- Place or Historical Monument
For anyone keen on history, especially that concerning the troubled period of World War II, Kanchanaburi is an essential place to visit in Thailand. Though the bridge itself didn't impress me that much, it's really all about the history behind it, especially that concerning the railway that crosses it. There is not just one, but two museums tracing the story of this bloody episode in Thailand's history: the JEATH museum and the Thailand–Burma Railway Museum. I also visited the impressive military cemetery to pay my respects to all those young soldiers who died for this folly.
For the rest, and getting away from all this, the town itself is quite peaceful and lacks, in my opinion, anything else of interest. Many of the tourists are just visiting on their way somewhere else, preferring to focus on the other attractions in the region, i.e. Erawan National Parkand that of Sai Yok, with its caves and collection of waterfalls, as well as the other activities you can do along the River Kwai. For those who like to get off the beaten track, there's the Khmer temple of Prasat Muang Singh, 40 km to the east. By contrast, I do not recommend visiting the Tiger Temple. Even though it's impressive to be able to get up close and touch a tiger, the temple has become too commercial, and foreign volunteers have now replaced the monks, which is a real shame .
The Death Railway and the bridge were built during World War II by more than 60,000 soldiers held prisoners of war by the Japanese army. A number of them lie buried in a well-appointed military cemetery here. As dark as the history of this railway is, I recommend travelling on it as the landscapes it travels through are magnificent!
But there's a lot more to Kanchanaburi than just this. Its verdant hills and the sunsets viewed from the banks of the River Kwai are a feast for the eyes. The disco-boats sailing up and down in the evenings playing loud Thai music are something you simply must see when visiting Thailand ! Something else to see is the Wat Tham Phuwa, a temple built inside a stalactite-filled cave.
I was really taken with this little town. If, like me, you're a nature lover, go and see the giant monkey pod tree a few kilometres away. Its sheer breadth will leave you stunned!
On my first trip to Thailand, Kanchanaburi was the first area I visited. I got there by taking a direct bus. I was mainly interested in seeing and exploring the Erawan National Park and its famous waterfalls: a true, clear-watered paradise in the middle of lush, luxuriant forest. Close by is the Sai Yok National Park, though that is somewhere I didn't have time to visit.
In Kanchanaburi I went to see the Death Railway, where there is an excursion available for tourists on which the train passes through what is apparently stunning scenery. I settled for simply watching the train cross the bridge on the River Kwai whilst I explored the museum that recounts the terrible story of its construction. The cemetery also serves as a reminder of the loss of human life involved in that process.