Goddess of Mercy statue.

However, it’s actually a Buddhist temple adorned with a Chinese theme in mind. Photography enthusiasts will have a field day as there are vivid, tale-telling sculptures at every turn. 

Another must-visit temple in Kanchanaburi.

No shortage of art in Kuang Im Chapel.

A River That Has Given Beaches A Much-Needed Break

If you had enough of being a landlubber, make your way to the banks of River Kwai.

You’ll find a number of floating resorts and guesthouses offering the perfect place to relax and recharge. Float House River Kwai is among the top choices here as it blends seamlessly into the serene setting.  

It's teak-wood furniture, traditional thatched roofs and private balcony enhanced with deck chairs and swing encourages you to bob gently over the river with a warm drink and a good book, or simply have the sweet pleasure of doing nothing. The silence is only broken by the pulse of nature. 

Seeking a romantic meal with your other half? You can never go wrong here.

Just unwind from all hustle and bustle at this picture-perfect resort.
If lazing in the hotel isn’t you kind of thing, then explore the river by kayaking, canoeing or hop onto a river cruise.

Kayaking is a popular way to explore the river.Drool-Worthy Food Is Part Of The Equation

No visit to Thailand is complete without good food and Kanchanaburi is no exception.

The culinary scene here is less hoopla but does not lack authenticity and authentic flavours, which matters most. You’ll find numerous stalls vendors and night markets selling unpretentious Thai favourites like pad thai, mango sticky rice, fried banana and more.

On’s Thai Issan, which also doubles up as a cookery school, serves up an array of vegetarian food that eliminates even the thought of meat. If you’re looking to raise the romance factor, Keeree Tara will not disappoint.  

Stretch of noodles at night market.

Pork and chicken balls.

No meat, no problem.

Gorgeous views and delicious food, what else can you ask for?
In a nutshell, Kanchanaburi melts down the need of the material world just by its ability to stay true to nature, wildlife and the past. 

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