Southeast Asia Travel Diaries: Kanchanaburi, Thailand

A couple of weeks ago I started blogging about our 2016 summer trip to Southeast Asia. After being super sick twice in a row, and getting past the whole Easter time rush, I’m looking forward to continue sharing more about our trip. So far I have only blogged about the things we saw and did in Bangkok, Thailand. Today I’m going to share about our time in Kanchanaburi, Thailand. Kanchanaburi is about a 2 to 2 1/2 hour drive away from Bangkok.

After eating our 7 eleven breakfast, the tour van picked us up from our hotel, and then stopped on Khao San Road to pick up more people. The van took us all the way to Kanchanaburi. The activities that we did the following days were all booked in advance as part of our tour, including our meals. Here are some of the things Kanchanaburi has to offer:   

6 Things to See and Do in Kanchanaburi, Thailand

1. Do Some Shopping at the Floating Market

The floating market is basically what its name suggests: a market located directly on the water. We took a paddle boat down the narrow water streets. This place was bustling with vendors sitting in their paddle boats, selling fresh fruit, grilled chicken, hats, ice cream, art, wood work, and many other things.

Kanchanaburi, Thailand Kanchanaburi, Thailand

The floating market was the perfect opportunity to buy a few local keepsakes, and enjoy some delicious food! We bought two absolutely beautiful coconut stir fry bowls and chopsticks. To this day they still have a delicious smoky smell to them. 

We also saw two huge snakes at the market. We didn’t take any pictures of them, but I’m pretty sure you were actually allowed to hold the snakes and take pictures of them for some money.

Another interesting experience I had was a lady coming up to me, putting some ointment on her fingers, and massaging my head out of nowhere. I didn’t allow her to continue for too long. I ended up watching the same case scenario unfold with another guy. He let her massage him, and before he knew it, she was trying to push him into buying the ointment. It is hard to resist a massage after all! Haha.

Kanchanaburi, Thailand Kanchanaburi, Thailand

After spending some time at the market, we took a motor boat to see the water village. I’m always curious about what it feels like for this to be your every day normal. I remember what I felt like when I first moved to Canada. There was this sort of magical feeling about living in a new place. So many places to explore, and just the newness of it all was exciting. As a tourist, you never get past that “new” feeling, so I’m always left to wonder what it is really like for the people living there every day. 

We saw this huge lizard just hanging out in the water!

A home in the water village

Kanchanaburi, Thailand Kanchanaburi, Thailand Kanchanaburi, Thailand Kanchanaburi, Thailand

The above picture gives you a better idea of just how busy and full of boats the water street was!

  

2. The Burma Railway Bridge Over River Kwai 

Following a delicious lunch, our tour van took us to a museum in Kanchanaburi. Kevin and I decided that we weren’t interested in the museum, and wandered around while waiting for the rest of the group. We found some refreshing coconut ice cream, and walked on the scenic Burma Railway Bridge instead.

Kanchanaburi, Thailand Kanchanaburi, Thailand

3. Take a Train Ride on the Death Railway

Getting a ride in this yellow, rustic train, is a memory I won’t be forgetting soon. It’s like going on a wild jungle ride a hundred years ago. The train had that old-rattling-wood feel to it, and it brought us to such scenic places and apparently also the most dangerous curve! We got to know a mother (Alicia) and her son (Gonzalo) from Chile on this ride, who we ended up seeing a fair bit over the next days.   

Sadly like in many other cases, forced labor was used in the construction of the Burma Railway. The workers were forcibly drafted by the Imperial Japanese army, and thousands of them died. You can read more about the construction of the Burma or Death Railway here.

Kanchanaburi, Thailand Kanchanaburi, Thailand Kanchanaburi, Thailand

4. Go for a Swim at Erawan Falls

Erawan falls is made up of seven falls! It takes a while to hike up all the way to the top falls, especially if you take a lot of time at every stop, like we did! You really should hike up all the way though, as the rock at the very top falls has deposits on it, making it easy to climb on. This is why they are called sticky falls. It’s truly bizarre! It feels like you should be slipping and falling, but you don’t! You simply climbed up in the midst of all the water running down. 

Erawan Falls, Thailand Kanchanaburi, Thailand Kanchanaburi, Thailand

Kevin went for a swim by the falls. I was content just dangling my feet in the water, as I don’t do deep water without life jackets. There were life jackets available though, if you’re wondering. Now, if you do dangle your feet in the water, the fish will come and nibble at your feet! I wasn’t the biggest fan of this, as it actually hurt some times! Those must be some angry fish! 😉 However, all you have to do is keep moving your feet, and they won’t bite you.  

