Kanchanaburi (Thai: กาญจนบุรี) is a city at the confluence of the Rivers Kwai Noi and Kwai Yai.
For most visitors the main sight of interest is the Bridge over the River Kwai, as the start of the infamous World War II Death Railway to Burma (now Myanmar), as well as the many associated museums. There is an increasingly thriving backpacker scene taking advantage of the chilled-out riverside vibe for those who want to get away from Bangkok. Kanchanaburi is also the gateway to the surrounding province of the same name. More foreign visitors are discovering why Thais know it as one of the most beautiful provinces in the country with its easily accessible waterfalls and national parks.
Orienting yourself in Kanchanaburi is very easy. The main road, Saeng Chuto Road, runs the length of town from north to south, connecting the River Kwai Bridge, the train station, and the bus station. Running parallel to this, closer to the river, is Mae Nam Kwae Road where most of the guest houses and the local bar scene can be found.
- Tourist Authority of Thailand, Saeng Chuto Road (Just south of the bus terminal). 08:00-16:00 daily. Distributes a useful free map of the city and province.
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BKS public buses (line 81) leave from Bangkok Southern Bus Terminal (Sai Tai Taling Chan สายใต้ตลิ่งชัน), which is far west in the suburb of Thonburi. In Kanchanaburi, there are two separate but nearby bus terminals, with 1st class buses departing from an office off Saengchuto Road, and 2nd class buses from the larger terminal one block east.
- 1st class buses leave Bangkok every 15 minutes from 05:00-22:30, take about 2 hours, and cost 110 Thai Baht, including a bottle of water.
- 2nd class buses (new route) leave Bangkok every 20 minutes from 03:30-19:00 and take about 2 hours. Cost 110 Thai Baht. (They now claim that there is no 2nd class bus going to Kanchanaburi, yet there is, but they charge the same price as for the 1st class bus.
- 2nd class buses (old route) leave Bangkok every 15-30 minutes from 04:00-18:00 and take about 3 hours.
There are also tourist minibuses directly to/from Khao San Road, departing Kanchanaburi at 13:30 and 18:30.
There are also some buses leaving less frequently from Bangkok Northern Mo Chit bus terminal (note: not the same as Mo Chit BTS station, and not within walking distance of it, although a standard 50 Thai Baht motorbike taxi ride is available. It’s called “Mo Chit 2”). Here are the times (approximate):
First-class bus with toilet (3 hours, 122 Thai Baht): 06:00, 11:00, 14:30.
Second-class bus with no toilet inside (not sure about time and price, times are probably the same): 05:00, 07:00, 09:30, 12:30, 17:00.
Bus rides may be variable or cancelled (for example, with 14:30 being last of the day.) But there are vans available at the bus station leaving even when you’re told there’s no way to get there by bus! It may pay to talk to the information desk about this. Price is around 120 Thai Baht, about 2 hr.
From Nakhon Pathom, there are direct buses (2nd class only) every 15 to 30 minutes between 04:00 and 18:00, which take two hours. Alternatively, you can hop off a 1st class bus when it passes by Nakhon Pathom, but double-check with staff to ensure the route allows this and they know your plans.
From Sangkhla Buri to Kanchanaburi, you’re spoilt for choice:
- Air-con VIP buses leave at 08:45, 10:45, and 14:30 and take 4 hours.
- Air-con minibuses leave at 06:30, 07:30, 11:30, 13:00, 15:30 and take 3.5 hours.
- Standard buses leave at 06:45, 08:15, 10:15, 13:15 and take 5 hours.
Trains leave Bangkok Thonburi Train Station at 07:45 and arrive at Kanchanaburi at 10:20, with another at 13:45, arriving at 16:35. You may be interested in buying a ticket all the way to the River Kwai Bridge, since these two trains are the only ones which cross the bridge each day. 100 Thai Baht for foreigners (Oct 2000).
Be warned that reaching Thonburi Station from Khao San Road is harder than it looks. Tuk-tuk drivers will try to charge you outrageous rates, and walking involves crossing two bridges and looping back. The best way is probably to take the passenger boat from Phra Arthit Pier to connect with a cross-river ferry that reaches the Thonburi Railway Pier. Then walk or take the open minibus from there. You can also walk a bit away from Khao San Road and find a metered taxi that will not rip you off. The fare should be about 70 or 80 Thai Baht from Khao San on the meter.
Return trains leave at 07:25 and 14:48 from the main railway station. From the River Kwai Bridge they leave 6 minutes earlier. Riding 3rd class is an adventure in itself, and definitely recommended.
Both train services continue to/from Nam Tok, the current terminus of the Death Railway. The normal trains will charge “farang” (Westerners) 100 Thai Baht in each direction from Kanchanaburi to Wang Pho, the last station before Nam Tok. Thais pay a lot less.
The 10:30 train has a special tourist section, where the Tourist price of 300 Thai Baht gets you air-con, a soft drink, and a certificate of having ridden the Death Railway.
One of least expensive ways to get from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi is to take a train from Thonburi to Ban Pong for 14 Thai Baht (same price for Thais and foreigners), then from Ban Pong take an air conditioned bus to Kanchanaburi for 40 Thai Baht, a total of 54 Thai Baht.
You can catch a taxi to Kanchanaburi and return to Bangkok for the day for around 1,700 Thai Baht. This should include stopping at the bridge over River Kwai and museum, Kanchanaburi township, the local dam and POW cemetery. You may need to pay a bit extra to visit Erawan Falls and the Tiger Temple, which is about an hour out of the town.
By limousine taxi
Bangkok Airport limousines are a comfortable and swift means of travel between Thailand’s capitol and Kanchanaburi. Fares in luxury Japanese sedans are typically from 3,000-3,500 Thai Baht.
Travel by minivan in Kanchanaburi
Day trips from Bangkok are commonly sold at Bangkok travel agencies. Typically, these include Toyota minibus transport from one’s hotel to Kanchanaburi and back (visiting the famous bridge, Erawan National Park, etc., depending on the package), and perhaps lunch and entrance fees. One example: approximately 1,100 Thai Baht for transport, lunch, entrance fees to Erawan National Park, and the famous bridge.
