Spend at least 3 days in Kanchanaburi

Stunning view Tham Krasae restaurant Kanchanaburi

Kanchanaburi is situated about 2 hours west of Bangkok. The city of the equally named province is famous for the Birdge over the River Kwai and Burma railway. Known for its tragic history and scenic beauty Kanchanaburi was on top of my list. Spend at least 3 full days to explore the beauty of West Thailand.

From Bangkok get on a train to Nam Tok. The train leaves from Thonburi station, on the other side of the Chao Phraya River – not from Hua Lamphong. It will cost you 100 baht, which is fairly pricey for Thai standards. But due to the historical story the train is a popular tourist route. On the local market opposite Thonburi train station you can get some snacks before hopping on your 3 hour train ride. Or you can buy some goodies from the vendors on the train. No need to starve when you’re in Thailand!

Bridge over the River Kwai
That famous bridge over the river is the main reason people visit Kanchanaburi during their journey through Thailand. The bridge is part of the railway line that served as a connection between Thailand and Myanmar – formerly Burma – during World War 2. Led by the Japanese, prisoners of war and civilians were forced to work on the track under very inhumane conditions. Think a rugged mountainous landscape and a tropical climate. Exhaustion, mistreatment, malnutrition and disease cost more than hundred thousand people their lives. Therefore the track is also known as Death Railway. You can visit the museum and war cemetery in Kanchanaburi, but do hop on the train towards Tham Krasae station if you can. No doubt you’ll be advised to take a seat on the left side of the train. However, this advise will not only be given to you. Unless you want to get into a fight with an elderly travel group, I suggest you just find a seat on the other side or remain standing in the doorway – not very safe nor comfortable. Don’t worry! On your way back it’s probably less crowded and you can easily get a spot on the right side of the train. Except for a mesmerizing view, the station’s restaurant hasn’t got much to offer. What you will find at Tham Krasae station? The most radical part of the railway. Take a walk around and visit Krasae Cave. Nowadays the cave is a sacred place for locals, but it’s believed to have formerly served as campsite for prisoners of war and Japanese soldiers.

Death Rail Bridge River Kwai Kanchanaburi Thailand

Save the elephants
I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: do NOT ride an elephant! It is commonly known the elephants go through a traumatic experience and the care for these friendly giants is often inadequate. It is heartbreaking! If you want to interact with these incredible creatures visit a sanctuary instead. Fortunate, there are quite a few in Thailand but do choose carefully. Personally I highly recommend Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai. Here the elephants are loved and taken well care off. The elephants carry no saddly, are not tied to a chain and their caretakers don’t carry a bullhook. I paid a visit to Elephant Haven – which is part of Elephant Nature Park – in Kanchanaburi and observed these beauties in their natural behavior. It is certainly a lifelong experience. This included preparing food, feeding them, walking them through the jungle and bathing with the elephants while giants turds floated by. It’s the definition of fun, really! During your visit you will also learn a lot about the elephants and their behavior.

Erawan waterfalls
Another reason to visit Kanchanaburi is Erawan waterfalls. According to some the most beautiful waterfalls of Thailand. Beautiful they are indeed. From the bus station in Kanchanaburi a local bus to Erawan National Park leaves every 50 minutes starting at 8 in the morning for only 50 baht. The falls are spread over 7 levels. The first 3 levels are pretty easy to reach. Then it turns into a reasonable climb up the mountain. The top waterfall looks like the three-headed elephant Erawan, which is why the park is given its name. You do have to use a little bit of your imagination though. Virtually every waterfall has a pond with clear water to cool off in. So don’t forget your swimwear. Unfortunately you will not be the only one taking a dip. Besides the many other visitors – just get used to it – there are a number of fish who also enjoy the cristal clear water. Remember those tiny fish from the beauty salon, which eat the dead skin of your feet? Well, they’re kinda the same only fucking huge! Once you get into the water they will attack your toes. It doesn’t really hurt, it just feels weird. Don’t forget to keep an eye on the time. The last bus back to Kanchanaburi leaves at 4 o’clock. To be safe: get on the 3 o’clock bus! There’s only one going every hour and it can get crowded. Even though the bus seems to be completely full, do ask the driver if this is really the case. When I arrived at the bus stop for the 3 o’clock bus it seemed like there was no seat left. Nothing turned out to be less true. In the overly crowded bus – Flintstone style – there was still some space left. On the arm rest next to the driver facing backwards to be exact. Don’t be so surprised when the driver started countig his money while driving. You’re in Thailand after all. So if you have no problem with taking a seat on top of the bus, you can probably still get on the 4 o’clock bus aswell. No worries!

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