Not many backpackers who travel in Thailand venture to Kanchanburi. The lack of well known bars and hostels, as well as veering off the well-treaded stops in Thailand seems to scare many. Kanchanburi is a sleepy town where many large Asian tour buses breeze speedily in and out on day trips to catch a glimpse at the Kwai River, famous for its role in the blockbuster: ‘The Bridge on The River Kwai’. The most popular group of tourists that come here are families that have left the beach behind to explore more of what Thailand has to offer, and so they should, as Thailand has much more to offer than beaches.
Arriving in Kanchanburi to find the weather perfect, was a delight after a long bus journey. Explore the inner depths of the town of Kanchanburi by bicycle, allowing yourself to speed past the calls of tuk tuk drivers and feel a nice cool breeze amongst your face as you whiz through streets. I recommend visiting the Burma Thailand Railway Centre, it offers interesting scope about Kanchanburi’s role in history, how its location affected its journey as a town, and its relevance to society today. Walk on to the famous River Kwai Bridge, balancing yourself on the bridge and wander at the life on the river below and around you.
A must visit is the Erawan Waterfalls, my favourite waterfalls in Asia. Taking the local bus is a fraction of the price with what you would pay in a tuk tuk, and visiting the waterfalls outside a tour group meant we could spend as long as we wanted there. The waterfalls have seven tiers and the climb gets steeper and steeper on each level, but more and more beautiful. Sadly we only made it to the 5th tier, but I am happy enough seeing the change of cascading waterfalls and cool blue rock pools vary in size and shape. I warn you, when swimming in the pools; the fish like to nibble your skin! Shocking at first but quite a pleasant sensation after a while (I only let them nibble my toes meaning getting a free pedicure!) On the first tier be careful, as there are some very mischievous monkeys. Used to the tourists presence, they are not afraid to approach you and steal things from your bag thinking its food, forever losing your valuables to a monkey. So keep a watchful eye!
A popular sight visited by many is Tiger Temple, an attraction in Kanchanburi that creates much debate. Although a centre for the Tigers to benefit from and blossom in a safe environment created by monks, many believe the cruelty and injustice these animals suffer from do not make this attraction justifiable. Walking around the empty areas full of friendly cows, we found the main attraction, getting your picture taken with a variety of tigers all chained up and comatosed up to their eyeballs disheartening and disgusting. It is unjustifiable to see these magnificent creatures, these strong and agile animals of prey, medicated for a tourists satisfaction, to be used as a play thing and prop.The situation made me sad and sorrowful, I’m upset that I have been yet another tourist for that organisation to gain money from and so I advise all tourists against visiting this place, rather seeing these animals as they are, animals, in their rightful place- the wild.
Go to the local market in the evening and sample freshly cooked food on offer and at very cheap prices. Although there isn’t anywhere to sit, it is perfectly acceptable to stuff your face on the street corner, as many others do, wiping the thick spicy sauce off your face and eyeing up more dishes to conquer at the same time.
There are a number of small bars and drinking dens where western old men sit with very young local prostitutes, which can be an uncomfortable sight to see. We headed to the perfect backpacker bar: Kiki’s Bar. Kiki’s bar is made up of one stall with bottles of rum and whisky on top of the bar, priced at 5p a drink- only served in shots- and with paint boxes to sit on. Although not the most elegant bar, this meant getting to know Kiki herself, her regular customers and ridiculously cheap drinks. I’d recommend this bar to all who want a hilarious night and to really merge in with the local style of drinking, (no posh cocktails or mixers here).