A weekend in Kanchanaburi
Kanchanburi is a peaceful and picturesque area of Thailand just a two hour drive (130 km) away from Bangkok. Kanchanaburi is mainly famed for it’s historic Bridge Over The River Kwai as well as arguably boasting some of the best waterfalls in Thailand. If you’re looking to spend the weekend away to escape the hustle and bustle of Bangkok, Kanchanaburi is ideal.
Attractions and hotels in Kanchanaburi are relatively spread out from the main town area so it pays to rent a car to get around Kanchanaburi – some of the waterfalls are as far as 70 km away from the main town. Songthaews are plentiful though, and their prices are pretty reasonable.
Although public buses are easily available in Kanchanaburi, these take a very long time and it may not be worth some people’s time if they are only staying in Thailand on holiday temporarily. Typically, a two night stay is long enough for a quick trip to Kanchanaburi.
How to get from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi
The best way to get from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi is by minibus. You can catch a mini bus for 120 baht at the Phayathai minibus station. Just take the BTS to Phayathai, follow exit signs for the Victory Monument and you will find a small station at the bottom of the steps. The minibus to Kanchanaburi only takes about two hours.
Trains and public buses are available from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi but can be unreliable and slow. You can check the bus timetable here – just make sure to head to the Southern bus terminal only as the website is a little outdated. Once you arrive in Kanchanaburi, a Songthaew will cost between 100 and 150 baht to take you to your hotel.
Where to stay in Kanchanaburi
When booking accommodation in Kanchanaburi, it is important to look into the details of the location of the hotel. If you’re keen to explore the nightlife and restaurants of Kanchanaburi, opt for a hotel in Kanchanaburi town. The liveliest part of Kanchanaburi town is based towards the River Kwai Bridge.
Good Times Resort is located nearby the bridge and is a brand new, reasonably priced hotel with friendly staff and close proximity to the main attractions and nightlife of the main town. Even closer still, is the more luxurious Felix River Kwai Hotel.
If you’d prefer a tranquil escape in the countryside of Kanchanaburi, Royal River Kwai Resort offers a spa style getaway amongst beautiful surroundings. The Mida Resort is also located a little further into the country of Kanchanburi and offers the choice of beautiful villas, riverside camping, luxury spa and cool activities like quad biking.
Top things to do in Kanchanaburi
Take a boat ride along the river – You can charter a long-tail boat from a couple of different stops along the river, the easiest place to hire one being around the River Kwai Bridge. The Floating Restaurant located next to the bridge rents boats for 800 baht an hour and they fit up to 8 people. A trip along the river allows you to stop off at many of the attractions along the way such as caves, shrines and the famous War Cemetery.
Explore the waterfalls – Kanchanaburi is home to dozens of waterfalls and different national parks, however the most popular waterfall among visitors and locals is Erawan National Park Waterfall. Erawan waterfall is located about 70 km away from the town centre so you will need to take a songtaew or drive. Entry costs 200 baht for non-Thais or 60 baht for expats if you bring your work permit.
The waterfall has seven tiers in total and take around a 40 minute walk through monkeys and forest to reach the top, largest waterfall. Erawan waterfall gets very busy with people swimming and sliding down the rocks so if you’d prefer a quiet, tranquil scene, then it would be best to leave as early as possible in the day. Be prepared for the badass gangs of fish in the waterfalls though, they’re pretty nibbley and some of them about as big as my arm…
Visit the Bridge Over The River Kwai – Of course it wouldn’t be a trip to Kanchanaburi without a historic visit to the River Kwai Bridge. Located right in the centre of activity in the main town, you can take a ride on the train across the bridge, visit the war museum and take some photos on the bridge. If you want to beat the crowds, head there earlier in the morning rather than later.
Things to do at night in Kanchanaburi
Make sure to check out the Kanchanaburi Night Market located next to Kanchanaburi train station on Sangchuto Road. Open from 6pm until 10pm, the Thai night market is not too big and overwhelming like some of Thailand’s other more famous markets. It’s not overly busy and attracts mainly Thais than western tourists, making the Kanchanaburi night market all the more authentic and different.
The night market sells an array of clothing, underwear and shoes at very cheap prices, much cheaper than other areas of Thailand. However, my favourite part about the Kanchanaburi night market is the multitude of super cheap food stalls selling Thai snacks, desserts and meals. If sampling Thai snacks and food excites you, you will love the night market!
The bars and nightlife of Kanchanaburi are mainly accumulated along the River Kwai Road (or, in Thai, Maenam Kwai road). All the popular tourist bars are located towards the eastern end of the River Kwai Road from the River Kwai Bridge. There are a good selection of bars from blaring dance music and backpacker-filled live reggae bars, to quieter bars with pool tables and girl bars.
For some nightlife a little more Thai-style, the River Kwai Hotel has a very cool bar at the front of the hotel complex called the Cowboy Bar. The Cowboy Bar is an open roofed bar with live Thai bands and chilled out, young Thai patrons. Staff don’t tend to speak English and the environment is a little more dressed up and calm compared to Maenam Kwai road.
The hotel also has a nightclub called Glitzy, a very popular nightclub in Kanchanaburi which has live bands every night. The music at Glitzy is mainly Thai and the club attracts a very young crowd.