Erawan Falls, Thailand

I was never able to figure out what the meaning was behind these colorful dresses displayed in nature. Do any of you have the answer? 

Erawan Falls, Thailand

We met this friend at the very top water falls. I took millions of pictures of him, and I’m pretty sure he thought I had lost my marbles! He was such a good sport about it though and just kept on doing his thing. But since I was so caught up taking pictures of this guy, I didn’t even take any pictures of the sticky waterfalls!

The return to our tour van wasn’t quite that much fun! We thought we were running late, or would barely make it back on time, so we gave it our all and started running back. Now keep in mind how hot it was. Needless to say, when we made it back to the van I felt half dead and quite light headed! It took me so long to recover too! Oh and did I mention that we were the first ones to arrive at the van and that we were meeting later than we thought?! Yeah, all that running for nothing! 

After enjoying a good lunch at a restaurant close to the waterfalls, the van dropped us off at a location where we rode and bathed with a 15 year old elephant named Allé (more on riding elephants later).

We ended our day by taking refreshing showers, doing some laundry by hand (we had to do laundry quite frequently as we were backpacking and brought a minimal amount of clothes), enjoying supper at our bungalow, and relaxing on some chairs outdoors. We were graced with some rain and lightning.  

5. Bamboo Rafting

The next morning started earlier than I had hoped. It took me a while to fall into a deep sleep because there was loud music playing till 2 am. To my surprise I woke up at 6 am to the sound of monk chanting and music. At this point I was SO tired that I couldn’t stop laughing at my fate. As annoyed as I was to wake up so early after only four hours of sleep, it was actually really nice to listen to the monk chanting and the music. I had hoped to have a more authentic experience and hear more Thai music and not the usual hot 103 songs, so this was my chance to see the true beautiful culture shining through.

Part of the tour was to go bamboo rafting down the river. After packing up our bags and enjoying a light breakfast, I enjoyed some hot cocoa while we relaxed on the raft, waiting to go bamboo rafting.

I don’t remember this man’s name. I will, however, always remember his gentle demeanor and how sweet and kind he was. He was the one navigating our bamboo raft. Later on when he saw me petting and interacting with a dog outside, he told me the story of how that same dog had saved his life when he got bitten by a poisonous snake in the jungle.  

Kanchanaburi, Thailand

The rafts were made out of bamboo logs. A motor boat pulled us quite a far ways up the river, and then we floated back. This was a pleasant experience, as we got to relax in the sun and dangle our feet in the water. Kevin decided to float/swim alongside the raft. We also met some other people from Thailand on the bamboo raft that had come out for a short vacation. 

The bamboo raft took us back to the place where we had bathed with the young elephant the previous day. This time we rode a huge 45 year old elephant. 

6. Take a Scenic Motor Boat Ride

After the elephant ride, a motor boat picked us up and took us on a scenic ride before dropping us off at our Bungalow. While we were waiting to be picked up by the boat we spend some time with a beautiful and colorful parrot. I’m pretty sure the people working there thought I was a little strange when they heard me whistling melodies to the little creature. But I don’t care. The parrot seemed really attentive and didn’t seem to mind it at all, as it became really calm. This parrot also had a thing for all things shiny! It wanted to peck at my watch and my ring!

Kanchanaburi, Thailand

Things NOT to Do:

Riding Elephants

If you visit Southeast Asia, you will soon realize that you have the opportunity to swim with and ride elephants and cuddle with tigers. I mean who doesn’t want to experience this! I was incredibly torn about this situation. Everyone wants “that picture” where you are riding a huge elephant and cuddling with a usually fierce tiger (not to mention the adorable cubs).

Kevin and I decided we were not going to visit the tiger kingdom (although it may have been closed at that time anyways). After much conflict in my mind, I had also decided it was best I didn’t ride an elephant. Yet, with our tour we ended up doing just that. It somehow seemed that out of all the places, the elephants were treated better here, they were allowed to take breaks after all, they were still in nature and not on hard pavement, yada yada yada. You can always find excuses to justify your selfish actions.

