Immortalized in the movie The Bridge Over the River Kwai, Kanchanaburi is a small city about three hours from Bangkok by road that’s one of the best weekend trips in Thailand for people based in Bangkok.
No, there’s no beach. There aren’t any beautiful mountains either (other than a few small hills). But there is a great relaxing atmosphere and some of the best WWII sites in all of Thailand.
Lots of people forget that Thailand was part of World War II, since we mostly think of Germany and Japan (and occasionally Italy, who gave up a little early) as being the Axis. But Thailand was also on the same side, and had several large work camps for Allied prisoners who were tasked with building railroads and other infrastructure for the Japanese.
Kanchanaburi was the center of this, with several camps and the infamous Death Railway now part of the city’s history. While it might have a dark recent history, the Kanchanaburi of today is a peaceful, relaxing city that’s a nice place to visit from Bangkok for the weekend.
Our writer stayed at U Inchantree — a beautiful resort near the River Kwai that’s amazingly relaxing. Although the area around the hotel is mostly made up of tourist restaurants and attractions, it’s still a fun place to spend the day and a nice change to the endless noise and crowds of Bangkok.
Not far from Kanchanaburi, there’s the Hellfire Pass Museum — a moving memorial and museum to the numerous prisoners of war that died during the construction of the Burma Railway. Kanchanaburi is an interesting mix of serene and sad, with WWII sites scattered around what would otherwise be a fairly typical Thai town.
If you’d like to escape from Bangkok for the weekend and like WWII history, visiting Kanchanaburi is a great idea. Even if the idea of war museums isn’t your thing, the city’s chilled out atmosphere, relaxing riverside area, increasing number of nice resorts and good mix of Thai restaurants still give it plenty of appeal.