Kanchanaburi is just a little too stretched out to comfortably walk. Small orange and large yellow songthaews (converted pickups) cruise up and down Saeng Chuto, connecting bus station, train station, and the bridge, and charge a standard 10 Thai Baht. Motorbike taxis and tuk-tuks are also available, with negotiable prices, and some guesthouses offer bicycle rentals. A number of places in town (mostly along Maenam Kwai Road) rent bicycles for 50 Thai Baht/day, or motorcycles for 150-200 Thai Baht, depending on whether it is an automatic. In the area near budget accommodations/guesthouses such as Ploy, you can rent bicycles or motorcycles from Yanee at 197 Maenumkaew Road. Remember to ask for a map and directions to popular sights.
World War II
Most of the sights in Kanchanaburi itself are directly related to WWII. The museums are dusty and generally not worth it, except for the Thailand-Burma Railway Centre, which gives a good introduction of the Death Railway and its history. There are also two war cemeteries, the most moving of which is the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery.
Bridge over the River Kwai (Saphan Mae Nam Kwae) (Some 3 km north of Kanchanaburi, down New Zealand Road, off Saeng Chuto Road). This iron bridge across the Kwai Yai River is the main attraction for many visitors. Immortalized in the famous movie and novel, it was a part of the infamous Death Railway to Burma, constructed by POWs working for the Japanese in hellish conditions during WWII. Some 16,000 POWs and 90,000 Asian workers (most of them enslaved) died during railway construction. The present iron bridge is the second wartime incarnation (a part of the original can be found in the War Museum), but two central box spans were rebuilt after the war to replace three sections destroyed by Allied bombing.You can cross the bridge on foot on the central steel-plated walkway. There are small cantilevered platforms between the spans for better views and avoiding trains. The guardrails are incomplete, so be careful with small children. Off the end of the bridge, you can feed or ride an elephant bare-back at negotiated price of 600 Thai Baht per ride. It’s reported that elephant is tethered on a short chain and has to stand in its own waste. Use your judgement. The bridge is still in use and there is a station right next to it. Trains run from Nam Tok (the train line’s terminus) to River Kwai Bridge station (a little over 2 hours away) and then onward to Kanchanaburi and Bangkok. Food and souvenirs are available at the bridge.
The walk to the bridge is not particularly pleasant (if you fancy a long walk, save it for the less crowded other side of the bridge), but songthaews (10 Thai Baht) run along the main road (Saeng Chuto Road) from the centre. You’ll know when to get off when you see the railway line cross the road. Then just follow the track.
- Death Railway (ทางรถไฟสายมรณะ). The strategic railway tracks began from Nong Pla Duk Station in Amphoe Ban Pong, Ratchaburi, and ran via Kanchanaburi across the Khwae Yai River, westbound to the Three Pagodas Pass, to end at Thanbuyuzayat in Burma. Total length in Thai territory was 300 km. The railway took only one year to complete, from October 1942–October 1943. After the war, some lengths of track were demolished and some submerged under the lake of Khao Laem Dam. (updated Feb 2019)
- Chongkai War Cemetery (Either bargain with a taxi or rent a bicycle to get there; it’s on the west side of the river). A neatly maintained small cemetery 2 km out of town.
- JEATH War Museum (Phíphítháphan Songkhram Wát Tâi (Wat Tai War Museum)), Pak Phraek Road (Adjacent to the Wat Chaichumphon temple complex 1 km south of town centre). 08:30-18:00. The acronym JEATH stands for the primary nationalities involved in the construction of the railway: Japanese, English, Australian, American, Thai and Holland. The free guide leaflet concludes with these salutary words, “May Peace Always Conquer Violence”. Exhibits are housed in a palm hut, modeled on the type of buildings in which Death Railway POWs would have slept. Also displays a section of the first wooden bridge, recreations of the POW barracks and miscellaneous military paraphernalia. Downstairs is a somewhat incongruous exhibit of prehistoric Thailand complete with semi-erotic murals. The temple complex next door is interesting, although a cross-river boat departing from the riverside is the best attraction. The museum is time-worn, with many of the exhibits rusty or damaged by insects and the climate. Overall it is tatty and amateurish, and it may strike you as an insult to those who suffered here; far superior is the Thailand-Burma Railway Centre. 40 Thai Baht.
- Kanchanaburi War Cemetery (สุสานทหารสัมพันธมิตรดอนรัก), Saeng Chuto Road (Opposite the railway station). 07:00-14:00. This is the final resting place of 6,982 POWs who gave their lives for the construction of the Death Railway to Burma. All POWs at this site are from the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Australia. After WWII, the Allies moved all the buried POWs along the railway line to two war cemeteries in Kanchanaburi so as to be easier to maintain. The graves are set in straight lines with neatly mown lawns, and some have moving personal inscriptions. Exceptionally well maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, it is a sombre yet peaceful reminder of what happened. Free. (updated Feb 2019)
- Thailand-Burma Railway Centre, 73 Jaokannun Road (Next to Kanchanaburi War Cemetery, near the south of Mae Nam Khae Road). 09:00-17:00 daily. Generally considered to be the best source of information regarding World War II in Thailand, railway construction and route, and the conditions endured by POWs and Asian labourers. Very moving exhibits, including video and interactive displays. A visit takes at least one hour, and probably longer if you want to read everything. Fee includes a free coffee or tea at upstairs cafe, where you can sit at the window bench overlooking the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery. It is a good place to sit and reflect after your tour of the centre. Far superior to the JEATH War Museum. 140 Thai Baht.
- World War II Museum and Art Gallery, Mae Nam Khwae Road (About 50 m from the Bridge over the River Kwai). 8:30-17:30 daily. This well-signposted complex houses a bizarre collection of museums and exhibits, most of which are poorly maintained and labelled. To your left as you enter is the “War Museum”, a 4 storey building encrusted with statues, which starts off with a little Burmese shrine but is mostly devoted to pre-WWII Thai history through the ages and is filled with wall paintings of kings and racks of rusty pistols. There are good views of the bridge from the roof of the riverside building. Above the WWII museum is the most bizarre section, housing (among other things) dusty stamp collections and a gallery with wall paintings of all Miss Thailand winners. The WWII and (old) Jeath Museum is lurking in the basement. 40 Thai Baht.
