Kanchanaburi Province

Kanchanaburi Province

Infobox Thai Province
name = Kanchanaburi
thai = กาญจนบุรี
capital = Kanchanaburi
area = 19,483.2
arearank = 3rd
population = 734,394
population_as_of = 2000
populationrank = 31st
density = 38
densityrank = 74th
isocode = TH-71
governor = Amnat Phakarat
governor_since = November 2006

Kanchanaburi ( _th. กาญจนบุรี) is the largest of the central provinces ("changwat") of Thailand. Neighboring provinces are (from north clockwise) Tak, Uthai Thani, Suphan Buri, Nakhon Pathom and Ratchaburi. In the west it borders Kayin State, Mon State and Tanintharyi Division of Myanmar.

A province in the Central Plains, Kanchanaburi is frequented by tourists who have been attracted by its long history and ancient civilizations, a location of the Bridge over the River Khwae – ‘Kwai’ as it is known internationally and scene of the historic World War II. Producers of the movie the Bridge Over the River Kwae are guilty of giving the river and bridge both the wrong spelling and mis-pronunciaton. It is pronounced ‘Kwae’ as in the English word ‘Hay’. The province is also famous for its natural attractions such as forests, mountains, caves and waterfalls.


The province is located in the west of Thailand, and is situated 129 km. from Bangkok and covers a total area of approximately 19,483 sq.km. being the country’s third largest province after Nakhon Ratchasima and Chiang Mai. Topographically, it is covered with timber and evergreen forests. The district covers the source valleys of the rivers Kwae Yai and Kwae Noi ("River Kwai"), which merge at the city Kanchanaburi and form the Mae Klong River there.

Several National Parks are located in the forests of the mountain area of the province - the Erawan, Sai Yok, Khao Laem, Khaoen Sri Nakarin and Chaloem Rattanakosin National Parks are located in the province. The Thungyai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary in this province is also listed in the UNESCO world heritage list.


Archaeology found in Kanchanburi dates back to the 4th century which proves of trade with surrounding countries even in that time. Very little is also historically known about the actual Khmer influence in Kanchanaburi but there is evidence of their occupation with Prasat Muang Singh – one of the country’s most well-known Khmer sites.

Not much was historically recorded about Kanchanaburi provice before the reign of King Rama I, but some historians believe that the province played much strategical importance during the Ayutthaya period. In 1982 the Fine Arts Department found many human and elephant skeletons and swords in Phanom Thuan District. Thus, this site might even have been the location of the famous battle of King Naresuan against the Burmese crown-prince, most commonly assigned to the Don Chedi district in Suphanburi province nearby.

With the rise of the Chakri Dynasty and General Chakri (who would later become King Rama I) Kanchanaburi certainly played a distinctive strategical point as defense against the invading Burmese.

For foreigners however, it is only Kanchanaburi’s recent history which really stands out with the name ‘The Death Railway’. During the Japanese occupation of Thailand in 1942 POWs both allies and Asian laborers were ordered by the Japanese to build a Thailand-Burma railway. Eventually, an unprecedented more than 100,000 POWs (16,000 allies and 90,000 local Asian laborers) died from horrific working conditions.


The seal of the province shows the three pagodas, located on the Bantadthong Mountain. They gave the name to the mountain pass to Myanmar, called "Three Pagodas Pass". The provincial flower is the Night-flowering Jasmine ("Nyctanthes arbortristis"), and the provincial tree is the Moulmein lancewood ("Homalium tomentosum").

The provincial slogan is A province of ancient community, three pagodas pass, precious stones, River Kwae Bridge, Minerals and waterfall resources.

Administrative divisions

Kanchanaburi is subdivided into 13 districts ("Amphoe"). The districts are further subdivided into 98 communes ("tambon") and 887 villages ("muban").



Locals seldom use the river as a mode of transportation these days but instead for the sake of tourist-orientated scenic boat rides and karaoke dinners.


Kanchanaburi’s districts are inter-connected by 3 main highways which also link to neighbouring provinces.


There is no public airport in Kanchanaburi.


Kanchanburi is the final destination on the western route from Bangkok’s little-used Bangkok Noi Train Station.

