Category Archives: Sangkhlaburi

A Boat Trip on Khao Lam Lake

I suppose I didn’t really choose the best of weekends to go to Sangkhlaburi. Most of the time it is half deserted. You won’t have any trouble finding a room for a few days. But, we went on a long weekend so we found the place fully booked. At least we drove up there on Friday afternoon as most people from Bangkok didn’t arrive until Saturday. We spent the first night at the Burmese Inn but had to check out the following day. As I had already planned two days on this beautiful lake I got up early the next day to try and find another hotel. We must have checked at least half a dozen hotels the night before but with no luck. However, the first hotel I checked in the morning had one room left. This was at the Songkalia River Hut & Resort by the concrete bridge. We got a nice air-conditioned room for 800 baht. The picture above shows you the nice location it has. However, our room was around the back.

One of the main reasons I like staying at guesthouses instead of hotels is that it is easier to chat with fellow travellers. Also, in the dining room area, there is usually a lot of information available about what there is to see in the area. That is what was good about the Burmese Inn. When I eventually get around to building my own guesthouse, I will make certain that it has the best information center in the country. Anyway, I digress. In Sangkhlaburi  it looked like you could book yourself on day long tours which include bamboo rafting and elephant rides. I guess much the same I had done the other year in Kanchanaburi but probably with better scenery. They could also arrange longer trips which include hiking and overnight stays at Karen villages.


What we decided we would do was the boat trip on the lake. A poster said that a one and a half hour trip would cost 400 baht per boat for 1–3 people. More people would cost 500 baht per boat. They advertised you would see the wooden bridge (I had already walked on this for free), a Mon Village (I would walk through this later), the submerged Wat Sam Prasop temple (a bit too far to swim) and some beautiful cliffs. I had actually already been down to the bridge early in the morning to check things out. As soon as I stepped on the bridge I was approached by someone who wanted to rent a boat for 300 baht. The trip would last 30 minutes they said. I decided we would pay a bit more and go for the longer trip. A mistake on two counts.

 Our boat arrived at the Burmese Inn to pick us up. A Thai couple joined us which now made the boat trip only 100 baht each. Much better value for money. However, the boat was flat bottomed and had no seats! It didn’t look very sturdy. You should have seen the look on the face of the Thai girl. She was scared it would capsize. Then you should have seen my face. I was carrying a lot of expensive camera equipment and didn’t fancy going for a swim. However, once we got in we were pleasantly surprised how sturdy it felt. We sat down cross-legged on our mats and our boatman took us out onto the lake. He first took us under the wooden bridge and then out to the newer concrete bridge which is for the local vehicular traffic. Here we got a fine view of our next hotel. Our boatmen then took us back and out into the middle of the lake.

This massive lake was created in the 1980’s after a damn was built across a nearby river. The old Sangkhlaburi town used to be in this valley and the inhabitants, who were mainly Mon refugees, had to move to higher ground. As most of their houses were made of wood, they were able to salvage much of the material in order to build new houses. However, only the roofing of the Wat Sam Prasop temple was saved. This has now become a kind of eery tourist attraction. We spotted the spire of the bell tower first and then a bit further was what was left of the main chapel. The top was only a few metres above the water. Our boatman took us right up to the wall of the temple and we could stand up and look inside. On the walls, we could see dozens of small Buddha images carved into niches. According to Carl Parkes in his Thailand Handbook, the water level goes down so much in the dry season that you can actually walk around and inside the temple. We went there at the end of December when the dry season had only just started. I guess you would have to go in April to see more of the temple.

Although we had some really beautiful scenery, I was starting to get a sore bottom. While we were looking at the temple, another tour boat came up and I could see that they had comfortable seats! Not only that, they circled around the temple a few times and then headed back. We had nearly an hour to go! Who said it was best to get value for money?! I remember making the same mistake a few years back by booking the tour that gave you a longer ride on the elephant as it trekked through the jungle. Believe me, ten minutes on the back of an elephant is more than enough. But, like I said, the beautiful surroundings did its best to make up for the uncomfortable journey. We passed a number of floating fishermen houses. These were basically a small hut on a platform that also had a giant net attached to a swinging contraption. This was lowered into the water and then a short while later, in theory, it is lifted back up with lots of fish inside! Our boatmen also took us along some cliffs which were also stunning in their beauty but he kept pausing for us to take a closer look. Finally he turned around and we headed back to our hotel.


