Kanchanaburi, neighboring Myanmar to the west, is one of the best-hidden gems in Thailand less than 150 kilometers away from Bangkok. Packed with cultural experiences, history, local cuisine, and gorgeous, peaceful scenery, Kanchanaburi is a paradise on earth for both history buffs and natural wonder seekers.
Exploring Kanchanaburi to the fullest doesn’t need an entire week. In fact, you can sign up for a day trip and follow a local guide to all the main attractions as well as off-the-beaten paths.
And that is what I did!
I visited Kanchanaburi as part of a tour departing from Bangkok. It was a beautiful 9-hour getaway covering different incredible sights. Even if you don’t want to be part of a tour, stay tuned because I’m gonna show you how to get there and reveal my favorite things to do in Kanchanaburi so you can venture out by yourself.
How to Get to Kanchanaburi from Bangkok?
Buses to Kanchanaburi depart at the Southern Bus Terminal in Bangkok every half an hour. You can buy directly at the ticket booth inside the terminal or book online ahead of time. The van ride lasts for 2 hours with comfortable seats and AC.
By Chartered Car
Easy, fuss-free, and comfy – getting your own chartered car to travel between Bangkok and Kanchanaburi is the best hassle-free option. Get picked up at your hotel in Bangkok and dropped off at the desired destination. Choose from multiple packages ranging from 8 hours to 3 days depending on your schedule.
Daily trains leave for Kanchanaburi from the Thonburi train station. Train tickets are available online and the train ride lasts for about 3 hours.
7 Best Things to Do in Kanchanaburi for an Epic Summer Getaway
River Kwai and the Death Railway
This infamous attraction is one of the most emotional and thought-provoking places mounted to the heart-breaking events following WW2. The bridge lies on the skeleton of the cross-country railway between Thailand and Myanmar.
The construction of the bridge and the railway was supervised by the Japanese who exploited prisoners’ labor from allied forces. Many of them died of disease and exhaustion due to severe working conditions under the pouring rain, in the swamps and jungles.
If you wanna learn more about this infamous attraction, check out the movie “The Bridge over the River Kwai”!
Go Bamboo Rafting on River Kwai
Hitting the Death Railway and the bridge is not the only thing to immerse in the sheer beauty of River Kwai. I had the most brilliant hour setting sail on a bamboo raft along the peaceful River Kwai and it was a perfect getaway to cleanse my mind.
All you need to enjoy is to put on a life jacket, get your core and muscles ready and soak in the gorgeous river view at its finest. Bamboo rafting will get you closer to the local culture of the Mon people as you’ll get to see how the traditional materials are used to make the rafts. There will be a person assigned to steer the raft for you.
Erawan National Park
It’s all about the hike and the waterfall! Erawan National Park comes out in the most gorgeous appearance possible. You can enjoy a heat-quenching swim in the shallow and deep areas or train your muscles on a hike through the forest.
There are 7 different floors to visit throughout the entire waterfall with a special beauty at every turn. Erawan is a short drive away from the city core but the drive is absolutely worth it! When I got there, the mashup of majestic mountains and rip-roaring waterfalls seemed as if it jumped out and consumed me.
Explore the Tiger Cave Temple (Wat Tham Sua)
Here comes another fascinating sight to jot down your bucket list when visiting Kanchanaburi. Wat Tham Sua is the most sought-after temple housing the largest Buddha statue in the city. The traditional Buddhist architecture comes out strikingly, covered in a dramatic mashup of colors that stands against the high blue sky.
The ground of the temple spreads out under the sky, pressed against thriving greenery swathing around for an impeccable view. You can use the cable car ride to reach the temple or take on a set of stairs for outdoor exercise.
JEATH War Museum
If you’re looking for all the historical events of the Death Railway tucked in one place, look no further than the JEATH War Museum!
The museum is dedicated to the heartbreaking stories behind the building of the Death Railway using illustrations and photographs showing the poor living conditions of the prisoners. All the replicas of old documents, newspaper cuttings, pocket watches, old notes, and old coins are the storytellers themselves, helping you dig a lot deeper into the history of the area.
Take Care of the Old Elephants at Elephant World
Thailand and elephant – what a perfect combo!
The best thing about Elephant World is the way it helps you get real close to the elderly elephants in the most humane way! You’ll have a chance to learn how the abused elephants are recovering from sickness and old age and how all the money is recycled back into the scheme.
There will be absolutely no riding or other abusive activity but the other way around. You’ll spend hours learning how to feed them, pet them, hang out with them, give them a wash, and cap off your day in the most meaningful way.
An Adventurous Bonus: Zipline at Tree Top Adventure Park
Who’s here for a thrill-seeking day? If you’re traveling with kids or tagging your friends along, ziplining at the Tree Top Adventure will inject your day with some real good laughs. Pick one of their many routes and whizz your way through the tropical jungle while the stunning view embraces you from all four sides.
Alternatively, you’ll get to swing over a pristine lake, ride a sky bike, or simply lounge back in one of the hammocks.
I hope you enjoy this beautiful mountainous city as much as I do. The best time to visit Kanchanaburi is between November and February as you’ll get to enjoy the cooler months of the year. As you’ll spend a lot of time outdoors, try to avoid the hotter months from March to June!