- Hell Fire Pass Memorial Museum (ช่องเขาขาดพิพิธภัณฑสถานแห่งความทรงจำ). Established by the Australian Government, it houses a theatre and collection of photographs, equipment, and utensils used during the construction of the Death Railway. (updated Feb 2019)
- Wat Ban Tham (the Temple of the Golden Dragon).
- Don Chedi archaeological site
- Giant Tree
- Kuan Yum
- Wat Tham Khao Noi
- Wat Tham Khaopoon, 5 km out of town (past Chongkai War Cemetery). 20 Thai Baht entrance fee to cave complex with Buddha images.
- Wat Tham Mungkornthong
- Wat Tham Sua
The area northwest of Kanchanaburi is dominated by beautiful River Kwai valleys. It is an area of great natural beauty, with a dazzling number of waterfalls, caves, lakes, and mountainous scenery. Most attractions can be visited as a day-trip from Kanchanaburi. Independent travel is possible for most attractions, but can be a hassle as local trains and buses are slow and inflexible. If you want to see Hellfire Pass and the Erawan Falls in one day, it’s almost compulsory to take one of the guided tours as there is no public bus connection between them.
- LHM Motorcycle Museum (Near Wat Tha Rua in Tha Maka District). Monday – Saturday, 08:00-17:00. Unusual museum owned by the Lo Heng Mong motorbike shop. In business for more than 50 years, the business has kept an example of most motorcycles they have sold over that period. Free. (updated Dec 2016)
- Sai Yok National Park (อุทยานแห่งชาติไทรโยค). A park since 1980, most of the area is limestone mountains with mixed deciduous forest. It is a former site of a Japanese camp during WWII as evident from traces of stoves. The park is home to the world’s smallest species of bat. (updated Feb 2019)
- Mueang Sing Historical Park or Prasat Mueang Sing (อุทยานประวัติศาสตร์เมืองสิงห์ or ปราสาทเมืองสิงห์). The laterite sanctuary was constructed in the late Lop Buri Period, c.11–13th centuries CE. Influenced by ancient Khmer culture, its principal tower is encircled by a laterite wall, moat, and earthen mound. It was built in a mixture of the folk school of art and Bayon-style of King Jayavarman VII’s period in Cambodia. (updated Feb 2019)
Along the Death Railway
While most visitors see the spectacular Erawan Falls, the Sai Yok Noi Falls are more accessible, because they are on the road to Sangkhla Buri. The Sai Yok Yai Falls are further away from Kanchanaburi on the same road. But beside the falls, the national park is home to limestone caves and hot springs as well. And it can easily be combined with the Hellfire Pass Memorial.
- Hellfire Pass. Only relocated in the 1980s, Konyu Cutting (known as Hellfire Pass by POWs and Asian labourers who cut and blasted through rock by hand to clear this pass for the Death Railway) has been reclaimed from the jungle as a profound war memorial funded by the Australian government. Excellent museum and self-guided walking tour facilities are available (donations welcome). Highly recommended. The descent through the jungle down to the pass (listening to oral histories through audio headsets) is a moving experience. Before leaving, take a moment to reflect at the peace lookout overlooking the beautiful Kwai Noi Valley. More challenging walking options are available. Annual Anzac Day Dawn Service are held here. 80 km northwest of Kanchanaburi. For a day trip, consider taking the morning train from Kanchanaburi to Nam Tok (2.5 hr), then samlor to the memorial (20 min); return by bus (1 hour) or afternoon train. Nam Tok to the Museum is quite a distance. It may be that your only option is a bus from the main road, which means walking from the station to there. Songthaews may be available. (updated Feb 2019)
- Tiger Temple (Closed down) (Wat Pa Luangta Bua Yanasampanno (วัดป่าหลวงตาบัว ญาณสัมปันโน)). Popularly known as the Tiger Temple, is the biggest tourist trap of the region. Admission starts at 600 Thai Baht per person, but depending on the “experience” you’d like, goes as high as 5,000 Thai Baht. The temple is nowhere to be seen, but the tigers are lounging in a dusty canyon, surrounded by minders in yellow shirts and overseen by a monk off in the corner. When they are not sitting unnaturally still, the tigers are kept in barren concrete cells. You can watch the tigers from a distance, and when your time comes, the minders will take your camera and snap a few photos of you crouching behind the dazed tiger, as well as a few close-ups of the tigers themselves. You can also pay a 1,000 Thai Baht extra for a “special” photo with a tiger, where you can have the head of a semi-unconscious one put in your lap. It’s all kind of odd, but the pictures will certainly wow your friends, unless they value animal welfare over souvenirs, in which case you might seriously disappoint them. Unverified reports of a tourist being seriously mauled by the tigers abound, although it is only common sense to not annoy tigers. A few years of domestication will not erase centuries of innate wildness.Also, you are not allowed to wear bright yellow, pink, or orange tee shirts, or they will not allow you inside. You must also sign a release form, just in case you’re harmed by the many animals at the temple (there are also water buffalo and deer roaming the parkland). You must bring your own camera, because the trainers do not have any.The tiger temple is off the road heading to Sai Yok. you can take a bus heading towards Sai Yok or Sangkhlaburi. There is a sign about 1 km before the Tiger Temple. Once you see the sign make a big fuss and run up to the front of the bus and motion that you want to get off. The temple itself is about 1-2 km down the side road. to get back to Kanchanaburi, you can either try and flag down a bus on the main road going towards Kanchanaburi or you might be able to buy a ride with one of the minibus tour groups. you can also rent a motorcycle and ride there yourself.There have been reports from Tiger Temple volunteer workers and staff released that the tigers were maltreated and abused by the abbot of the temple and his staff. A 2008 report from the British conservation group Care for the Wild International (CWI) reveals disturbing evidence of animal abuse and illegal tiger trafficking at the temple. It has since been revealed that the animals are drugged on a daily basis, although there are some travellers reporting otherwise. There are numerous conservation and animal welfare groups campaigning against the controversial Tiger Temple, which has a track record of ill-treatment of the animals, including tigers disappearing in trucks during the night.If you’d like to ignore the warnings of many travelers before you, as well as the reports of conservation experts, then to get to the temple, you can approach a songthaew driver at the bus terminal and ask to hire him for an afternoon as you should best visit the temple then and not in the morning. He should charge about 700 Thai Baht for a hire from 13:00-18:00. (updated Feb 2019)
Erawan National Park (อุทยานแห่งชาติเอราวัณ). Formerly called Khao Salop National Park (อุทยานแห่งชาติเขาสลอบ), it was proclaimed a national park on 19 June 1975, with an area of 373,735 rai (597,976,000 m2). Later, its name was changed to Erawan National Park as the highest level of the waterfall, Namtok Erawan, looks like Elephant Erawan’s head. (updated Feb 2019) The Erawan Falls are contenders for the most beautiful waterfalls in Thailand, and a must-see if time and budget allow. Entrance fee is 300 Thai Baht for foreigners. The falls are composed of seven tiers, all of which are picturesque and great for swimming. Plan to spend at least two hours hiking plus the time you want to spend swimming in the falls.
