Kanchanaburi is Thailand’s western province, bordering Myanmar. This part of the country is far removed from the tourist hub of Phuket or the hustle and bustle of Bangkok. In Kanchanaburi you will find farmland and lush forest landscapes. This part of the country is however home to a number of famous tourist attractions including the infamous Tiger Temple, which I had the common sense to avoid due to its horrific animal cruelty and black market smuggling activities. Aside from that, you will find Erawan Falls, Thailand’s famous floating markets, the bridge over the river Khwae and Death Railway amongst others. If you have a spare few days in Bangkok, I would suggest spending it here instead as it isn’t a far drive and there are plenty of tours available to take you. If you have yet to see monkeys in the wild, this is the place to do it, because they are literally all over the place in this region. Floating hotels built on the rivers are common in this area too if you would like a unique experience.
The floating markets are one of Thailands best known attractions and normally feature on the walls of Thai restaurants in other countries. These markets are an amazing experience, but an enormous tourist trap. I recommend browsing at these markets for fun, but buying elsewhere, as you will find the exact same items for a fraction of the price. If you pay for a markets tour, you will be taken by boat through the floating market place itself and then on a brief tour of the canals in the surrounding area, passing through farms and housing areas. It’s a great experience and definitely worth doing.
Erawan Falls are part of Erawan National Park and are a protected area with some of the most stunning sites I have ever seen. The waterfalls and pools in this park are cleaner, clearer and bluer than anything I had ever seen before or have seen since that day. You can easily spend hours exploring the park, swimming in the pools and having a free foot massage from the local fish.
Bridge on the River Khwae
This bridge is what inspired the famous 1957 film, The Bridge on the River Kwai, which went on to win 7 academy awards. The film focused on the building of the bridge for the Burma Railway, a horrific two year project by the Japanese during WW2 which led to the deaths of 330,000 labourers through forced labour conditions. Of theses deaths, the vast majority were civilians and prisoners of war, all dying in order to construct a 415-kilometre stretch of railway between Thailand and Burma. The bridge and the railway still stands and operates to this day. The bridge has become a pilgrimage for many who fought in the war or who lost family or friends in the war, as well as for film enthusiasts wanting to see the bridge from the movie. In actuality, the film was shot in Sri Lanka using a similar looking bridge, but the meaning of this bridge remains the same regardless.
Death railway as discussed above was the forced labour project of Japan during WW2, resulting in the deaths of 330,000 prisoners of war and civilian labourers. The railway still operates and can be ridden in order to experience a portion of what was build at such an immense human cost.
You will find plenty of floating buildings including hotels built on the Khwae River. If you get a chance, I highly recommend staying in one for a unique experience and the chance to watch the sun rise and set over the river.
If you still have yet to see monkeys in the wild in SE Asia, then this region is the place to go, as there are plenty of them to be found and they are relatively friendly and playful.