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Easily accessible at just 3 hours north west of Bangkok, Kanchanaburi is a gorgeously green destination to add to your Thailand itinerary. You can head here for jungle hikes to pale blue waterfalls, motorbike rides through the rainforest and cooling swims in the River Kwai. There are also caves filled with images of the Buddha and hot springs to discover in the national parks nearby. Many history buffs visit the area to see the iron bridge made famous by the film The Bridge on the River Kwai.
Kanchanburi today is all about embracing a slower pace of life. You can choose a hostel with perfectly manicured gardens to relax in, or a laid-back guesthouse that has views of the river from its rooftop terrace. For something a bit different, go for a Kanchanburi hostel with industrial-style dorms and beds made from repurposed pipes or a sleek railway-inspired spot. There's also Korean-run hostels in Kanchanburi serving the country's traditional barbecued meat in its restaurant.
The main backpacker strip in Kanchanaburi is along the River Kwai, where many restaurants and guesthouses serve typical Thai food like peanut-sprinkled pad thai and coconut-infused green curry. The bus station area in the centre has more of a local vibe, with authentic markets and newer shopping centres. You can also explore the Mon Tribal Village just out of town. This is a traditional settlement where you can visit a temple, a school and houses built on poles to keep them safe in the rainy season.
There are plenty of national parks in this scenic corner of Thailand, but one of the best is Erawan National Park, known for its seven tiers of waterfalls collecting in swimmable pools. Sai Yok National Park has a river beach where you can take a dip – ideal on a hot day. In town, drop by the night market for clothes shopping and street food. You can also see the 13th and 14th-century Khmer temples at Mueang Sing Historical Park.
To get around Kanchanaburi, you can rent a bike from most guesthouses and shops in town. For trips to nearby sights, you can take a bus to places like Erawan Falls or head out on a motorbike. Most travellers arrive in Kanchanaburi either by bus or train from Bangkok. There are two trains a day from Thonburi Railway Station in Bangkok, which stop in Kanchanaburi before continuing across the River Kwai's well-known bridge.