BusAir-conditioned buses ply to and from Bangkok while travel to the province’s districts and surrounding provinces is done by non- air-conditioned buses.

Songthaew (public passenger pick-up vehicles) Songthaews are generally the most popular form of public transport in the provincial town and rural areas.

Samlor (trishaws)

Cycle-samlors are the most popular form of transport within the town for foreign visitors going to and from each of the sight-seeing attractions.

Motorbike-taxiThis is a popular mode of public transport for the daring wishing to get from A to B in the shortest amount of time.


Located just 129km from Bangkok, Kanchanburi is also a favourite holiday destination for Bangkokians and other Thais residing in the central region.

Most foreigners when they think of Kanchanburi they think of the River Kwae Bridge and the history of the Second World War. Kanchanaburi however, has so much more in the way of waterfalls, mountains, dams, fishing, boating, trekking and cave exploration. Sai Yok National Park is very popular.


is still in use. In Kanchanaburi city, there is a war museum and a large cemetery of prisoners of war who died during construction of the Death Railway.

Nine Army War History national park (Uttayan Haeng Chart Songkram Kao Tab) located at Ladya field, Tambon Chongsadao. It’s around 40 kilometers from Kanchanaburi downtown. This place has provided historical evidence of the nine army war. The nine army war was the war between King Rama I of Thailand and King Padung of Burma. The war ended as a victorious one for Thailand.

In the Sai Yok district, there is a Buddhist Tiger Temple where tame tigers roam freely once a day. Also in Sai Yok is the Mueang Sing historical park, ruins of a Khmer town and temple, as well as the Sai Yok National Park with the two Sai Yok waterfalls.

Kanchanaburi War Cemetery (Don Rak) (สุสานทหารสัมพันธมิตรดอนรัก) The immaculately maintained cemetery contains the remains of 6,982 Allied POWs who perished during the construction of the ‘Death Railway’. Its settings remind visitors of the war and its after-effects.

Death Railway (ทางรถไฟสายมรณะ), the strategic railway tracks began from Nong Pla Duk Station in Amphoe Ban Pong, Ratchaburi, and ran via Kanchanaburi across the Khwae Yai River, westbound to the Three Pagodas Pass, to end at Thanbuyuzayat in Burma. The total distance within the Thai territory was 300 km., taking only one year to complete from October 1942 – October 1943. After the war, some part of the tracks was demolished and some submerged under the lake of Khao Laem Dam.

Mueang Sing Historical Park (อุทยานประวัติศาสตร์เมืองสิงห์) is better known as Prasat Mueang Sing (ปราสาทเมืองสิงห์), The laterite sanctuary was constructed in the late Lop Buri Period ca. 11th – 13th century A.D. Influenced by ancient Khmer culture, its principal tower is encircled by a laterite wall, moat and earthen mound and was built in a mixture of the folk school of art and Bayon style of King Jayavarman VII’s period in Cambodia.

Hell Fire Pass Memorial Museum (ช่องเขาขาดพิพิธภัณฑสถานแห่งความทรงจำ), located within the Division of Agriculture and Cooperatives, Office of Development, Armed Forces Development Command. Established by the Australian Government, it houses a mini-theatre and collection of data, photographs, equipment and utensils used during the construction of the Death Railway.

Sai Yok National Park (อุทยานแห่งชาติไทรโยค), a park since 1980, most of the area is limestone mountains with mixed deciduous forest. It is a former location of a Japanese camp during WWII as evident from traces of stoves.The park is also home to the world’s smallest species of bat.

Wat Pa Luangta Bua Yanasampanno (วัดป่าหลวงตาบัว ญาณสัมปันโน) or commonly referred to as the Tiger Temple is quite a controversial tiger conservation area where various kinds of wild as well as domestic animals live together freely in the nature and are friendly to the monks and visitors. Erawan National Park (อุทยานแห่งชาติเอราวัณ) Formerly called Khao Salop National Park (อุทยานแห่งชาติเขาสลอบ), it was proclaimed a national park on 19 June, 1975, with an area of 373,735 rai (597,976,000 square metres). Later, its name was changed to Erawan National Park as the highest level of the waterfall, Namtok Erawan, looks like Elephant Erawan’s head.

