Road Trip to Kanchanaburi

Kanchanaburi is famous for the “death railway” and various National Parks. But how do Thai experience it? And how do they get there?

By bus of course! Early in the morning about 35 of us packed into the bus and sped off across the Ang Thong and Suphan Buri countryside in the general direction of Kanchanaburi. Across the dead-flat plains with the smell of burnt stubble always in the background. In my last blog I mentioned the panic that Thai feel if they are going to be separated from food for more than a few moments. But not to worry, we stopped for lunch boxes, then at a 7/11 at the rest stop a little later. No one went hungry. And there was plenty to drink…

I am slightly puzzled that these “fun busses” (my term) have (according to the writing on the side) 330 HP, a multi-KW sound system, but no air conditioning. Never mind, I’m sure 35C heat is good for us…

After that heat it’s good to cool down a little. We spent a tranquil few hours at Namtok Sai Yok Noi (Little Sai Yok Waterfall). Nice walks with nice views and some caves.

It was nice to be away from Bangkok, where you sometimes feel that Farang are seen as an easy source of income. Out here I was somewhat of a novelty, but in a pleasant, friendly, sort of way: “Hey, Farang, come over here and swim with us…”

Late afternoon it was time to head for our accommodation, which turned out to be a barge that was towed up and down the river by a small boat.

As we loaded the barge with various food and drink supplies there was a huge downpour. This did little to dampen the sprits, and was a welcome respite from the heat.

The bat above flew in sometime during the evening.

The barge was equipped with a sound system that would put a 1960s music festival to shame. I can’t understand why the entire nation is not completely deaf. It is a strange contradiction that the soft-spoken Thai have such a penchant for megawatt sound systems.

There appeared to be dozens of similar barges out on the water and sometimes they would drift close to us. Particularly notable was a raucous barge populated mostly by exhibitionist lady-boys, but good taste prevents me from going into details…

After partying into the night we “parked” by the side of the river, somewhere in the middle of nowhere. Well, there was a shower block, and some food for sale in case we were still hungry. Everyone eventually flopped out on the mats on the floor of the barge. Thankfully, the music finally stopped, since I find it difficult to sleep when my whole body is vibrating.

The next morning was idyllic, and the trip back to the town was very pleasant.

We stopped at various places, including Wat Tham Mangkon Thong, famous for the “floating meditating nun”. Unfortunately, due to some misunderstandings about timing, I missed out on the performance, but I had a nice walk up the hill. I believe the photo below is from Wat Tham Phu Wa, which has more interesting caves.

Finally we were back in the town of Kanchanaburi. After loading our things back on the bus most of the Thai headed off to the markets (and the restaurants) but I took the opportunity to see “The Bridge”. It’s a lot smaller than I expected, nice stroll across the river.

Finally, we were back on the bus and off back to Ang Thong. But not before stopping at yet another market.

An interesting experience. Not many of the sights mentioned in the guide books, but a great insight to how to holiday Thai-style.

7 responses to “Road Trip to Kanchanaburi

  1. Mike, could we have the rate & contacts for the barge lodging? Thanks.

  2. Sorry, I don’t actually have any idea of the finances or contacts. The trip was organized by my friend’s family, so we just had to turn up. We made some sort of financial contribution, but didn’t go into the details.

    The barges are quite large. And there are dozens of them. You’d want to be thinking of a group of at least 40 or 50 (we had everyone from the neighbourhood…). I could try to find out a contract number, but it might take a while. Perhaps others out there have some knowledge of this?

  3. Khengsiong Chew

    The bus is really colorful…

    Have you been to the National Parks near Kanchanaburi?

    URL: 2point8 dot blogspot dot com

  4. I’ve stayed on those ‘houseboats’ a couple of times in Sai Yok National Park. I was in a group of about 25 people both times. I think the cost was 2,000 baht per night. You can get your barge towed to different places along the river to spend the night. There are food vendors travelling up and down the river, who you can call over to your boat if you feel like a meal. Swimming is good although sometimes the current is strong if they let water out of the dam further up stream. Overall, a thoroughly enjoyable and recommended experience.

  5. Khengsiong Chew: Have you been to the National Parks near Kanchanaburi?

    No. Sorry, perhaps it was not clear enough that this was the point of the blog. If I’d organized a trip it would have been very different.

    This was a Thai-organized outing, so it involved eating, drinking, a bit of swimming, more eating, drinking and partying, wats, markets, more eating… No National Parks, no elephant treks, no bars…

    I’m not saying that either is better or worse, just different. Actually, I’d like to go back sometime and do it Farang-style…

    There are a lot of those style of buses all over Thailand. Once you’ve been on one you start to notice them everywhere…

    And yes, as scooby says, there are little boats who will come an supply you with food if you run out…

  6. Great blog Mike, thank you!

    I wonder if your barge passed my hut? I certainly wonder how you didn’t sustain permanent damage to your ears from the noise those things blast out!

    Thanks again and keep blogging!


  7. Wow! I’ve never heard of this before and I think they’re awesome!