Ah, Kanchanaburi (กาญจนบุรี). The lovely city located nearly three hours northwest of Bangkok. It is surely not one to be missed. The city resides in the Kanchanaburi Province of the same name, which is actually considered to be one of the more beautiful provinces of Thailand. I was fortunate enough to be able to visit this city three times while living in the nearby ‘concrete jungle’ that is Bangkok. The city is quite easy to become accustomed to, as the main road (Saeng Chuto Road) runs the length of the town. Motorbikes are readily available for rental from most guesthouses, and songthaews can be hired on most streets. One of the particular places of interest here is the Bridge over the River Kwai (pictured below), having historical significance dating back to World War II.
The bridge was the starting point of the death railway to Myanmar (previously known as Burma). It was originally constructed by Japanese interned POWs to form a supply line between Myanmar and Thailand. Some estimates claim that over 300,00 laborers worked on the railway in total, with more than a third (Approx 100,00) perishing due to poor and extreme working conditions. Since then, the bridge has spawned both a novel and feature film. You can either walk across the bridge on foot, or catch a ride on the small train that will carry you a few kilometers on the other side of the Mae Klong river for 100 baht (Approx. $3 USD).
Within the Kanchanaburi Province is the famous Erawan National Park (pictured above), which holds several waterfalls that are quite exquisite. The entrance fee for foreigners is 200 baht (Approx. $7 USD), compared to only 40 baht (Approx. $1.50 USD) for Thai’s and students. There are seven tiers to the waterfall route that can take around an hour or two to complete by foot. The longer you travel along the trail towards the last tier, the more beautiful it gets. Less people can found as the hike progresses due to how physically demanding and strenuous it can be. Monkeys are known to habit the area around the seventh tier as well as the entire national park, so try and be aware!
Another particular point of interest that is still being discovered is the elephant camp less than thirty kilometers north of Kanchanaburi. Taweechai Elephant Camp is easily located on the same northbound route towards Erawan National Park. Before coming to Thailand, I knew that being able to ride an elephant would be more than just a unique experience. For an hour ride through both jungle and river, the camp charges 500 baht (Approx. $16 USD). Add another 500 baht if you want the elephant bathing session included. While you sit behind the mahout (several pictured below) and enjoy the ride, it’s not hard to see the high level of communication between the two. It’s as if the mahout and the elephant are at a complete understanding and respect one another. The camp will also put on a small show demonstrating the abilities of the elephants to perform various tricks. You’re even allowed to feed them bananas after the show. All in all, Taweechai makes for a very entertaining day.
Sidenote: It’s important to research these elephant camps before visiting, as many abuse the animals and are in place to purely turn a profit. There are many elephant sanctuaries, such as the one I previously mentioned that have been established to protect the elephants rather than abuse them for profitability.
It’s not hard to see that the Kanchanaburi Province has much to offer most anyone. If the great outdoors are of any particular interest, than this region of Thailand is for you. I will continue to discuss these locales as well as a few more key features of the province in future posts in this series.