Asia / My Travels / Thailand

Kanchanaburi: Beautiful Diversity

“I have suffered much. But I know you have suffered too. And you mean everything to me.
Sometimes the hating has to stop.” – Eric Lomax (The Railway Man)

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The Bridge Over River Kwai | 2011

Back in 2011, Laurie had a radome project in Sangkhlaburi, it’s the very last town of Kanchanaburi Province from the border of Myanmar, we stayed there for a month and so I was able to see places around the province. I put my Sangkhlaburi adventures on a separate entry, HERE.

Kanchanaburi Province is known for its ancient civilization and World War II history. When I was there, they just started filming “The Railway Man” based on the autobiography book of Eric Lomax, a British soldier that was captured and tortured by a Japanese soldier during the WWII. I just saw the movie recently, and it’s very heartbreaking how war could damage one’s life and affect the people who loves them. I remember the same war stories told to us by our grandparents too under the Japanese regime.

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The War Cemetery | Kanchanaburi City

Anyway, despite a tragic past,  Kanchanaburi Province is also known as the Most Beautiful Province in Thailand! And now a lot of visitors are discovering the reason behind it as it is becoming popular now even with backpackers who would like to have a break from the bustling atmosphere in Bangkok to relax and enjoy the wonders of its nature from accessible waterfalls, river and national parks.

I already went here last 2009 with Monalee as a side trip from Bangkok, because our time was limited, we only visited the Tiger Temple (a forest monastery with tigers who are previously roaming around the temple, but due to more tourist are visiting, they started to chain the tigers) and the Damnoen Floating Market (James Bond’s film location). See my entry showing these places HERE.

I heard and read a lot of more beautiful places to see in Kanchanaburi like rivers, falls, hot springs, forest, etc and I am blessed to be back and explore more of the province.

For our first week, we stayed at Thong Pha Phum. It is a small quiet town between Kanchanaburi and Sangkhlaburi. It is surrounded with limestone hills and Khao Laem Lake. It is not as popular with tourist amenities like Kanchanaburi and it is not as rustic as Sangkhlaburi, but it was a good place for peaceful relaxation surrounded by a beautiful landscape.

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River Kwai at Thong Pha Phum | 2011

The only hotel that is best to stay in this town is at Puphai Thannum Resort, it s more of like a retreat ground, very serene and peaceful. It is surrounded by the mountains and the River Kwai, it is only few steps away from town so it is a prefect location. Whenever Laurie will be up in the mountains to do his radome, I explore the little town on my own.

Here are the places I went to visit whilst there:

1. Wat Tha Khannun – a wat located on top of the mountain and it’s best viewed during the night coz it is uplighted, you have to cross the monkey bridge to reach the area.

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Thong Pha Phum landscape…

2. Wat Thongphapum – just opposite the municipal hall, it’s a huge image of Buddha in white.

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Thong Pha Phum monkey bridge.

3. Chaloem Phra Kiat – a public park along the River Kwai

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A monk walking at Thong Pha Phum quiet small town…

4. Hindad Hotspring – frequently visited by the tourist from Kanchanaburi…it was discovered by a Japanese soldier during the WW2 and it is believed to cure many illness.

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Hot Spring on the right, cold river on the left.

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Hindad Hotspring

5. Kroengkrawia Waterfalls – the water cascades down a limestone rock, it is located along Route 323 going to Sangkhlaburi from Thong Pha Phum town.

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Kroengkrawia Waterfalls

After a week, I got bored already haha so we moved to Sangkhlaburi town, which is a LOT more interesting!
During this trip, I had to visit a dentist at Bangkok for my crown that was broken. So I had few trips to Bangkok and since it was 5-6 hours journey from Sangkhlaburi, there were times that I had to stay overnight in Bangkok and some trips I had to stay overnight at Kanchanaburi City. Laurie had no opportunities to explore the province because of his tight work schedule :(

Kanchanaburi (the capital of Kanchanaburi Province) is just 2 hours drive away from Bangkok only so it is most commonly visited by the tourists/travelers from Bangkok on a day trip or even staying there longer.

I always stay at Jolly Frog Backpacker’s Guesthouse along Mae Nam Kwai Road (the Khaosan area of Kanchanaburi). It’s one of the cheapest guesthouse in the area with a good location, good food restaurant (with free wifi) and a relaxing courtyard with hammocks. The house singer is a Filipina, Maya. She also have gigs at the bar opposite Jolly Frog at Blue Jeans Bar, it’s always entertaining to watch and hear her sing with her guitar.

Maya

Maya

Here are the places I went to visit whilst here:

1. The Bridge Over the River Kwai – From the novel and movie, it has become the main interest for visitors here in Kanchanaburi. This iron bridge was a part of the Death Railway constructed by the POW’s during the WW II. It is still functional until now even a LOT of tourists are crowding it (makes it hard to take a decent shot!)

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The Bridge Over River Kwai

2. The Death Railway – Railway going to Burma (Myanmar now) constructed by Prisoners Of War (British, Americans, Australians, Dutch and Thais) of the Japanese during World War II. Hundred thousands had died during the construction in 17 days. The train still operates until now but within Kanchanaburi only.

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The Death Railway

3. Krasae Cave – This cave was the camp of POW in WW II, it is only within the railway tracks of Tham Krasae Railway Station, the most beautiful view point along travelling by train. We boarded the train in this station.

4. Erawan Falls – It is known as the “Most Beautiful Waterfall in Thailand”. It has seven tiers with different form and great for swimming. Hiking all the way to Level 7 is around two hours (hiking+swimming) but it gets tougher as you go on to the next level.

5. Taweechai Elephant Camp – The largest elephant camp with around 30 elephants including a cute baby elephant born in 2009. This camp not only offers elephant rides but also bathing with elephants and bamboo rafting. It has a fantastic rural view during the trekking! It also has a skeleton of a 100 year old elephant. The elephants are well-treated coz at 4PM the elephants were set free to wander by themselves overnight and I noticed too that they a long chain, makes it move freely too :)

There are museums you can also go to that showcases World War II memorabilias, JEATH War Museum is said to be the best.

There are more places I haven’t seen yet, like Hellfire Pass, Sai Yok Noi Waterfalls and Srinakarind Reservoir. I thought we can stop by on our way back to Bangkok after Laurie finishes his project in Sangkhlaburi, but my visa will lapse already just before he finishes. I had to leave earlier because Laurie needed more days to finish his project in Sangkhlaburi.

Nevertheless, what I’ve experienced in Kanchanaburi for a month was enough for me to remember it by. It won’t be called as the most beautiful province in Thailand for nothing, indeed there’s too much to explore. What’s only lacking here is the beach, but if you are looking for a culturally diverse Thailand trip, Kanchanaburi would be the best choice —history, landscape, adventure treks, volunteer works, etc.

I am very thankful to Laurie for bringing me with him on this project because I’ve got to experience Thailand differently from my previous trips here. It is now one of my favorite country! :)

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Thailand Flag

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