Don’t come unprepared. Wear a swimsuit and bring sunblock, since you’ll want to have a dip in the turquoise pools on most levels. Don’t forget to bring a towel. When swimming, watch out for fish feasting on the soles of your feet. They won’t hurt you and are only looking for a meal on dead skin cells, but the feeling can be disconcerting.
Everyone can do the hike, but don’t underestimate it. Good shoes will make the trip more pleasant, though flip flops are commonly worn. At the highest levels, one may have to walk through shallow water. The first four tiers are relatively close together and the walk is very straightforward. For the more adventurous, there is a large rock at the fourth tier that can be used as a water slide. Beyond the fifth tier, the hike will become slightly more difficult. The sixth and seventh tiers are not far from each other, but the paths are not well defined at this point, so be sure to look for the hard-to-spot signs. Additionally, beware of hornets at the top tier.
Bicycles can be rented at the entrance for 20 Thai Baht/hr, however you can only bike to the first level, which is only a 5 min walk, so they aren’t really useful. Many Thais don’t go further than the second level as beyond this food and beverages, except a water bottle after leaving a deposit, are not allowed.
If you walk on the right hill side of the road leading to the park gate, rather than the road itself, you will pass nice bamboo forest and you won’t be asked to pay entrance fee, since they collect it only at the toll gate if you enter by main road.
Public Transport: Public Bus 8170 leaves the Kanchanaburi bus terminal every 50-60 min between 08:00-17:20. The fare is 50 Thai Baht and the ride takes ~90 min. If you stay far away north from the bus terminal, and you probably will, you can just walk to Saeng Chuto Road from your guesthouse and hail the bus there. A good spot to hail from is right next to the war cemetery. Be sure to get an early bus, since there will be fewer people at the falls and you won’t have to hurry to get back. The last bus leaves for Kanchanaburi at 16:00.
This bus is small and rudimentary and can get completely full and this can be an uncomfortable experience if you don’t get a seat (if you’re tall you may not be able to fully stand). For the ride back to Kanchanaburi the schedule is: 08:30, 10:00, noon, 14:00, 15:00, 16:00, 17:00 (as read from sign at stop, edited 1/2018).
Transport Tour: Tour agencies in Bangkok commonly sell a package that includes Toyota minibus transport from your Bangkok hotel to the falls and back, with lunch and the park entrance fee of 300 Thai Baht included, for 1,100 Thai Baht. The packages are generally standardised and non-negotiable in price. Some tours also include a stop at the Bridge over the River Kwai, so inquire.
Tour packages that visitors can purchase from the nearby hotels/resorts in Kanchanaburi may include a stop to the Erawan waterfalls and other selected tourist attractions such as elephant riding, bamboo rafting, Tiger Temple and Hellfire Pass. These packages cost around 1,600 Thai Baht and include all transportation to and from the resort, park fees, lunch and an English-speaking guide.
Sleeping:It is possible to spend the night in the national park, meaning you get to experience the falls without the day tripper crowds. Camping sites are available on a nice green area by the riverside. The national park rents out tents from 50-300 Thai Baht (for the biggest). The park also rents out accessories such as sleeping bags, lanterns, and stoves for a very small amount. The accommodation services office is just past the car park. Bungalows are also available from 800 Thai Baht.
For food, try the market which is a one km walk back up the road towards the highway. There it is also possible to find cheaper snacks, drinks or other items. Just remember to bring your park ticket with you to prove you have already paid. If staying in the park, there are also restaurants on the side of the parking lot of the park. Do note that they close around 18:00-19:00.
- Srinakarind National Park (อุทยานแห่งชาติเขื่อนศรีนครินทร์). It was made a national park on 23 December 1981. It has an area of 953,500 rai (1,496,800,000 m2). Attractions include Tham (cave) Sawan (ถ้ำสวรรค์), Tham Neramit (ถ้ำเนรมิต), Tham Nam Mut (ถ้ำน้ำมุด), Tham Phra Prang (ถ้ำพระปรางค์), Namtok (waterfall) Huai Mae Khamin (น้ำตกห้วยแม่ขมิ้น). Another area of beautiful natural scenery is the Srinakarind Reservoir, which is right behind the Srinakarind Dam. Unfortunately, there is no public bus service here. The beginning of this waterway is called Lumnam Jone, which is the headwaters of the famous River Kwai. It has some beautiful surroundings and crystal clear water. It is hard to get to: on foot it will take a few hours walk, and by boat it takes around 5 hr from the ferry pier at Srinakarind Dam. Lumnam Jone can only be reached by one tour operator to limit the amount of visitors to the region. The trip takes two days and one night and can only be booked for the first weekend of the month. Some other interesting sights in the area are the Phra That Cave, the Huay Mae Khamin Waterfalls and the Tham Than Lot Cave. The Srinakarind Dam has a nice cafe serving mostly Thai food and is open every day. The area has two main ethnic groups, Thais and Karen. There are several villages of mostly Karen people in Naasuan of Amphoe Sri Sawat. Near the amphoe is a small Mon village. Beyond Ong Sit village and off a side road is a Lao village called Jerot. The villagers originally came here to help clear the forest when the dam was built and ended up settling in the area. Although many of the Karen women do a wonderful job of weaving (sarongs, blouses, bags), there is no local shop that sells these products. Occasionally there will be a house that will have items for sale, but they may be hard to find. (updated Feb 2019)
- Elephants and Friends Conservation Camp. The camp has the goal of helping mistreated, sick, and old elephants in Thailand and to give them a good home. As a visitor you will help in the daily care of the elephants, such as riding them (bare back) to the river for their bath, growing or collecting food (banana trees), or just playing with them. It’s impossible to get there by public transport. You can get there by (rented) motorbike or arrange a pick-up from Lat Ya or Kanchanaburi. If you want to come and help, the only way to make a reservation is to call Phot Nadee, the owner, who speaks English. With him you can make an arrangement for a pick-up.