Yes, it had been a good boat trip, but I made a mental note that if I brought anyone here in the future I would choose a boat by the bridge and I would make sure that the trip was less than an hour! We were pretty sore when we reached out hotel and our legs were shaky as we wobbled out of the boat. In the next part of this series, I will tell you about the tourist attractions we visited which included not only the famous bridge but also what looked like a pregnant Buddha! Anyway, until next time….

A Trip to Sangkhlaburi

A view over Khao Laem Reservoir

Kanchanaburi is a popular destination for both Thais and foreigners. However, most of the tourists only visit the city and surrounding area. If you have been to Thailand then you would know that the name of each province is also the same name of the provincial capital. Kanchanaburi Province is actually very big and there is more to it than just the “bridge” and war cemeteries. Kanchanaburi is in fact the third largest province in Thailand. Around the city the land is relatively flat. However, as you travel west the terrain becomes increasingly rugged and extremely scenic. At the far Western end is a range of mountains which acts as a natural border between Thailand and Myanmar (formerly known as Burma). It is this area that I visited a couple of weeks back. It is called Sangkhlaburi and is listed in the Unseen Thailand guidebook for its very long and “homemade” wooden bridge.

From Samut Prakan it is a long drive to Sangkhlaburi. It took us one hour alone just to get to the King Rama IX bridge to cross the Chao Phraya River. As yet there are no bridges across the river in our province and we have to waste time driving through Bangkok just to get to the other side. From here we drove north up to Wong Wian Yai (the Big Roundabout). Here we turned left and joined other Bangkokians on their journey to Kanchanaburi city. For them it only takes about two hours to reach the “Bridge on the River Kwai”. For us it was three hours. We left home at noon and our plan was to keep driving all the way to Sangkhlaburi. I had read that the last 25 kilometers or so could be dangerous and I wanted to get there before it got dark. Also, we didn’t have a hotel booked! That turned out to be a mistake.

The famous wooden bridge from the garden of the Burmese Inn

I do like long road trips and I can keep driving just about all day. I had plenty of practice when I was in Australia. I bought a station wagon and drove all around the country. The Nullarbor Plain in the southern half has some of the longest straight roads in the world. Driving in Thailand isn’t really that difficult. Even if you cannot read Thai you will find that most of the road signs on the major roads are bilingual. However, if you eyes are not so good it might be best if you do learn how to read place names in Thai because those letter are generally three times bigger!

The road to Kanchanaburi was pretty good and we made good progress. We first drove along Highway 4 heading towards Nakhon Pathom (where we stopped on the way back so I will tell you about that later). About nine kilometers further the highway turned left and headed south to Hua Hin and Phuket. Instead we turned right onto Highway 323 and headed towards Ban Pong and then Kanchanaburi. Two hours after leaving the outskirts of Bangkok we had arrived in Kanchanaburi city. It was already mid afternoon but we decided to push on to Sangkhlaburi. Our time was limited as we only had a three day weekend to play with. We only stopped briefly to shoot rabbits (Thai slang for relieving yourself by the side of the road – women pluck flowers if you want to know) and to take a picture of a wonderful sunset over the Khao Laem Reservoir.

The last 25 kilometers was supposed to be pretty rough going according to the guidebooks, but we had seen worse when we did the 1,900 bends on the road to Mae Hong Son a few years back.  Both of these roads are very scenic especially this one as it skirts a large reservoir. Although it was just starting to get dark as we arrived, the twilight period was particularly beautiful. In all the 374 km trip had taken us just over six hours.

A floating house and fishing platform on the lake

Sangkhlaburi isn’t really a big town. There isn’t even a 7–eleven which says a lot. We had done our research before we left and decided we would check out two guesthouses in town. Actually, there are only two guesthouses in town! First on the list was the Burmese Inn. The service and atmosphere here was supposed to be better. We went in to check it out. Bad news. There was only one room left and we could only have it for one night. Apparently tour parties from Bangkok would be arriving the following day and the whole place was fully booked. The price was 400 baht for twin beds and a private bathroom. (The cheapest beds were 80 baht in a shared room or 120 baht to be by yourself. Bungalows started at 350 baht.) They told us that if we wanted to turn on the air-conditioning then it would cost us an extra 400 baht! A bit steep as it would only add about 40 baht to their electricity bill. We took a look at the room. It was pretty basic but clean.

