Tribes, Temples and Truce: Kanchanaburi Province

From the urban sprawl of Bangkok to white sandy beaches and clear blue seas in the south, many of Thailand’s major destinations like Krabi, Phuket and Samui, will already be extremely familiar to regional travellers. Then there’s the Kanchanaburi Province, that is well worth a visit for its rich culture, intriguing war history, and natural beauty.



Located about 120km north of Bangkok, it is home to numerous national parks, massive caves, rivers, waterfalls and temples. However, the big draw for tourists is the area’s WWII history, which includes the infamous Death Railway and the Bridge on the River Kwai.

Temples and Ruins



There are also a host of monuments and temples to visit, some of which are close to the town. These include the magnificent cave temples of Wat Tham Mungkornthong and Wat Tham Khao Pun (famous for an incredible performance of a nun floating on the surface of a deep pool), as well as Wat Tham Phu Wa, which is known for its meditation courses. The huge Prasat Muang Singh Historical Park, not far from the city centre, features Khmer ruins that were estimated to be built between 857 and 1157. The main remaining structure is Prasat Mueang Sing (Tower of the City of Lions), framed by city walls.



Another popular site is the Three Pagodas Pass – named after the 3 small, crumbling stupas at the site – which marks the Thai-Myanmar border. Located 4-5 hours from Kanchanaburi town, this was a stop on one of the early trade routes during the Ayutthaya period (14th-18th centuries), and was part of the Death Railway during WWII.

Today, the pass links Sangkhlaburi (Thailand) to Payathonsu in Myanmar’s Kayin State, a region that is home to several hill tribes. There is a Mon village that is linked to Sangkhlaburi via the iconic Mon Bridge, the
longest wooden bridge in Thailand. While foreign travellers can visit the pass on the Thailand side, currently only Thai nationals are allowed day-trips across the border to Myanmar.


The River Kwai Half Marathon is the oldest race in the country and one of the best. Taking place annually in September, the course is located in Aumphur Saiyok, taking participants on a scenic route through the countryside, with a gradual climb to the turnaround point at 10.5km. With distances of 35km, 21km and 10.5km, and entry fees at US$50 (35km & 21km) and US$45 (10.5km), the race will be held on 11 September this year. Visit (email: which organises marathon travel packages for this race, as well as other races in Thailand throughout the year.


Kanchanaburi Province is home to five national parks that play host to an incredible range of landscapes. The Erawan National Park has one of the best known natural attractions in the area – the seven-tiered Erawan Falls, with its clear, blue water surrounded by lush greenery and limestone formations. Visitors can also explore the Pra That Cave with its cavernous chambers and ancient stalagmites and stalactites. Wildlife in the park includes elephants, gibbons and the odd King Cobra. Sri Nakarin National Park is known for its relaxing natural hot springs and the picturesque Huay Mae Khamin Waterfalls. The park is the origin of the Kwae Yai River and plays host to an incredible array of wildlife, including civets, bats, and rare leopards and slow lorises.

One of the best places for a jungle trek is the narrow mountain trails at Thong Pha Phum National Park, with its serrated peaks bordering Myanmar. This ‘Land of Fog and Freezing Rainforest’ is most known for its treetop accommodations that are up to 10m high, which make for ideal places to spot wildlife like palm civets, serow and muntjacs. Lam Khlong Ngu National Park is a great place for caving, as the river flows through an intricate limestone cave system that requires trekking, climbing, crossing fast-flowing streams and jumping off waterfalls into deep pools to traverse.

The terrain surrounding the city also makes it an ideal place to go mountain biking – quite a few tour companies offer biking tours – as well as kayaking or whitewater rafting through the jungle in the rivers of the north.




The Kanchanaburi Province is 128kms from Bangkok, and is accessible by regular buses and trains (which brings you to the Death Railway), both taking about 2-3 hours. To get around Kanchanaburi town, you can opt to ride around in songthaews (converted pickups), or rent a bicycle, as the town is a little too spread out to explore on foot. For more on Kanchanaburi, visit Tourism Thailand’s site at

Leave a Comment


Enjoyed this article? Please spread the word :)