- Taweechai Elephant Camp (Easy to get to from Kanchanaburi, essentially a straight line drive for 40 km along Rte 3199. There are English road signs indicating the camp. If coming by bus, take Bus 8170 bound for Erawan Falls and tell it to stop at Taweechai. You’ll need to take a motorcycle taxi to the camp for 30 Thai Baht). One of the largest elephant camps. Home to nearly 30 elephants, including one born in late-2009, Taweechai offers elephant rides, bathing with elephants (suitable for children), bamboo rafting (swimming optional) and special elephant training mahout courses. You can also buy photo frames made from elephant dung. The camp itself is well-maintained and nicely decorated. For example, it features the mounted skeleton of a 100 year old elephant. The elephants are well-treated and fed almost constantly. The camp owns large areas of nearby forest and at 16:00 the elephants leave the camp to spend the night wandering and grazing. They are given a very long chain so as not to be confined and in the mornings they are usually very dirty. Taweechai is halfway along the route from Kanchanaburi to the Erawan Falls and so can be included in a day trip to the falls. The majority of Western tourists have not yet discovered the camp as it seems to be visited almost exclusively by Thai and Russian tour groups. It is very busy so calling ahead to book is a good idea for groups. For couples or small groups it may be possible to turn up and ride, particularly in the low season. Admission prices vary depending on activity and group size so again it is a good idea to call ahead.
Independent-minded travellers may wish to hire a songthaew at the bus station the day before you want to travel. It should cost between 1,500-2,000 Thai Baht, and you tell the driver where you want to go. He will pick you up from your hotel in the morning as part of the deal and return you there afterwards.
Hua Hin Cha-am : Travel Guide, with Info on Nightlife, What to See & Covid-19 Report
Hua Hin Travel Guide
Hua Hin is a district in the Prachuap Khiri Khan Province of Thailand, 295 kilometers from Bangkok and 90 km from the provincial capital. It is the oldest and most traditional of Thailand’s beach resorts combining the attractions of a modern holiday destination with the charm and fascination of a still active fishing port. Beaches are located in the east of the province, including a 5km stretch of white sand and clear water. Although it has developed to cater for tourists from all over the world, the resort which began its development over 70 years ago, remains popular with Thais too, a good sign for those looking for an authentic experience.
The resort was originally founded in 1830s, when farmers, moving south to escape the results of a severe drought in the agricultural area of Phetchaburi, found a small village beside white sands and rows of rock, and settled in. The tranquil fishing village was turned into a ‘Royal resort’ becoming popular among Siam’s nobility and smart-set.
Accessibility was greatly enhanced by the construction of the railway from Bangkok, which brought visitors from wider social groups, and kick-started the industry which would bring tourists from other countries. The first hotel – The Railway Hotel – was built in 1921 and it still stands today continuing to serve tourists as the Sofitel Central.
Hua Hin was made famous in the early 1920s by King Rama VII, who decided it was an ideal getaway from the steamy metropolis of Bangkok. He built a summer palace and this was echoed when King Rama VII ordered the construction of the Palace of Klaikangwon (“far from worries”). The latter is still much used by the Thai Royal Family today.
The resort continued to develop slowly, protected to some extent by its Royal reputation. Its fishing port grew alongside golf courses and all the big hotel chains are now represented. Many of Bangkok’s rich and famous and a growing number of expats have built their own summer homes along the bay, making the resort more cosmopolitan every year.
Development has taken over much of the prime government land, so the coast road suffers from obstructed views of the sea these days, but Hua Hin is trying hard to retain its beach-side atmosphere. Compared to Pattaya, the resort remains relatively serene and attracts families and older travelers. The beach has a gradual slope, into clear warm water which so far has escaped pollution of any kind.
Further afield, the Prachuap Khiri Khan Province is a charming region, where limestone cliffs and islands, bays and beaches, are home to a national park, and several temples, and travelling through this area will be a welcome experience for those hoping to avoid the tourist traps found further South. Driving from Bangkok through Prachuap Khiri Khan takes around three hours, a journey punctuated by summer palaces, huge temples, beautifully kept gardens and salt flats.
Visitors head to Hua Hin all year round. The area has one of the lowest rainfalls in the country, and there’s usually a gentle sea breeze to punctuate the heat, particularly welcome in the summer season between March and September.
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Flights to Hua Hin
Things to see and do in Hua Hin
As you would expect with a resort boasting a 5km clean white beach, sunbathing, swimming and snorkelling are popular pastimes. Swimming is safe, and with one of the driest climates across Thailand, there’s plenty of opportunity to dry off in the sun afterwards.
Possibly due to its noble history and elegant clientele, Hua Hin has the highest density of world class golf courses anywhere in Thailand, although it has yet to be discovered by the international golf tournament circuit. Green-fees and other costs are surprisingly low, given that course maintenance and services are superb. The Royal Hua Hin course is one of many, but considered to be the best.
