Thailand's third largest province, Kanchanaburi covers some 19,473 square and oftentimes mountainous kilometres, and borders Myanmar (Burma) to the west of Bangkok. The compact provincial capital, some 130 kilometres, and a comfortable two-hour drive from Bangkok, is both the site of the world-famous Bridge Over The River Kwae , immortalised in books and movies, and gateway to a region of rugged natural beauty. Countryside beyond the provincial capital is characterised by mountains and fertile river valleys (the Kwae Yai and Kwae Noi) which have inspired the development of hydro-electric power, and where labyrinthine dam reservoirs provide further scenic elements to the province's natural beauty.
Internationally famous The Bridge over the River Kwai was constructed by the Allied prisoners of war (POWs) and supervised by the Japanese army during WWII. The bridge was a section of the ‘Death Railway' intended to link Thailand with Myanmar. Many Allied soldiers died due to the harsh conditions. The railway was never fully completed but is still in use today.
Around town, there are many institutes erected to honor those who perished during the construction of the infamous bridge. The War Museum is located near the River Kwai Bridge and displays the collection of weapons, tools and utensils used by the Allied POWs and the Japanese during WWII. The JEATH War Museum , a collaboration among Japan, England, US, Australia, Thailand and Holland, resembles an Allied POW camp. The thatched huts contain bamboo bunks and memorabilia from the war. The peaceful and beautifully tended Kanchanaburi War Cemetery contains the remains of nearly 7,000 POWs who perished during the construction of the ‘Death Railway'. The Chong Kai War Cemetery is located on the bank of the Kwai Noi River at the site of the former war camp. It is more peaceful, has a more scenic view and contains the tombstones of nearly 2,000 POWs.
The 7-tiered Erawan Waterfall , dropping through a series of cascades and shady rock pools, is regarded as one of Thailand's loveliest falls. It is located within the lush forest of the Erawan National Park , the nearest park to the provincial capital. A pleasant, but strenuous 2-km hiking trail ascending beside the falls provides a challenging activity. A large limestone cavern, Tham Wang Badan , is situated on the west side of the park and contains many colourful stalactites and stalagmites. Camping facilities and trekking trails makes it easier to appreciate the local flora and fauna.
Sai Yok was the site of a large Japanese army barracks and POW labour camp during WWII. Nowadays, the Sai Yok National Park is renowned for its tranquil river scenery and impressive falls. The most popular attraction is Sai Yok Yai Waterfall where the water tumbles directly into the Kwai Noi River. The Sai Yok Noi Waterfall is closer and can be reached by train from town. Simple park bungalows and houseboats are available for accommodations.
The Lawa Cave and Daowadung Cave are both situated beside the Kwai Noi River, accessible only by boat. The dark caves offer an exciting adventure and house numerous beautiful stalactites and stalagmites, as well as the world's smallest mammals, the 3-cm long bats.
Discovered by a Japanese soldier during WWII, the Hin Dat Hot Spring is a pond for bathing beside a stream. It is near the entrance of the Pha Tat Waterfall , a huge fall easily accessible by all, located north of the provincial town.
The Prasat Muang Sing Historical Park in Sai Yok District north of town is an ancient site on the banks of the Kwai Noi River. The main structure, the Khmer Prasat Muang Sing (Tower of the City of Lions) is believed to be the westernmost outpost of the Angkor-cantered Khmer Empire. Temple carvings, religious statues and other artefacts indicate the city flourished during the 12 th -14 th centuries.
The main attraction of the isolated trading town of Sangkhla Buri is its serene lakeside location on the Thai-Myanmar border. The town is populated by Thais and Mon and Karen tribe people. The northern shore is dominated by the unusual chedis of Wat Wanwiwekaram. The daily market besides the temple sells interesting goods from Myanmar, Indonesia and other places early every morning. Slightly north of town is the infamous Three Pagoda Pass with 3 whitewashed chedis sitting right on the Myanmar border. During WWII, the Burma-Siam Railway passed through here. Nowadays, it exists as a trading and smuggling route between the Indian Ocean and mainland Southeast Asia. Visitors can usually obtain a one-day visa to visit the neighbouring Burmese town.
Within town, the 2 adjacent temples of Wat Tham Sua (Tiger Cave) and Wat Tham Khao Noi (Small Hill) house very beautiful Thai and Chinese style buildings and a huge Buddha image situated on the mount. Further upriver, Wat Tham Khao Pun overlooks the river and the Burma-Siam Railway. Within the temple grounds is a network of narrow passages that leads to a brightly lit cave system filled with Buddha images.
The beautiful and isolated Chalerm Rattanakosin National Park is one of the nation's smallest parks. The main trail runs beside a stream which passes through the cavern Tham Than Lot Noi and emerges in a thickly forested, steeply sloped ravine. The path continues for 2,500 m, climbing steeply beside the Trai Trung Falls to another cavern, Tham Than Lot Yai , which contains a small Buddhist shrine.