People are under the misconception that guesthouses are much cheaper than hotels. But, that isn’t always true. If you want a comfortable room in a guesthouse then you would get better value for money if you went to a hotel. This was the case here. If we went to a hotel that had a room like this for 800 baht we would have walked out. But here, we didn’t think we had much choice. So, we said we would take it. We moved our things into the room and then went to the restaurant in the guesthouse to have an evening meal. The guidebooks suggested that this was a good place to eat. I would say they were wrong. As we arrived, a young Burmese boy had just given a meal to a foreign tourist. Something was wrong and he asked him to take it back. The tourist wasn’t really rude but as the young boy turned away I could see him rolling his eyes. Not a very good start.

For our meal we ordered tom yum with chicken and a Burmese curry with pork. Our third dish was stir-fried vegetables. The beer was a little expensive at 60 baht for a bottle of Chang. That was to be expected I suppose but when we went out later we bought some at a local mini mart for 37 baht. We were very hungry by the time the meal arrived. However, we were a bit disappointed. The tom yum only had a few pieces of chicken and the pork curry turned out to be chicken and it was too salty to eat. We didn’t say anything but we noticed a short while later someone complaining that their Burmese Curry had pork! So much for the recommendations from the guidebooks. At this stage we hadn’t officially checked in. So, we thought we would take the car and see what else we could find. We really wanted to stay here for two nights.

Up the road we stopped at P Guesthouse. The guidebooks (yes we were still referring to them) said this place had a better position overlooking the lake. Not sure if that was true as it was pitch dark when we went there.  But we found the atmosphere a lot better. The restaurant area was a lot bigger with a number of private areas. The staff were also very friendly. Even though the place was fully booked they still took the time to help us. We made a mental note to eat here the following day. They were so lively and attentive which was the opposite to the Burmese Inn. We asked if we could book a room for the following night but they said that tour parties from Bangkok had fully booked the place!  We then visited about half a dozen hotels in the area all with the same results. Fully booked!

Never mind. We drove back to the Burmese Inn and worked out a plan for the following day. We reckoned we could see all the major areas in one day though I didn’t like the idea of driving back to Kanchanaburi in the dark. During the last stretch of road to the town, we had passed a couple of landslides and I was worried that it would be too dangerous.


KanchanaBuri & SangklaBuri Trip – Day 4

Final Part (30-31 August 2004) KanchanaBuri to SangklaBuri

Wat Wang Wiwekaram and the Three Pagoda Pass, my raison principale for visiting SangklaBuri, were the itinerary of the day.

This extensive temple on the southern outskirts of Sangkhla Buri edges on Khao Laem reservoir. The complex is constructed in an unusual mix of Thai, Indian, and Burmese Buddhist architectural styles. The pagoda is modelled on the Buddhagaya of India. Most of the time, my reason for going to wat has been looking around rather than praying for something, as most people do, methinks. I guess I have nothing else to ask for in life or may be I am an easily contented person.

The Wat complex look very simple

This golden color Pagoda can be seen miles away

Three pagoda pass is only a few miles away from the Wat. Disappointment were written on the faces when we reached the famous Chedi Saam Uong (Three Pagada).

From this picture, you may be thinking that this pagoda is really majestic

I was hoping that the one in front of my eyes were a replica and the real one was further away. With the Myanmar Immigration next to them, these had got to be the real one. Tourism Authority of Thailand ought to be commended for an excellent job of promoting this place.

Compare with other objects hereby, you now have a better perspective of the size

The tour guide told me that there are controversies on who actually built the Chedi, and how many times it was destroyed and rebuilt.

The Myanmar immigration officers, having reasonable good command of English to converse with us, allowed us to cross over to Myanmar side to take some photographs of the Dead Railway tracks. For Malaysian, we still need a Visa to visit Myanmar but I heard that things are changing and ASEAN citizen will be allowed to visit Myanmar sans Visa from 2006 onwards.

Myanmar Checkpoint with a section of Dead Railway Track

Shouldn’t it be “Japanese Old Railway in Myanmar Thailand <1942>” like what American like to say “An American Canal in Panama”

Group Photo for the hero who reached the Peak. By now you will be able to guess which one is the author

The usual sight that is franking all border crossings is market selling cheap goods. There are a lot of Chinese products sold here beside the handicraft from Myanmar. I picked up a teak wood lantern for my home garden for about 200 bahts. There are too many souvenirs dotting my home now.

We headed for KanchanaBuri with a brief stop at a hot spring for a drip. From the bus station at KanchanaBuri, we took a bus to Bangkok arriving late in the evening.

Spending a night at a cheap but noisy hotel in Keosan Road, we took a NokAir flight the next morning to HaadYai and board another bus to Kuala Lumpur. That’s the end of the story on my trip. Thanks for the following.