After having experienced it ourselves, we’re determined to share the beauty of Kanchanaburi with fellow travellers, and hopefully inspire you to make travel plans to see it for yourselves.
It’s been a few months since we returned from Kanchanaburi, and I’m still dreaming of some really memorable moments we had there.
At first glance, Kanchanaburi might not seem as impressive compared to the usual holiday destinations like Bangkok or Bali. At least, that’s what I thought before heading down.
After experiencing this place personally, my honest opinion is that Kanchanaburi is one travel opportunity that should not be missed.
It’s perfect for a friends’ road trip, and gives you the perfect mixture of utmost relaxation and adventure.
From dreamy floating river resorts, to a shocking digital detox, and cheap border-crossing thrills – our road trip was one for the ages.
Editor’s Note: Here’s a full 3D2N itinerary, complete with our experiences and how we felt.
PS: If you love Bangkok, we’d highly recommend combining a trip to Bangkok with a trip to Kanchanaburi too! 3D2N in Kanchanaburi, and another 4D3N in Bangkok. This would be absolutely perfect!
1. Our Accommodation Experience: It’s really unexpectedly charming
The incredible stays available at Kanchanaburi are one of my absolute favourite things about this underrated holiday destination.
From overwater bungalows, to actual floating resorts where we felt our villa gently floating in the river’s current – accommodation in Kanchanaburi is both unexpectedly charming and unforgettable. It was also really fun taking those boat rides to and fro our floating resorts via Phutakien Pier.
To make sure we experienced as much as Kanchanaburi could offer, we even tried 3 different types of stays during our time there:
1. Glamping in a luxurious tent – Hintok River Camp @ Hellfire Pass
2. Going on a digital detox in a floating eco-resort with no electricity – River Kwai Jungle Rafts
3. Enjoying an incredibly luxurious floating villa – The Floathouse River Kwai
There’s this signature Kanchanaburi relaxation and serenity that’s a given when you stay in any of the resorts there, and we won’t be forgetting this for awhile. Read on to hear more about our experience at these stays!
PS: In the shared itinerary below, we will only be including 2 out of 3 of the stays we tried. We were in Kanchanaburi for 4D3N, but would recommend a 3D2N trip instead.
2. Accommodation Options
For a more luxurious floating resort experience – The Float House River Kwai
The most luxurious of all, The Float House took our floating resort experience to the next level with gorgeous villas.
Air-conditioned and spacious with beautiful teakwood furniture, traditional thatched roofs and a private balcony on the river complete with deck chairs and a porch swing – this was the ultimate place we relaxed at through all 3 stays experienced.
We had dinner at the riverside restaurant which was a little pricey, but the ambiance was great.
In the morning, we headed out in search of adventure, and found it easily accessible from here too!
Simply head to the restaurant and cross the small bridge there to get to the starting point. From here, you’ll be able to head to the cavernous Lawa Cave, Mon Village, Wat Mon and more.
The Float House gave us the best of everything – luxury, comfort, natural surroundings and adventure. What more could we ask for!
The Float House River Kwai Resort
Rate: From USD $97 /approx. 3,346 Baht
Address: 55 Moo 5 Tambol Wangkrajae, Amphur Saiyok, Kanchanaburi 71150, Thailand Contact: 02-6425497
Getting there & Getting around
When travelling to lesser known destinations in Thailand, transportation can be a problem. Fortunately, Klook made it super easy for us with their custom tour package from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi!
We personally used the private chartered car + driver service from Klook and fully enjoyed the road trip experience. (Especially since we could relax and didn’t have to take turns driving :P)
Otherwise, if you’re confident driving on foreign roads and would prefer to drive around yourselves, a good car rental option is Thai-Rent-a-Car. (We’ve used them before, and both the service and rates aren’t too shabby.)
Getting to Kanchanaburi from Bangkok is an approximate 2-3 hours drive which wasn’t too bad!
Bridge over River Kwai, Hellfire Pass
On Day 1, we arrived at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok and were promptly picked up by our Klook driver. (For a group of 5 with our month’s worth of luggage in tow, the car was surprisingly big and comfy with reclinable cars too!)
We slowly made our way to Kanchanaburi only stopping once at a mid-way 7-11 to load up on snacks and drinks before heading to our first stop, the famous Bridge over River Kwai.
Bridge over River Kwai is famous for 2 reasons, a movie in 1957 inspired by the war history of the bridge and its connection to the Death Railway. Second, despite its bloody past, it’s a picturesque location great for photos.
