Three hours north of Bangkok is a green, waterfall-filled land of lush hills and trails. Kanchanaburi is a large, and beautiful area of central Thailand. Its highlights include multiple national parks, lots of hiking trails, tons of beautiful waterfalls and a vibrant and bustling town.
If you are either living in Thailand and need to escape the city, or you’re coming to Thailand and want activities near Bangkok and aren’t sure what to do, this is an ideal place to head. So, what should you do up here?
Erawan Falls National Park
This national park was actually our main reason for visiting the region. After a month in Bangkok we longed for a chance to see some trees and waterfalls, we are in a constant state of nature withdrawal here in the city, so we’ll jump at any chance we get to immerse ourselves in forests.
We based ourselves in Kanchanaburi town itself, which takes about three hours in a cab, so we then had to get up to the national park. It sounds hard, but trust me it really isn’t, we got up at 7am and grabbed a tuk tuk to the town bus station (which is obvious and every driver knows you’re gonna head there!). We then hopped on a funky Thai bus, which took us on an hour and a half journey north through forests and along the river. It’s a beautiful ride and a lot of fun. Top tip: make sure you get there a little early to secure your seat, buses leave on the hour from 8am.
We were at the park by 9.30am, got our hiking boots on and had a half day hiking up the seven big, beautiful, cascading waterfalls. At the top, we jumped in and swam in the beautiful colored pools. Just perfect. Top tip: make sure you get there early to avoid the heat and crowds, we would highly advise the first bus.
Meena Cafe & Temples
If you want one of the best views in all of Thailand, and a good cup of coffee to sip while you relax watching it, head here. The cafe takes advantage of a position so unique, it’s a puzzle as to how it isn’t overrun by bars and hotels already.
Sat along the Mae Khlong, your view is of unreal fields, hills and temples, which light up beautifully at sunset. Not to be missed! To get here, grab a taxi in town, and tell them to wait for you at the cafe, as it would be impossible to find one for the return trip. They are happy to wait for an hour or two for about 400TB.
Boat Ride the Mae Khlong
If you get up nice and early, you will be one of the first people on the river, and that is a real treat. Tours on speedboats begin at about 9am, but if you’re down by the bridge at 7.30, you’ll find a few guys with their boats who will take you on a half hour river tour for about 700TB for the boat. The guys whisk you along the river, past floating hotels, local houses and of course under the famous bridge over the river Kwai. It’s a lot of fun, and a great way to start your day!
Bridge over the River Kwai
Well, the bridge that everyone’s Dad knows about.
Of course we had heard of the thing, but frankly, my knowledge of the historic nature of the area was stunningly low. After some research, two things became obvious; the bridge is a really important historic site, a reminder of the atrocities that only wars can bring, but also that so much of the bridge’s history, at least as shown in pop culture, is inaccurate.
One thing that we were surprised by was how much we enjoyed it. It’s small, smaller than we were expecting, but it holds a quaint, rustic appeal and looked really quite beautiful in the morning. There’s a peaceful poignancy as you stand still and admire the structure and remember all those lost. If you are planning on seeing it, get up early and beat the crowds, which show up in herds after the tours arrive at 8.30am. Sunrise at the bridge is a wonderful experience, and if you stay along the river nearby, it’s a quick five minute walk away.
So if you’re looking for nature, history and some relaxation, get yourself to Kanchanaburi! With easy transport by either bus, taxi or train, it should be on your Thailand hit list for sure. We can’t wait to get back up there and explore some more.
Rich & Steph