Kanchanaburi is the place to come if you like your history and want a trip with a little more backbone to it rather than just Full Moon Parties and pretty beaches. The location of the infamous Bridge on the River Kwai, Kanchanaburi is not a party place but it is in many ways Thailand’s historical gem, so if you are interested in history make sure you don’t leave it off the itinerary.
Death Railway Bridge
The main reason many people go to Kanchanaburi is to see the bridge that cost the lives of countless British and Australian POWs in the Second World War. In reality it can look a little smaller and less imposing than many imagine but take the time to remember that it was brought over from neighboring Indonesia and then reassembled in the scorching Thai heat by forced labor. There are different ways to see the bridge, one of which is to walk across it, although it is usually crowded and not necessarily the best way to take in the scale of the structure. Another option is to rent a boat and drive underneath the bridge so that you can take it all in the way or you can take a train across it, by far the best option with lets you enjoy the surrounding scenery at the same time.
Death Railway Museum
To learn more about the building of the bridge and the almost 50,000 lives that were lost doing so, the Death Railway Museum is a difficult but informative experience that goes along with an afternoon visit to the railway itself. By Thai standards the museum is extremely well done and sensitive in the way it has been put together, with comprehensive signs and explanations in English. There is also a coffee shop that overlooks the war cemetery at the end of the museum which can be a good way to end a visit there.
Visiting the Erawan National Park is one the nicer activities in the area around Kanchanaburi (90 minutes by bus), especially due to the great hike leading up to the waterfalls at the top. Before making the decision to get here, you should know that the time of the year and week influence the experience you’ll have. Why? Well, because if you go in the dry season, you won’t see much of the waterfalls, rather just a little stream of water coming down the rocks. Also, if you decide to go in the weekend, you can expect a lot of locals since visiting the park is also a weekend trip for many Thai nationals. Once you’ve made the decision to go, make sure you’ll bring along some decent shoes knowing that it can be quite the workout because there are several levels (7 to be precise) which require you to hike your way up. It does have a sweet reward at the end, as you can swim with the fish in the beautiful colored water for some refreshment. So if hiking is your thing and you’re not afraid to take a dip into the falls, we definitely recommend this!
Kanchanaburi is definitely less of a tourist destination in terms of relaxation and ‘fun’ (although it does have the Erawan Waterfalls) and more a trip to a memorial of a dark period in history. Despite this however, the scenery is beautiful and the Death Museum and Railway are both done in a moving way to preserve the memory of those who lost their lives Kanchanaburi.