Khuean Srinagarindra National Park (อุทยานแห่งชาติเขื่อนศรีนครินทร์) It was announced on 23 December, 1981, to be a national park with an area of 953,500 rai (1,496,800,000 square metres). Interesting tourist attractions include Tham Sawan (ถ้ำสวรรค์), Tham Neramit (ถ้ำเนรมิต), Tham Nam Mut (ถ้ำน้ำมุด), Tham Phra Prang (ถ้ำพระปรางค์), Namtok Huai Mae Khamin (น้ำตกห้วยแม่ขมิ้น).


Star Watching Kirdkao Observatory (หอดูดาวเกิดแก้ว) situated in Tambon Lum Rang, is a place to gain knowledge about stars and nature. A corner for star-watching is arranged, an observatory in a dome shape and accommodation in a capsule shape. Forest Trekking Sangkhla Buri Jungle Trek This service is offered to tourists by hotels in Amphoe Sangkhla Buri. The programme starts with rowing boats along Huai Song Ka Lia, riding elephants and rafting.

Mountain Biking Mountain Biking is very common along routes in the province to any tourist attractions to experience the beautiful geographical features of Kanchanaburi.

Rafting, Canoeing, White Water Rafting are also very common along various routes such as Noi River, Kwae River Song Ka Lia River.

Elephant Trekking Kanchanaburi has many elephant camps providing elephant trekking.

Bird Watching In Kanchanaburi bird-watching is done at national parks that consist of fertile ecology that is suitable to be birds’ habitat.Well-known sites for bird-watching are as follows:
*Khao Namphu Wildlife Conservation Promotion and Development Station, Tambon Tha Kradan, Amphoe Si Sawat
*Around Kroeng Krawia Swamp near Namtok Kroeng Krawia, Amphoe Sangkhla Buri.
*Thung Yai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary and Salak Phra Wildlife Sanctuary
*Tao Dam Mine Forest, Amphoe Sai Yok
*Srinagarindra Dam and Vajiralongkorn Dam (Khao Laem Dam)

GolfKanchanaburi’s rural areas are home to several golf courses. The courses are popular due to their close vicinity to Bangkok and natural scenery.

Cultural Tourism

Ban Nong Khao is one district in Kanchanaburi, about 12 km. away from the province. Villagers here still live simply in an agricultural society and old-style houses practicing culture and traditions which has been transmitted from generation to generation.

Homestay at Ban Khao Lek Ban Khao Lek is a small Karen village, situated in the middle of a valley in the area of Chaloem Rattanakosin National Park with splendid nature. Most villagers earn a living by farming and collecting products from the forest. They live a simple life and mainly rely on nature. They practice Karen culture from generation to generation.


In Kanchanaburi, there are 2 seedless raisin vineyards for visiting.

Rai Khun Mon in Tambon Nong Kum is a mixed cultivation farm with organic vegetables and plants of various kinds of processed agricultural products such as corn milk, vegetable juice, dehydrated banana or jack-fruit, vegetable juice-coated Krayasat dessert, bio-diets for health. Suan Onanong Chuan Chom It is the largest desert rose (‘Chuan Chom’ in Thai) garden in Kanchanaburi with an area of 40 rai (64,000 square metres).


Kanchanaburi doesn’t really have much in the way of good markets or department stores. The shopping places that exist in Kanchanburi include:
*The Night Market located near Kanchanaburi Railway Station sells the likes of clothes, shoes, bags, collectables, souvenirs, DVDs and CDs etc.
*Kan Superstore in Kanchanaburi Town Centre is just a normal department store with a supermarket.
*Tesco Lotus Megastore is on Sang Chuto Road
*Birdland Books, situated on River Kwai Road, is Kanchanaburi's largest used book stores. They have books in several different languages. They also have a branch in Sangkhlaburi.