Shop till you drop
Chatchai Market is colourful and inexpensive and is one of Hua Hin’s major attractions. Vendors gather nightly in the centre of town, where they cook fresh gulf seafood for hordes of hungry Thais and provide a spectacle for visitors. As well as plentiful food shops, it offers much that will appeal to souvenir hunters too.
Klai Kangwon (which means ‘Far From Worries’ ) is the Royal Palace built by King Rama VII in 1928. It was designed by Prince Iddhidehsarn Kridakara, an architect and the Director of the Fine Arts Department at the time, and officially opened in 1929. Further structures have been added over time, including a mansion ordered by King Bhumibol (Rama IX) for Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, and accommodation for the royal entourage, built in the style of the original buildings so as to preserve the harmony of the palace. Although Klai Kangwon is still in regular use by the Royal family, it is also open to the public.
Hop on a train
Or more importantly, visit the railway station. Built in the reign of Rama IV, the brightly painted wooden buildings somehow combine traditional Thai ideas with a Victorian feel, and in 2009 Hua Hin made it onto NewsWeek’s Best Stations list, in great company such as New York’s Grand Central, and London’s St Pancras.
Although one of the joys of Hua Hin is its serenity and calm, if you’re keen to take in more, its fairly easy to find trips which will take you to many of the other southern beach destinations such as Koh Nangyaun, Koh Toa, Koh Samui, Phuket, Krabi and Koa Sok. You may find however that some of these legendary destinations have suffered more at the hands of the global tourist industry than Hua Hin has.
Khao Takiab is referred as Monkey Mountain, but as well as the mischievous residents, it also boasts a hilltop temple with sensational views of Hua Hin, a pagoda-style shrine and a giant golden Buddha which faces the sunrise.
Walk in the Park
The region boasts several parks, and natural attractions, such as the Kangajan National Park, and the Koa Sam Roi Yod Marine Park. You’ll find miles of good walking, amongst lakes, caves and waterfalls, and you’ll be in the company of as elephants, tigers, wild dogs and leopards.
Eat, drink and sleep in Hua Hin
As more affluent ex-pats from all over the world gather to weather the winter, or snap up beachfront properties in Hua Hin, the restaurant scene becomes more cosmopolitan. French, Italian, German and Scandinavian restaurants are all here, in case anyone feels homesick. However, there are also rustic seafood restaurants, especially on the pier, and at several of these you can choose your own fish from the fish market right outside and waiters will bring you the finished result.
There are plenty of simpler local restaurants both inside and out on the streets where you can sample authentic Thai food too.
If you want to try to cook your own Thai food in Hua Hin, the very best place to buy your ingredients, not because it’s the cheapest, but because it is a fabulous experience, is the night market. Right in the centre of town, it opens at 18:00. It’s also a terrific place to buy handicrafts, souvenirs and clothing.
The Chatchai market is a great day market and the place to go for the best street food, as vendors grill, fry, boil and dress the fabulous local fish and shellfish, but don’t forget to leave room for a real local speciality. Roti Hua Hin is a delicious dough-based snack filled with strawberries, custard or raisins.
In a side street just off the market is the Hua Hin Thai Show, a pagoda-style restaurant which combines great food with a nightly musical performance, where you can sample folk with your fish or classical over your clams.
Unlike many Thai resorts, here you will also find more elegant dining, including Thai and Vietnamese food with a more upmarket touch for a real treat. Monsoon is the most romantic and expensive, but it’s worth it for the wine list and the elegant atmosphere. If your budget doesn’t run to dinner, you can enjoy afternoon tea on its teak-decked terrace.
Lopburi : Travel Guide, with Info on Nightlife, What to See & Covid-19 Report
Lopburi (ลพบุรี), also Lop Buri or Lob Buri is a historic city 3 hours north of Bangkok in the Chao Phraya Basin region of Thailand. Lopburi has a mountain called Khao Chan Daeng. Understand Lopburi is very laid back, and its convenient location less than 3 hours (~180 km) from Bangkok makes it a good […]
Lopburi is very laid back, and its convenient location less than 3 hours (~180 km) from Bangkok makes it a good place to escape the stress and pollution of the capital.
History of Lopburi
Lopburi is one of the oldest cities in Thailand, a former capital and the second capital after Ayutthaya was established in 1350. It was abandoned after King Narai passed away in 1688, but parts were restored in 1856 by King Mongkut (King Rama IV) and in 1864 it was made the summer capital.
Lopburi had been an important part of the Khmer Empire and later a part of the Ayutthaya kingdom. It was Ayutthaya’s second capital under the reign of King Narai the Great, who used to spend eight months a year in Lopburi. Later on King Mongkut of the Bangkok Chakri Dynasty used to reside here. Thus the remains of almost all periods of Thai history can be found.
There are two central areas in Lopburi: New Town and Old Town. Most of the important sites, plus the train station, are in the Old Town; buses arrive and depart from the New Town.
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Lopburi is famous for the hundreds of crab-eating macaques that overrun the Old Town, especially in the area around Phra Prang Sam Yot and Phra Kaan Shrine, and there’s even a monkey temple/amusement park where you can buy snacks to feed to them.
Keep an eye out for monkeys hanging from trees and wires and sitting on roofs and ledges, and be aware that they have some unpleasant bad habits including defecating on unsuspecting pedestrians from their overhead perches, jumping on people to snatch food and stealing bags that they suspect may contain something edible.
At night nothing much is going on in the Old Town, thus the street dogs consider everybody running around after midnight very suspicious. While most of them will just look at you, some might bark, run behind you and jump at you. While common at night, it is very rare during the day.
From Ayutthaya, local buses run every 20 minutes, take around 2 hours and cost 35 Thai Baht.
There is a minibus service from Mo Chit to Lopburi.
Travel by minivan in Lopburi
From Bangkok, air-con vans leave from Victory Monument, take about 2 hours and cost 110 Thai Baht. There are multiple van services in the area, so if the timing for one service does not work try another.
Air-con vans also leave from the main Mo Chit (northern) bus station for the same price. The last minibus normally departs around 18:00.
