Simple day tours are limited for us from Bangkok, and after covering Ayutthaya, I find myself pretty much lost. As I would otherwise give Kanchanaburi a day or two given time. But on my mum’s last visit she was hassled into a Bangkok to Kanchanaburi tour by a pushy kiosk operator at her hotel. And more or less signed up for a Kanchanaburi tour, including the floating market, priced ridiculously at 2,500 Baht per person. So for 4 of us it would have been 10,000 Baht. Which is silly money for a generic bus tour.
So Fanfan turned up to the hotel and cancelled it all. She then phoned our local taxi guy (Mr Chai: 0814019128) and we put together our own Bangkok to Kanchanaburi Tour. The taxi quoted us 3,000 Baht for the day (7,000 Baht cheaper than the bus tour). And on top of savings, we had no timetable or schedule. And were able to stop wherever we wanted along the way.
Bangkok to Kanchanaburi
So we were quoted 2,500Baht per person for the generic bus tour, but with four of us travelling, we chose to rent a taxi for the day for 3,000 Baht. But for cheaper independent alternatives there are various options for travel from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi.
- Private Tours: There are a bunch of all-inclusive ‘private tours’ (still expensive) listed on Viator.
- Minivans: Otherwise the quickest route would be the somewhat cramped minivans from Victory Monument and bus terminals (around 2 hours).
- Coaches: Big buses also leave Bangkok’s North Terminal (Mor Chit) and South Terminal and take near 3 hours.
- Trains: Then there is the ridiculously slow train option (07:50 AM and 13:55 PM leaving from Bangkok Noi) although you would really have to stay the night.
So it is best to leave early, and expect to pay no more than 250 Baht there and back (120 each way by minivan). Then maybe 100 Baht for transfer in Kanchanaburi. Give or take. And if planning to cover all the main tourist attractions of the Kanchanaburi Tour I do recommend staying overnight (Kanchanaburi Hotels here).
1. Damnoen Saduak Floating Market
This floating market is nowhere near Kanchanaburi. But it is often included on the Bangkok to Kanchanaburi Tour, and so I am including it here. Because it is worth visiting, given you’ve never been before, although a day-trip solely for the floating market is not really worthwhile otherwise. As they are pretty much themed tourist traps these days. But be aware there are different entrances used to dupe tourists into overpriced tours. And on our visit, we were brought to one (nice try, Mr Chai) where a pushy sales rep was determined to feed us straws of fresh coconuts. As it’s harder to back out of these tours when you’ve already accepted their offerings (600 Baht per person). We did turn back however, and had the taxi bring us to the main pier which has loads of various long-tail tour options to choose from (around 200 Baht per person).
2. Erawan Falls
I really am not one for waterfalls, with all the climbing, and the walking, and the water. And the last thing I ever want on a day trip tour of Kanchanaburi is to be getting wet. But Erawan Falls is the exception here, as it really does have some of the most stunning scenery I have come across in Thailand. With its clear blue waters, and wildlife and macaques. The waterfall itself is really quite expansive, however, with 7-tiers in total, and last found 1.5km from the entrance after a climb to the top. So it is best to give time to this waterfall attraction, and I would honestly call it a coin toss between Erawan Falls and Death Railway when taking on a day trip from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi. As it will otherwise be rushed trying to cover the two of them.
3. Death Railway
Aka the Burma Railway, and the Burma–Siam Railway. Only a short stretch of this rather grim (historically) railway remains open these days, and it can be followed both ways, leaving Kanchanaburi (06.07, 10.30 and 16.26) and then returning from Nam Tok (07.19, 14.48 and 17.41). Covering the same route. And taking around 2 hours each way. So we instead started last time from Krasae cave (Saphan Tham Krasae Station), travelling just the one way, through to “The Bridge on the River Kwai” in Kanchanaburi town. Where we organised to meet up again with the taxi driver. It’s about 30-miles out (a 1-hour drive). So we got to cover the scenery one-way, and chose Krasae Cave (over Nam Tok) so we could visit the famous Buddha statue built inside a cliffside cave by the station. One way costs 100 baht from either Krasae or Nam Tok.
4. The Bridge on the River Kwai
Best known as the backdrop for the epic war film, “The Bridge on the River Kwai” is central to tourism in Kanchanaburi, and the road leading to it (Mae Nam Khwae Road) is perfect for cheap overnight stays (hotels here). So as part of the Death Railway, this was our final stop, and we were able to cross the bridge on the train on our arrival. Before crossing back over by foot. As you can pretty much walk it at any time of the day, back and forth, and it’s free of charge. Note, unlike the movie, the river is in fact pronounced “Kwae” locally, rather than “Kwai”. As Kwai means buffalo in Thai (I was made fun of for my mispronunciation).
5. War Memorials
Obviously a niche interest, but also one hard to ignore, as pretty much all tourism in Kanchanaburi is centered around the grim realities of World War II. For example, over 100,000 people lost their lives (locals and Allied Forces) through forced labour in constructing the now dubbed Death Railway. And there are therefore a number of museums and memorials in Kanchanaburi to fill in the gaps of history. One is the “JEATH Museum”, found directly next to “The Bridge”, and then at the opposite end of the road (2.5km) is the “Thailand–Burma Railway Centre” (map here) found next to the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery. Also watching “A Bridge on the River Kwai” or “The Railway Man” helps with this.
6. Serene River Scenes
Kanchanaburi is otherwise a rather beautiful and serene riverside town, away from the grim undertones of war, and I prefer to make the most of these scenes. With a riverside restaurant maybe, or sunset along the river banks at the Chinese inspired Pagoda of Wat Thawon Wararam. It’s just very peaceful when compared to Bangkok (obviously). And that’s why I suggest making a night of it, and maybe rent a bike from the umpteen rental shops along the Mae Nam Khwae Road, to explore the riverside scenes. And make the most of the lesser seen side of local life. As it is otherwise a rushed 2 and half hour journey back to busy Bangkok.
7. House Boats
If planning on an overnight stay, Kanchanaburi is also famous for its houseboat hotels, which are found more in further rivers, lakes and reservoirs e.g. Sai Yok National Park (hotels here). And I did do similar before in the past, only further out, when we stayed a weekend on a floating boathouse in Khao Laem Reservoir. As we were towed past local Mon fishing villages, towards the small border town of Sangkhlaburi. But the area was otherwise flat land with local villages before the reservoir existed, and when the water is low, the sunken villages can reappear, and temple spires will peek out from the lake’s surface. In short, there are just a lot of unique and lesser-known tourist experiences out this way in Kanchanaburi.