When we were walking over the bridge, we saw local musicians providing a soundtrack to our first adventure with traditional music instruments, an old lady selling fish to be bought and released into the river below for good merit and blessings – as well as locals indulging in a spot of photography.
After we got off the bridge, we found several stalls selling souvenirs, bracelets and hats beside the bridge – along with riverside restaurants. We settled at Kee Ree Tara Restaurant for lunch and weren’t disappointed.
We couldn’t have asked for a better place to have our first lunch of the trip, with its peaceful river views and soothing countryside ambiance.
The food here was bomb (as in, AMAZING).
The best way to gauge restaurant standards is to try the standard Thai fare like can’t-be-missed Pork Omelette and Basil Fried Chicken – which we ordered, and they did not disappoint.
I also have to say that the Pineapple Fried Rice here was one of the best I’ve ever had! (And I’ve tried many variations of this particular Thai dish.)
After lunch, we headed to Hellfire Pass Memorial to learn more about Kanchanaburi’s history and boy did it give us a more thorough and moving understanding of what happened years ago.
Hellfire Pass Memorial consists of a museum complete with exhibitions and preserved personal artefacts, telling the story of the Prisoners of War who suffered, and lost their lives in the construction of the Death Railway during WWII.
Visitors can also choose to do a short walk through the actual Hellfire Pass, or the longer 2.5km walk.
Not-so-fun Fact: Hellfire Pass was the deepest place in the mountain where POW labourers had to manually cut through 26 meters of rock in order to lay the tracks for the Death Railway.
We did the shorter walk, and it ended up being quite an emotional experience – after understanding the depths of suffering the POW labourers had undergone. Sons, brothers and husbands torn away from their families in the promise of earning good money, who realised that it was all a lie and ended up dying due to the harsh conditions.
There were flowers and memorial stones and reading the messages fully touched our hearts. When you visit Hellfire Pass Memorial, you would really understand that times of peace are not to be taken for granted.
Once we were done at Hellfire Pass Museum, we headed to Hintok River Camp @ Hellfire Pass (see 1-1 above), enjoyed our bonfire BBQ dinner and chatted the night away.
Erawan Falls, Mallika Village, Pak Prak Walking Street, Loft Restaurant & Bar
Waking up fresh and invigorated, ready for Day 2, we had breakfast in the lobby of Hintok River Camp, loaded our luggage in the Klook car, and headed off to our first stop.
Editor’s Note: In this itinerary shared, we’ll be including Erawan Falls, Historic Pak Prak Walking Street and Loft Restaurant & Bar which we did not personally visit. However, we would recommend going to these places instead of where we went – and have shared personal experiences other travellers have had at these places!
If you’re curious, we drove out to Pilok Village to check it out and crossed the nearby border to Myanmar for a cheap thrill too!
While we didn’t personally visit this place, we’ve heard plenty of rave reviews of this waterfall, and recommend that you check it out, instead of where we actually went.
It has 7 tiers of waterfalls with different shapes and beauty of its own. The first two tiers are easy to get to. Once you’re at the 2nd tier, we guarantee you would already want to plunge into cool aqua pool.
This tier is nicknamed “Fish Palace”. You’ll see a school of huge fish in the water. We definitely regret not experiencing a swim here. (If you don’t want to get wet, grab some food for a picnic and enjoy the cool breeze and mist from the water and forest.)
The trail leading up to higher tiers is clearly marked, but less maintained and rockier as you go higher – and there’s lesser people the higher you go. If you make it to the top tier at the 7th level, you can reward yourself by jumping into the cool and refreshing turquoise water set against big white boulders.
If you look close enough, those boulders will look like Erawan, a mythical 3-headed white elephant in Hinduism. (It’s the namesake of these waterfalls!) We recommend going early in the morning to avoid the crowd. Just visit one or two tiers, unless you’re up for all 7!
All 5 of us had a blast here. Stepping into the huge gate of Mallika Village, was like travelling through a time portal to the past.
This ancient village has been painstakingly preserved, from the layout of the village, to shopping in its original ancient coin, Satang.
The first thing we had to do upon arrival was to change our Baht into Satang, so that we’d be able to pay for things in the village. It was pretty interesting carrying these ancient coins on a string and happily exchanging them for drinks and food.
Apart from that, we had a tour of the grounds and saw the old ‘foodcourt’ (have your lunch here!) and ancient village stores – selling everything from really traditional Thai desserts to candle-making, and even how they used to process rice in the olden days.
