Kanchanaburi’s popularity is mainly owing to the history of the Burma-Thailand railways – Death railways. If you have read about this then you would surely want to visit Kanchanaburi.
Here is a detailed account of my travel, followed by the important points and Gyan gain sections.
My long narrative (For important information, please scroll down)
This day was spent mostly on the road, traveling. From Ayutthaya to Saphanburi, we traveled in an A/C mini bus which was a comfortable journey of 1 hour 15 minutes. From Saphanburi there are no mini vans, you can travel in a big bus at 50 baht to Kanchanaburi. It comes with non reclining seats and open windows. But it was fine for the short journey. We sat down our bags on a seat hoping that the bus doesn’t get crowded. And then we sat under a fan (yes the bus had small fans fitted on top of few seats), much-needed for the scorching summer heat! I was already dreading the heat in the next stint (after 2 month) in the South of Thailand.
After the bus moved, we realized that the fan was moving frantically but the blades inside were out of the socket and hence not moving! That was just our luck for the day, other fans were working fine. There were two large bugs (made of bright green sponge and cloth) hanging from the a mirror above the driver’s seat, dangling into my view of the road. And since my view was blocked it attracted me even more to check the roads. The roads were superb all along the journey and not a single pothole!
Being a Bengalurean, this was a luxury and even on the most ancient, basic bus, I could feel the smooth silky roads! What a treat it would be to drive on these roads! It was supposed to be a 1.5 hours journey. But it took 2 hours to reach. Well that was how much the good old bus could do, in spite of the extremely good roads.
At Kanchanaburi bus station, before we could set our feet on the ground,there were people standing at the bus door with a map and tour package options to cut a deal with us. We did not have the time to GOOO (go on our own). So we cut a good deal (guessing good) for 800 baht for two of us to bake in an open red taxi with seats running alongside. Places we wanted to cover were Erawan falls and River Kawi bridge. We asked them if there was an entry fee for the waterfall but they did not answer. Guess they did not understand the question. Decided not to spend time explaining that in sign language, there was enough of that already for the last 8 days trying to converse with the locals. So we left after telling them that we need to be back by 6 pm to take the bus to Bangkok.
It was 1 pm and the driver stopped at a hotel of his choice at the beginning of the journey. He sat with us and packed his lunch while we ate and he told something in Thai and then said ‘Thanks’ and we wondered why. Because that was the only word we could understand. Later when the hotel lady got the cheque we saw the reason for his thanks, they had added his food to our bill. It was a small amount, but since that was not discussed when the deal was made, we paid only for our food. And heard the waitress say something rude (by the tone) and then she called out to our driver sitting outside and took the money from him.
We got ready to bake in the red open van shifting sides and searching for corners trying to hide from the sun rays. The drive was mostly deserted with great roads and good views towards the end, just before reaching the Erawan national park. We had to pay 300 Baht entrance fee per person plus entry fee for the cab which was about 60 baht. The falls has seven levels, we climbed up 4 of them hoping that the next level of the waterfall will make our trip here worthwhile. However none of the levels were good, I assume it was the summer effect. Nevertheless there were tons of people in level 1 who were enjoying, like it was heaven. Well it was nice to see so many, make the most of what’s available. Or may be they were not spoilt with too many comparisons and were fresh travelers.
Anyways I decided to focus on the amount of walking done in the day and got happiness right back into the scorching hot summer day! And got into my usual travel time pass job of observing people and the surroundings. We headed back by 4 pm. Visited River Kawi which was filled with people. The only reason I added Kanchanaburi was because I had just read a book on the death railways. It really was an amusement for many others.
We gladly headed back from Kanchanaburi to Bangkok in the 6 pm bus. It reached Bangkok at 9 pm as promised. After much discussion with locals (questions in English and response in Thai) we figured that there is a local bus to Bangrak market. But no one knew the timing. So we applied positive thinking 😉 and told out loud that the next bus will be 051. And it sure was 051. We hi-fied out of happiness and hopped on to the bus. Reached hostel in 30 minutes, had frozen 7-11 food for dinner and retired for the day.
Reflecting about what was good and what went wrong with this leg, I fell asleep in the comfortable dorm bed of Glur Bangkok hostel. And woke up looking forward to the next destination Laos.
1. Go to Kanchanaburi only if you have read about the history of the place and have an inclination to see what you read about. Else you can skip this.
2. Erawan falls should be skipped in summer for sure. Save the 300 baht entrance fee.
3. Places visited
River kawi bridge
Eravan falls and park
4. Tiger temple, which houses tamed tigers is also an option if you want to feel the power over such a ferocious animal. We skipped this due to its commercial nature and the rumors that they are sedated (how else will they be harmless). Erawan falls and River Kawi bridge are all we could take, for touristy stuff in a day!
1. Murphy’s law applies on holidays and any location. Murphy never goes on a holiday! 😉
2. Avoid visiting waterfalls in Summer. PS: This gyan changed after a visit to Laos
3. Make the most of what you have. So even if you are in a soup, drink it and enjoy! If you are unable to achieve it, try what I did to like the waterfalls. I shifted focus to the amount of kilometers we had walked in the park to see the different levels of the waterfalls. And that fixed my day.
See Pictures: Bangkok and North Thailand
Kanchanaburi day trip.
Accommodation: Stayed overnight at Bangkok, Glur Bangkok hostel to take the morning flight to Udon Thani and then coach to Laos. For short review of Glur see the Bangkok travel entry.
Travelers: Two female backpackers
Loop: Bangkok -> Chiang Mai -> Ayutthaya -> Kanchanaburi -> Bangkok -> Udon Thani
Duration : 8 days
Country Loop: North Thailand -> Laos -> Vietnam -> Cambodia -> Myanmar -> Malaysia -> Philippines -> South Thailand -> Back Home