Not so long ago, Kanchanburi Town had grown to be rather infamous for its Disco Rafts which used to sail down parts of the River Kwae all night long blaring out loud disco music. A couple of these parts included guesthouses which used to make a decent living until the boats noisy arrival. Just recently however, local authorities have clamped down on such boats. The rafts are still running but they are far quieter than in the past. Typical, nightlife available in Kanchanburi Town includes:
*The town has a couple of discos which are popular with the younger trendier crowd.
*Some live Music Joints play Thai folk.
*Karaoke clubs can be found in some of the many hotels and customers can either sing to everyone or rent a private room.
*Barbecues are large Thai-style restaurants which play music and serve alcohol.
*Sing-a-Songs are popular with Thai males. Singers sing on the stage
*Down by the river there are a few bar beers which are popular with foreign male tourists who fancy a beer and the company of friends or hostesses. Many also have free pool to play.
*Most of the guesthouses down by the river sell alcohol and play music.

Local Culture

Folk Culture and Traditions

Ram Yoei is a local dance of the Kanchanaburi local people that has been performed for more than 500 years. They perform Ram Yoei on Songkran Day and New Year, etc. Men and women must form a circle, one person will lead to sing and another will sing to the other’s lyric in reply, and Luk Khu (chorus) will sing along and dance to the rhythm of Klong Yao drums. At present, Ram Yoei is played only in Amphoe Phanom Thuan.


Most of the local rural people work in the field of agriculture. Even though most of them are of Thai ancestry, there is also a lot of Mon and Karen blood around. As minority, people have dwelled in the area for hundreds of years, Kanchanburi enjoys plenty of popular folk festivals.

Events & Festivals

Mineral Water and Waterfall Bathing Day (งานวันอาบน้ำแร่แช่น้ำตก); held at Hin Dat Hot Spring, at the beginning of November. In the festival, there are booths of agricultural products and tourism exhibition of Amphoe Thong Pha Phum. Visitors watching will have a chance to bath in the Hin Dat Hot Spring and enjoy the view of Namtok Pha Tat.

Boat and Raft People’s Day (งานเทศกาลชาวเรือชาวแพ); held every year at the beginning of November at Song Khwae Road near the riverside in front of the city of Kanchanaburi. Activities are folk performances, Thai typical music performance, academic exhibition concerning conservation of rivers and canals, water sports such as riding long-boat, speed-boat and jet-skiing.

River Kwae Bridge Week (งานสัปดาห์สะพานข้ามแม่น้ำแคว); held every year around the end of November until the beginning of December to commemorate the significance of the Death Railway and the Bridge over the Khwae River taking place in World War II. Visitors can see the historical and archaeological exhibition, folk performances, booths of products, entertaining activities, and light and sound show.

Local Food

Kanchanburi is a province famous for its freshwater fish. The most popular dining areas are the Song Kwae Road waterfront area and the riverside restaurants in the vicinity of the River Kwae Bridge. Although, there are ‘jungle’ food restaurants illegally selling imported meat of endangered animals from Burma, such as deer etc., the government does in no way support the trade.

Medical Health Care

In town there is the Kanchanaburi Memorial Hospital and lots of clinics and pharmacies.


Retirees in Kanchanburi quote the following reasons for settling down in Kanchanburi:
*It has only a small international expat community, so giving the place a more Thai feel
*Folk from Kanchanaburi are noted for their friendliness and hospitality
*The weather is typically Thai
*It has convenient public transport and it is near Bangkok


Nationwide Television, cable TV channels are also available in Kanchanaburi. International newspapers and magazine are only found in tourist areas.

The area dialling code for Kanchanaburi Province is 034 - from overseas, it is +66 34 XXX XXX.

Landline telephone, all mobile phone systems, high-speed internet (ADSL), post offices and parcel services are mostly found in tourist areas.

External links

* [http://www.tourismthailand.org/destinationguide/list.aspx?provinceid=56 Province page from the Tourist Authority of Thailand]
* [http://www.kanchanaburi.go.th Website of province] (Thai only)
* [http://www.thailex.info/THAILEX/THAILEXENG/LEXICON/Kanchanaburi.htm Kanchanaburi provincial map, coat of arms and postal stamp]
* [http://www.kru.ac.th Kanchanaburi Rajabhat University] Main University in Kanchanaburi

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