You can even try your hand at all of these things and join the villagers as they make the traditional Thai desserts, traditional perfumes, candle-making and others. In fact, the locals were joking about how the rice processing place was where villagers went to get a good workout in the past – much like an ancient gym.
There’s also a small floating market here where you can buy goods like oven-fired terracotta mugs. (If you purchase a drink at the drinks store, they come in the same terracotta mugs that you get to bring home – and it only costs 30 Baht after converting from Satang!)
Another interesting thing we got to see, were the houses of the noblemen in the village and the normal folk, and the differences between the houses. There are ample photo ops in this village, enough to fill an entire album!
For those who want to see a little more of the local culture/shopping – Historic Pak Prak Walking Street
As mentioned in the disclaimer above, we didn’t get to visit this place personally, but we wish we had and definitely recommend it.
The historic Pak Prak Road is lined with rows of Chino Portuguese buildings built during WWII and the Pak Prak community has embraced its past and turned it into a Heritage Walking Street.
This is where you can visit old shops and hear the stories from people who live here. When you need a coffee break, check out Sitthisang coffee shop. You surely won’t miss the bright mustard coloured building that’s been converted to a cool and homey coffee shop!
When night falls, the street really comes alive. It transforms into a walking street with hundreds of street vendors, artists selling their art, and street food stalls. It’s fun and romantic all at the same time.
The merchants here even get into a character as they sell vintage food and dessert which you’ll very rarely see elsewhere nowadays. The community preserves its history and turns into a hip and chic destination full of memories waiting to be told – and visited!
Walk into Loft Restaurant’s resort-like entrance, and grab a seat at the stylish riverside deck just north of the WW2 bridge.
A beautifully laid out terrace is available (if the weather permits), complete with a view! Diners can enjoy the cool breeze, while the twilight reflected in the river makes this place remarkably scenic – gifting you a night to remember.
If you really wish to have a spellbound time, select your favourite wine from the wine cellar and indulge in a incredible dinner over live music here.
Last but not least, if you and your friends love to sing, end the last night in Kanchanaburi with a karaoke session!
PS: We heard their duck chilli sauce is to die for!
PS: Once we were done with dinner on Day 2 which we had at a different location, we headed back to River Kwai Jungle Rafts (see 1-2) – where a shocking digital detox and mesmerising Mon traditional candle dance awaited!
Wat Tham Suea, Muang Singh Historical Park, Baan Hom Tian
Before setting off for the day, we enjoyed a hearty breakfast at River Kwai Jungle Rafts. While we were halfway through our breakfast, the elephant from the neighbouring Elephant Camp was brought to the bridge connected to the lobby beside the restaurant! We got to feed the elephantand take some cute photos with it, before finishing our breakfast.
Editor’s Note: In this itinerary shared, we’ll be including Muang Singh Historical Park, Dejtosapak Restaurant and Baan Hom Tian which we did not personally visit. However, we would recommend going to these places instead of where we went – and have shared personal experiences other travellers have had at these places!
After breakfast and before getting on the boat and heading to Phutakien Pier, make sure to head out for a short trek to the Mon Village and Elephant Camp. Connected to River Kwai Jungle Rafts via a bridge, there are signs and maps along the way directing you to different places.
We made it to the Mon Village where we got to see the local school, way of life, temple and even a small museum.
We also managed to see the little elephant camp they had along the way – which was the elephant from breakfast at River Kwai Jungle Rafts! Here, you’ll be able to get up close to the elephant and feed it a little more if you wish. (Simply purchase a hand of bananas and enjoy feeding your new friend!)
We didn’t have more time to spare and was unable to continue the trek. If you do have more time, you might want to check out the rest of the locations on the map such as the Hotsprings!
The hill-top temple that gave us an overview of Kanchanaburi’s sprawling riverside country – Wat Tham Suea
At Wat Tham Suea, we got to experience a little more of the local life before making our way back to Bangkok. This is where we took a short cable car ride up an extremely steep slope. (It always felt scary at some point due to how steep it was!)
Once we were on top, we made our way to the giant golden seated Buddha image resting in an open dome. We saw locals engaging in the Thai tradition of making merit for good luck and blessings, by dropping coins in a tray on the conveyor belt that carried them to the center bowl.
We also checked out “Ket Kaew” pagoda, an interesting 8-story polygonal structure with Buddhist relics.