The Thai province and city of Kanchanaburi boasts both natural beauty and unforgettable cultural offerings. Though this area is one of the less frequented tourist spots in the Southeast Asian country, travelers the world over can attest that its well worth the detour.
The town of Kanchanaburi is the capital of Thailand's largest province of the same name, located in the west of the country at the convergence of the Khwae Noi and Khwae Yai rivers. These two rivers meet at the Mae Klong river, where the world-famous "Bridge over the River Kwai" was built. The city itself boasts a vibrant downtown and a business area along the riverfront.
Tourists can access Kanchanaburi by land either via bus, car or train. Thailand's public BKS buses to Kanchanaburi leave every 15 to 20 minutes from the Southern Bus Terminal in Bangkok, with both first- and second-class coaches available. Visitors who decide to take the more independent route may travel to Kanchanaburi via rental car, taking highway 338 for about three hours from Bangkok. Meanwhile, regular trains to Kanchanaburi leave daily from Bangkok's Thonburi Station, with fare costing around 100 baht as of August 2009.
Kanchanaburi visitors have a wide range of lodging options during their stay in the province's capital and its environs. Typical accommodations in the area include hotels, guesthouses and full-scale resorts. Kanchanaburi's guesthouses tend to be cheaper than standard hotels and resorts. There are also a number of youth hostels suited to backpackers and travelers on a budget.
There are a number of historical monuments and natural sights to keep any tourist busy in Kanchanaburi. Undoubtedly the most famous of the area's tourist sites is the aforementioned "Bridge Over the River Kwai" built by World War II POWs working for the Japanese. The bridge was made famous after it was portrayed in a novel and movie of the same name. Just a stone's throw away from the bridge are a reputable art gallery and war museum containing relics from World War II and Thai history.
For those in search of the area's abundant natural beauty, the striking Erawan waterfalls are located within Kanchanaburi province, accessible from the capital by a 90-minute bus ride that leaves every hour. The Elephants Friends and Conservation Camp is another popular destination, where sick or formerly mistreated elephants from across the country are brought to live. Visitors have the chance to take part in the animals' daily care, as well as to take elephant-back rides.
Currently based in France, Laura Dixon has been a freelance writer since 2008. Dixon specializes in various topics including health, travel and culture. Previously, she worked as a weekly newspaper reporter in Central California. Dixon holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications and international relations from the University of California.