Located 2-3 hours from Bangkok, Kanchanaburi is famous for its role in World War II and the start of the Thai-Burma Railway that was constructed in part by Allied soldiers under forced labor by the Japanese in 1943, the Death Railroad.Originally made famous by Pierre Boulle in the 1952 novel, The Bridge over River Kwai, the bridge described in the book didn’t actually cross the River Kwai. Instead, the bridge crossed a section of river known as the Mae Klong River. The Thais renamed the river in 1960 to coincide with the novel.
While the World War II history is a enough of a reason to visit Kanchanaburi, there are many great outdoor activities and national parks in the area to make this more than just a day trip. You can reach Kanchanaburi by train, bus, minibus, or taxi, but having a car allows you to really get away from the city and explore without having to be dependent on tour guides.
Budget rental car delivered a car from Suvarnabhumi Airport (1519 baht / 48 USD per day) – Having the car delivered is free and saves taxi to the airport and sitting in Bangkok traffic!
Drive to Kanchanaburi – Once we arrived in the city, we stopped and visited the following sights:
- Bridge over River Kwai (free)
- Kanchanaburi War Cemetery (free)
- JEATH (Japan–England–Australia–Thailand–Holland) War Museum near the bridge (30 baht / 1 USD each)
- Thailand-Burma Railway Center (120 baht / 3.75 USD each)
- JEATH Museum located downstream (40 baht / 1.25 USD each)
The “must-see” stops are the Bridge over River Kwai, the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery, and the very informative Thailand-Burma Railway Center.
Both of the JEATH museums were interesting, but not very informative.
Checked into My Rose Valley Resort (500 baht / 16 USD per night) – After visiting the sights in the city, we headed out of town and to our room. GPS is very helpful finding this out-of-the-way gem! Close to camping, this rustic hut was a great way to feel close to nature.
Hellfire Pass Memorial Museum (free) – Hellfire Pass is the name of the infamous railway cutting on the Thai-Burma Railway which was built with forced labor during the Second World War. I highly recommend the audio tour, it is excellent.
Sai Yok National Park (300 baht / 9 USD each) – Known for its waterfalls and caves, Sai Yok is a great place to spend the afternoon.
We had a very nice riverside dinner before taking a one hour long-tail boat cruise (400 baht/ 12.50 USD) up and down the river.
After our boat ride it was time to explore the caves!
Erawan National Park (300 baht / 9 USD each) – The seven waterfalls were the highlight of the trip! Swimming at each level was absolutely wonderful! The hike is steep the higher you go, but so worth it!
After spending a wonderful day at Erawan Falls, we headed back to Bangkok and Budget picked up our rental car.
We love the beautiful area surrounding Kanchanaburi. It always feels good to us to be in the mountains and near nature. Having a car allows us to get further off the beaten path and to explore on our own time-table. Most importantly, it enables us arrive at the parks before the tour buses pull up and the hordes of other tourists invade!
- Time of Year: February 2014
- Length of Stay: 3 Days, 2 Nights
- Total Trip Cost – 2 People: 342 USD*
- Cost Per Day / Per Person: 57 USD*
- Visa Information: Thai Embassy, U.S. citizens carrying a tourist passport and in possession of an onward or return airline ticket do not require a visa to enter Thailand. The passport must have at least six months validity remaining to be allowed entry.
*Excluded from the cost analysis:
- International Airfare – International airfare is not included because fares vary depending on your starting location.
- Travel Health Insurance – Travel health insurance is not included because we have health insurance valid in Thailand.
GPS Coordinates: Day 1 Day 2 Day 3
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Bridge Over River Kwai @ 14.041424,99.503990
Kanchanaburi War Cemetery @ 14.030496,99.525641
JEATH War Museum near the bridge @ 14.041592,99.505206
Thailand-Burma Railway Center @ 14.032163,99.524914
JEATH Museum located downstream @ 14.016377,99.530758
My Rose Valley Resort @ 14.238757,99.339687
Hell Fire Pass @ 14.355957,98.954240
Sai Yok National Park @ 14.438524,98.850817
Erawan Falls @ 14.375465,99.144070
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You can copy and paste the latitude and longitude into Google Earth, your browser, or into your GPS.
*Disclaimer- ALWAYS verify locations, transportation routes, GPS coordinates, etc. Errors are made, routes changed, sometimes we are just plain wrong. No one knows what you like more than you. If the trip is worth doing, it is worth doing right! Do your homework.