Trains from/to Bangkok main Hualamphong station take about 3 hours. Take the Northern Line from Hua Lamphong Railway Station everyday, many rounds per day.
Trains from/to Ayutthaya take about one hour and cost 13 Thai Baht for third class.
- From Bangkok, take Hwy 1 (Phahonyothin Road) passing Phra Phutthabat District, Saraburi, onto Lopburi. The total distance is 153 km.
- From Bangkok, take Hwy 32 which separates from Hwy 1, passing Ayutthaya. There are three routes as follows:
- Enter Bang Pahan District, passing Nakhon Luang District into Rte 3196. Then, pass Ban Phraek District onto Lopburi.
- Enter at the Ang Thong Interchange to Tha Ruea District and turn left onto Rte 3196, passing Ban Phraek District onto Lopburi.
- Pass Ang Thong, Singburi, and take Rte 311 (Singburi–Lopburi), passing Tha Wung District onto Lopburi.
The blue local bus (8 Thai Baht) circles constantly between the bus station about 2 km from the town centre, passing Phra Kahn Shrine, going south on Sorasak Road, and ending up in front of the TAT office on Phraya Kamuad Road.
- Ban Vichayen (Narai Maharat Road). Daily, 08:30-16:00. The remains of Constantine Phaulkon’s residence, built in the reign of King Narai the Great. Only the outer walls of the three main buildings remain, in a small grassy area. 30 Thai Baht.
- Phra Kahn Shrine (Narai Maharat Road). The site of a small shrine, the remains of a Khmer prang, a few stalls and lots of monkeys. The stalls sell offerings to be dedicated at the shrine, and food and drink. The monkeys eat the food, drink, offerings and anything else going. Good for a few photos. There are signs warning of purse-grabbing by the monkeys, but they appear docile if not provoked. 50 Thai Baht.
- Phra Narai Ratchanivet (King Narai’s Palace) (Entrance on Sorasak Road on the east wall). W-Su, 8:30-16:00, closed M-Tu and holidays. Built in 1677 by French, Italian, and Portuguese engineers, the palace was used by King Narai to host receptions for foreign envoys. Restored in 1856 by King Mongkut, it was converted into a museum in 1924. The palace grounds consists of the remains of various buildings in an enclosed park, with the central palace serving as the Somdet Phra Narai Museum, which houses prehistoric exhibits, along with Buddha images of Dvaravati, Lopburi and Khmer styles; and King Mongkut’s bedroom. Foreigners 150 Thai Baht, Thais 30 Thai Baht.
- Phra Prang Sam Yot. A Khmer-style temple known for its three linked towers. Entrance fee, foreigners 50 Thai Baht and Thais 10 Thai Baht.
- Wat Phra Phutthabat (17 km southeast of Lopburi. Take any Saraburi bus (Bus 104) which leaves the main bus station every 20 min and takes 30 min to get to the side road 1 km from the wat). 21 Thai Baht.
- Wat Phra Sri Rattanamahathat. Built in the 13th Century, this is one of the town’s most important monasteries; visitors can view a bas relief illustrating the Buddha’s life on the central prang. No monkeys. Admission, foreigners 50 Thai Baht, Thais 10 Thai Baht.
- Wat Sao Thong Thong (On Rue De France). A viharn in the compound of a working wat, also has a small amulet market in the grounds. Previously used as a Christian chapel and a mosque, it has now been restored and features a large Buddha figure, with several smaller Lopburi-era Buddhas in wall niches. Free.
- Rock Climbing (จีนแล) (Near Suwannahong Temple (Jiin Lay 2), Baan Nong Kham). At Jiin Lay Mountain.
If you are going to be in Lopburi long-term, you will need the services of the two department stores. There is a Big C mall in town, with a KFC, along with a Tesco Lotus in the Monkey Mall further down. The latter has a very large outdoor market in the evenings.
The street vendors in the Old Town are very nice and have all kinds of tasty things. In the evenings, a lot of street food stalls are set up on a road in front of railway station.
- Bualuang, 46/1 Moo 3, Tasala (In the New Town, about 6 km from old city). Cash only.
- Louis Steakhouse (On Phahon Yothin east of the large roundabout around 1/2 km from Big C under the pedestrian overpass). A great restaurant owned by a Belgian. A great change if you are looking for something a little different from Thai food.
- New World Steak House (Just west of Sakal, the large town centre with the fountains, just to your left before you cross a bridge, at the lights (look for a rather large hotel next to it)). Good English cuisine. Run by Barry and Noi, an Englishman and his Thai wife. The prices are higher than typical Thai food, but the steaks are huge, the Shepherd’s pie is excellent, and sometimes has tacos.
- White House (Just behind (north of) the Tourism office (TAT)). Romantic Western architecture with a beautiful yard and second floor, offers good food. Crab meat fried rice and red curry is very good. The owner, Mr Piak, speaks English and will tell you everything you need to know, even if you don’t dine there.
You might find the nightlife in Lopburi fairly quiet for a town of its size but there are a selection of places to catch a drink in the evening. Old Town has a few curbside bars, which are excellent for those who are still new to Thailand, as there are usually some foreigners about. There is also a small club (look for the large “Ben More” sign) next to a local park near the train station in the Old Town, but it is a little pricier than average.
Pattaya : Travel Guide, with Info on Nightlife, What to See & Covid-19 Report
The City of Pattaya on the East coast of the Gulf of Thailand is a self-governing region about 165km Southeast of Bangkok. For centuries, it was a small fishing village, but when American servicemen ventured down the coast from their base in Nakhon Ratchasima in 1959, in search of rest and relaxation during the Vietnam War, the package holiday industry took off with a bang, and Pattaya began to develop into the popular beach resort of today.
Now, the fishermens’ huts have long gone, as the region lures sun-worshippers and hedonists in their millions every year. A seemingly unlimited flow of dollars fuelled the local economy which for decades wasn’t as careful as it might have been about the rapid development and free-for-all glitz and glamour which drove the city’s progress, but more recently, it is striving to position itself as a more family-friendly destination.
