According to most historians, the ancient town of Kanchanaburi was located near Ban Lat Ya, a small village situated approximately 16 kilometers north of the present town. The site was repeatedly recorded in Thai history as an invasion route which the Burmese used to enter Thai Kingdoms.
Kanchanaburi, which has mostly mountainous terrain, covers an area of approximately 19,473 square kilometers and is the third largest province in Thailand after Chiang Mai and Nakhon Ratchasima. Situated approximately 129 kilometres west of Bangkok, Kanchanaburi shares a border with Myanmar to the west, Tak and Uthai Thani Provinces to the north, Suphan Buri and Nakhon Pathom Provinces to the east, and Ratchaburi Province to the south.
In north and west Kanchanaburi, the terrain is comprised mainly of mountains and high plains, with the Thanon Thongchai Range acting as a natural border between Thailand and Myanmar. The range is the source of Kanchanaburis two most important rivers Mae Nam Khwae Noi and Mae Nam Khwae Yai, which form the famous Maenam Mae Klong. As a result, several of Thailand's largest Namtok (waterfalls) and most extensive wildlife sanctuaries are found in this area.
The magnificent landscape and charming beauty of Kanchanaburi have resulted in major tourist attractions including several well-known waterfalls, caves which were once inhabited by Neolithic man, pristine national parks, tranquil rivers, virgin forests, and reservoir. Together, they offer an intriguing experience for first-time or repeat visitors. Whether its fishing, rafting, canoeing, mountain biking, bird-watching, star-gazing, golfing, elephant and jungle trekking, or even living in bamboo rafts, Kanchanaburi takes pride in offering them all.
The city of Kanchanaburi is located at the point where two tributaries, the Khwae Noi and Khwae Yai meet and form the Maenam Mae Klong. This is the location of the notorious Death Railway and the Bridge on the River Khwae one of the worlds famous World War II sites which have been immortalized in print and film.
In economic terms, Kanchanaburi has been doing well on a national scale, with over 10 per cent growth annually. Important industries include sugar, agricultural products and jewelry. Tourism is also a main source of income for the locals as the provinces high tourism potential has made Kanchanaburi number one among the west provinces in having the highest number of visitors each year.
Residents of Kanchanaburi are engaged in agricultural activities. Most of the locals are of Thai ancestry with notable Mon and Karen minorities. Rural dwellers enjoy living simply and respecting nature. Moreover folk music and dances dating back at least 500 years are still performed today.
How to get there
Travelling to Kanchanaburi
Route 1: a 2-hour drive along Highway No.4 (Phetkasem) via Nakhon Chaisi Province, Nakhon Pathom Province, Ban Pong, Tha Maka and Tha Muang (of Ratchaburi Province) to Kanchanaburi.
Route 2: drive along Highway No. 338 from Bangkok to Nakhon Chaisi Province then switch to Highway No.4 to Kanchanaburi.
Non air-conditioned buses leave Bangkoks Southern Bus Terminal daily every 15 minutes from 4 a.m. until 8 p.m. The trip takes about 3 hours. Call 02 434 5557-8 for more information.
First class air-conditioned buses (blue color) leave Bangkoks Southern Bus Terminal daily every 25 minutes Call 02 435 5012, 0 2435 1199 or 02 884 6249 or visit www.transport.co.th for more information.
There are also buses leaving frequently daily for Kanchanaburi from Nakhon Pathom. The journey takes up to 1.5 hours. From Ratchaburi and Suphan Buri Bus Stations, there are several buses leaving directly to Kanchanaburi. The trip takes some 2.5 - 3 hours.
Ordinary trains leave Bangkoks Thon Buri Railway Station (Bangkok Noi Station) daily. Only 3rd class seats are available. The journey takes approximately 3 hours. For more information, call Thon Buri Railway Station at tel. 02 411 3102 or Kanchanaburi Railway Station at tel. 034 511285.
The weekend special train leaves Bangkok Railway Station (Hua Lamphong) at 6.30 a.m., returning at 7.55 p.m. on Saturdays, Sundays and on public holidays. The trip usually includes several stop-overs at Phra Pathom Chedi (Nakhon Pathom), Death Railway Bridge, and a transfer (by minibus) to Phrasat Mueang Singh Historical Park, etc.
There are also special steam trains operating between Kanchanaburi and Wang Pho.
For more information, call the State Railway of Thailand at tel. 1690, or 02 223 7010, 02 223 7020 or visit www.railway.co.th.
Travelling around Kanchanaburi
Although the city of Kanchanaburi is possibly accessible on foot, it requires strenuous efforts in completing such a trip. Normally, bicycles, motorcycles and cars are common means of transportation. Bicycles and motorcycles can be rented from shops, guesthouses and hotels located along Maenam Khwae Road. Visitors can capture the citys atmosphere along their way to see the Bridge over the River Khwae, the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery, the waterfront Song Khwae Road area, and the JEATH War Museum. For visitors who enjoy driving themselves, cars can be rented on a daily or weekly basis at several outlets on Saeng Chuto Road and around the Song Khwae Road area.
The two major routes used to explore Kanchanaburis attractions are Highway No. 323 and Highway No. 3199. Highway No. 323 runs parallel to Maenam Khwae Noi to Sangkhla Buri District (approximately 230 kilometers from the city) via Sai Yok, Thong Pha Phum, and Vajiralongkorn Dam while Highway No. 3199 follows the Khwae Yai River to Sri Nakharin Dam (69 kilometers away from the city).
Travelling Between Districts
Transportation between the districts is also conveniently arranged by regular buses. Major destinations include Bo Phloi, Tham Than Lot (Than Lot Cave), Namtok Erawan, Namtok Sai Yok Yai, Thong Pha Phum, Sangkhla Buri, the Bridge over River Khwae and the War Cemetery. They are mostly non-air conditioned buses which leave every 20 minutes up to 2 hours. Others have their own fixed itineraries. Check for details at 0 3451 1182, Kanchanaburi Bus Station.
Traveling around Kanchanaburi by train is also popular. It is inexpensive, reliable and offers a more panoramic view of the area. The route from Kanchanaburi to Namtok Station near Namtok Sai Yok Noi Waterfall is recommended for visitors wishing to explore the notorious historic railway. Trains leave Kanchanaburi Railway Station 3 times daily and stops at the Bridge over the River Khwae, Tha Kilen (near Phrasat Mueang Singh Historical Park), Tham Krasae, Wang Pho and ends at Namtok Railway Station. For more information, call Kanchanaburi Railway Station at tel. 0 3451 1 285.
Alternate trips to out-of-town attractions
There are ferry services across Maenam Mae Klong that costs 5 baht per person. You can bring your motorcycle or bicycle on board in order to explore the other side of the town. Also in operation are boat services to several interesting destinations.
From the Pak Saeng Pier in Tambon Tha Sao, visitors can hire a boat (carrying capacity of 10-12 persons) to visit the Lawa Cave and Namtok Sai Yok Yai. The 1-hour boat ride to Namtok Huay Maekhamin starts from the Tha Kradan Pier, 12 kilometers from Sri Nakharin Dam.
Visitors are advised to check with the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Office at 034 511 200 and 034 512 500 or email email@example.com for details on arranged transportation during public holidays and weekends.
River Kwae Bridge Week
Each year, late November and/or early December, the world famous bridge becomes the focal point of celebrations. Highlights include exhibitions and historical and archaeological displays; a carnival featuring sideshows, roundabouts, folk entertainment, and cultural performances; rides on trains hauled by World War II vintage steam locomotives; and a nightly light and sound presentation re-enacting the bridge's Second World War history, including an Allied bombing raid.