BLOG #3 KANCHANABURI, THAILAND
Updated: Dec 10, 2018
Kanchanaburi (กาญจนบุรี) is located Northwest of Bangkok that can be easily reached by a 3$ train ride in less than 4 hours. The area northwest of Kanchanaburi is dominated by the beautiful River Kwai Valleys. It is an area of great natural beauty, with a dazzling amount 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, and what we recommend if you can. If you want to visit Hellfire Pass and the Erawan Falls in one day, be aware there is no public bus connection between them although there are guided tours, we recommend renting a motorbike for your trip.
Main attractions -
Located some 3 km north of Kanchanaburi, 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 World War II. Some 16,000 POWs and 90,000 Asian workers (most of them enslaved) died during the 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 'boxy' spans were rebuilt after the war to replace three sections destroyed by Allied bombing.
You can cross the bridge on foot. While the center of the track has been thoughtfully turned into a steel-plated walkway and there are little side platforms between the spans for sightseeing and avoiding trains. There are guardrails, but some areas of the bridge lack them, so be careful of small children! As the bridge is still used locally, it is possible to take one of the trains that cross the bridge every day.
The Erawan Falls are contenders for the most beautiful waterfalls in Thailand, and a must-see. The entrance fee is 300 baht for foreigners (July 2018), with an additional 20 baht per motorbike and free for bicycles. The falls are composed of seven tiers — most of which are picturesque shaded forest areas and great for swimming. Plan to spend at least 4 hours hiking plus the time you want to spend swimming in the falls. There are also shaded seating areas throughout. Bring sunblock, water and a suitable gear for swimming, since you'll want to have a dip in the turquoise pools on most levels away from the heat. 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! Secure your belongings since there are monkeys around which will be happy to steal your stuff looking for food, while your camera is worthless for them.
Everyone can do the hike, but don't underestimate it; wear shoes with a profile, though flip flops are commonly worn by Thais. 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 (see pic above). 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. They close access above the 4th tier after 3pm, so if you come afternoon, consider hiking to the highest tier first, and then walking reverse way slowly, stopping at each tier.
Many Thais don't go further than the second level as beyond this food & beverages, water bottles excepted after leaving a deposit, are not allowed.
Erawan can be very crowded with huge package tourist groups most of the day. The best visiting time is early morning or just before sunset.
There are several places to buy food before you start on route to the falls. Mostly they serve grilled chicken, noodles, and papaya salad. If you are vegetarian it would be wise to bring a packed lunch. Beverages can also be bought at a stall at tier 2.
Khao Poon Cave
From the boat pier you go up a steep staircase to a large Buddha and a great view out over the Countryside and the Kwai River delta. For a few Baht you can get on a motorcycle 'shuttle' that takes you down the hill to the entrance to the Cave Temple.
If you are claustrophobic do not go but if not, this is something to see.The cave formations are something to see.