Nowadays, the nearby temples of the Pratamnak Hill look down on a bustling metropolis, packed with hotels, stores, high-rise apartment blocks, bars and restaurants. Pleasure-seekers revel in the nightlife, with its pulsing beat, and head for the beaches of Naklua, Pattaya and Jomtien by day.
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Cheap Flights to Pattaya
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Broadly speaking, the city is divided into several regions. Central Pattaya offers countless shops and restaurants, and plentiful nightlife, but is definitely not for those in search of a quiet night’s sleep. Likewise, South Pattaya, which encompasses the word-famous Walking Street, a tourist attraction in itself, which draws foreigners and Thai nationals alike, primarily for the after-dark entertainment. This is also the City’s red-light district, and go-go bars and brothels line the street which runs from the south end of Beach Road to the Bali Hai Pier. However, Walking Street also includes seafood restaurants, live music venues, beer bars, discos and sports bars and has an impressive collection of neon signs for those who want to be where the action is.
There’s no escaping the hurly burly in Pattaya, but if you’re looking for a slightly more peaceful experience, you’ll head to one of the beaches. Pattaya’s beaches are everything expected of Thailand’s famed beaches. Gorgeous, clean and well facilitated. Jomtien is popular with package tour operators and families, whilst if you head up to Naklua and North Pattaya you’ll find that although there are still plenty of bars and restaurants, the entertainment isn’t quite as relentless. If you seek out the more remote corners of Naklua you may even get a hint of the region’s traditional history as a fishing town. Few tourists bother, but for traditionalists, it’s worth a visit.
The tropical climate divides the year into three, from November to February the air is warm and dry, getting hotter and more humid through to May, and the rainy season runs from June to October.
Overall, Pattaya is not for the faint-hearted, or those in search of solitude or a cultural experience, but it will reward the laid-back traveller with just a hint of a spirit of adventure.
Things to see and do
Shop till you drop
Over the fifty or so years since the first GIs showed up in search of the sun, Pattaya has developed into a hive of activity, not least for those in search of retail therapy. The city is full of shops, including Asia’s largest beachfront shopping mall, the Central Festival Pattaya Beach Mall, attached to the Hilton Hotel.
Take to the water
If you’ve any energy left after the thrills of the night, all the beaches offer a wide range of watersports, which attract as many Thai visitors, heading to Pattaya for the weekend from Bankok. Jet-ski-ing and parasailing are the norm, and small boats are available for hire, or skippered trips.
One of the joys of a Thai beach holiday is the wealth of offshore islands, many of which can be reached by small boat or ferry in a matter of minutes. From Pattaya, head off to Ko Larn, Ko Sak or Ko Krok, known as the ‘near islands’ about 7k from Pattaya, or journey further towards the ‘far islands’ Ko Phai, Ko Man Wichai, Ko Hu Chang or Ko Klung Badan. Many of the islands have public beaches, less crowded than those on the mainland, and lots offer scuba diving and other water-based fun.
See the sights
If you’re in search of something a little more cultural, look out for the Wat Khao Phra Bat Temple, which overlooks Pattaya Bay and features a 18metre-high Buddha.
The Sanctuary of Truth is set on a rocky point of the coast just north of Pattaya, in the small town of Naklua. It’s a work in progress, started by an eccentric billionaire who began the ambitious construction 20 years ago. The Sanctuary is rather more adventure park than spiritual haven, but you can still take in this fascinating construction project, made entirely from wood, by a team of 250 woodcarvers.
Billed as a world-leading adventure park, the Nong Nooch Tropical Garden features impressive elephant and Thai cultural shows, in one of the biggest botanical gardens in Southeast Asia. Despite the cultural differences between east and west, it is still possible to appreciate the conservation projects at work here, while palms and orchids, education facilities and plenty of food and drink choices contribute to a rewarding family day out.
Back to the hustle and bustle of an activity-fuelled holiday and you might want to check out the private Sri Racha Tiger Zoo, Mini Siam model village, the Pattaya Crocodile Farm, the Silverlake Winery, Aquarium, or any of the many amusement and waterparks dotted around the region.
Time your trip carefully, and you may find yourself caught up in one of the many festivals which take place throughout the year. Bikers will enjoy Burapa Pattaya Bike Week in February which brings together motorcyles and international music, whiles those who prefer their entertainment without engine noise will enjoy March’s Pattaya International Music festival, or the Songkran festival, which lasts for several days in April. Regattas, dance parties, beauty pageants, gay celebrations and traditional light festivals are here in abundance, there’s something going on here every day of the year, and if you hit Chinese New Year, there’ll be dragons, lion dances and fireworks too.
Eat, drink and sleep
The Thais are very casual when it comes to eating and drinking. This is a busy place with lots going on, nobody is going to notice if you eat with your hands, spit out your seeds, or put your elbows on the table. Eateries pop up in the most unlikely doorways so watch out for those special little places – particularly on Second Road and in Naklau. These are the most likely places for real Thai food and if you’re sensible you will follow the locals to the best places. Anywhere with a queue is bound to be good. Street food is one of the joys of South East Asian dining, don’t miss the opportunity to experiment.
However, as this is such a multinational tourist destination, you may find it difficult to find a truly authentic Thai culinary experience along the main drags. You’re as likely to find an American diner, Italian spaghetti house or Greek emporium so it’s worth seeking out the quieter corners and watching to see where the locals eat.
Most formal meals consist of a meat or a fish dish, fried or steamed vegetables, a curry, stir-fried dishes of meat and vegetables and a soup. If you decide to enjoy a traditional meal, expect to take time over it. You’ll experience flavours including lemon grass and coriander, plenty of chilli, and flavourings such as fish sauce and Java Root. Most Thai meals are centred on rice or noodles.
Drink flows freely in Thailand, and the traditional accompaniment to a Thai meal is local beer or rice whisky. However, this is Pattaya, and you can’t travel more than a few metres without finding yourself in a bar. The designs, interior décor, themes and even the drinks may not be traditional, but you’ll find plenty of company as you pile into the drink. It’s unlikely you’ll be trying to stay sober, but if you do, ask for a melon ice drink, or a citrus banana punch, two of Thailand’s favourite non-alcoholic tipples.
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