Well I’m here to tell you that I’m not proud that I took part in this, and in a future post I will write about a better alternative to riding elephants. Visiting an elephant sanctuary will still allow you to spend time with the elephants, but by taking care of them instead of taking advantage of them. However, you still have to make sure that the elephant sanctuary is not just another scam, and that they actually treat their elephants responsibly. If I ever go back I would love to visit an elephant sanctuary again, but I wouldn’t ride an elephant again. So for now I’m going to say shame on me!

You might be asking why it’s such a big deal to ride an elephant. They are big and strong creatures after all. The truth is that before they will let any human ride them, they are put through an awful taming/breaking process. This process is incredibly brutal. Baby elephants are taken from their mothers and beaten into submission. And the brutality doesn’t end here. An elephant’s back is not meant to carry heavy weight. If they carry a heavy cage, plus two heavy humans every day, hour after hour, it can cause them serious long term damage. So I’m here to make you aware of the reality of elephant tourism. It is not worth the picture! Therefore, I have decided not to share any of our elephant riding pictures, since that would just encourage more people to do it.

You can read more and see a video about elephant tourism and brutality here, here, and here (warning: video is graphic).

Kanchanaburi, Thailand Kanchanaburi, Thailand

Where to Stay

Floating Bungalows 

Kanchanaburi, Thailand

Our motto on this trip very quickly became “just go with the flow”. I sometimes have a difficult time adjusting my expectations, especially if plans change last minute. So, eventually our motto and a change in attitude helped me cope when things weren’t quite what I had expected. I find that when you travel you have to learn that things will often not be what they appear to be online. Every place shows only their best online, giving you a false impression.

When we arrived at the Floating Bungalows I felt disappointed at the simplicity of them. I had seen so many pictures online of beautiful bungalows, that initially these just didn’t seem to compare (unfortunately I don’t have the name of these particular bungalows). We did end up enjoying our stay though, as it was a unique experience. Since the bungalows are floating on the water, your whole room will dance to the rhythm of the waves if a motor boat comes rushing by. I definitely can’t say that I had experienced something like that before! Plus, I find that the rustic feel of these bungalows really fit in with the outdoor setting of the river and jungle.

I’m sure there are way nicer bungalows than the ones we stayed at (even some bungalows close by looked better), but we also wanted to keep the cost of our tour at a reasonable price. I posted some pictures below of what our bungalow room looked liked on the inside, to give you an idea. We enjoyed our stay and hanging out in the outdoor lounging area. We were gifted with a gorgeous and calming sunset. So yeah, I’d say these bungalows were very simple, but I highly recommend the experience, whether you stay in the more simple ones or the pricier and nicer ones. Just don’t sleep close to the lounging area, as the music will be loud till 2 am! I would recommend requesting a room further away.  

The really nice thing was that we always had the same room to come back to. We would do a day tour and then we would come back to the same place with all of our bags and stuff inside.

The area where we ate all of our meals and hung out

Kanchanaburi, Thailand     

What to Eat

Kanchanaburi, Thailand

Mango and sticky rice was probably my favorite dessert on our trip! We found this at the floating market, but it is sold everywhere! If you’ll like it as much as I did, eating it only one time simply won’t do! 

One of the bizarre but delicious fruits that we tried at the water market, was the above fruit, known as Mangosteen. 

We bought chicken drumlets on a stick from a lady at the water market. These were honestly to die for! I’m craving them SO badly right now!

The above two pictures give you an idea of the kind of food that is included with the tours (along with lots of rice). A lot of the tour food was delicious, and sometimes a little strange too. It was usually served home-style (everyone from the tour sitting around the table, sharing the dishes). This gives you the opportunity to meet new people. During this lunch, for instance, we met some awesome people from Spain, giving me the opportunity to practice my Spanish!   

Kanchanaburi, Thailand

Coconut ice cream! You will find that you are constantly craving cold and refreshing drinks and food. It is so incredibly hot and humid every stinkin’ day! Kevin and I decided to try some coconut ice cream in Kanchanaburi, while the people from our tour were visiting a museum. I liked the coconut ice cream, and definitely think you should try it. However, after a while, the texture of the soft coconut scraped from the coconut’s walls became a little strange. In the end, it was cold, therefore good.

All of our meals were included while staying at the Floating Bungalows. The food was served buffet style. I particularly enjoyed this warm tapioca dessert pudding/soup. I’m gonna say it was made with coconut milk. So if you see anything that looks similar, make sure to give it a try. 

That basically sums up our awesome time in Kanchanaburi! Thank you for following along! Have any of you my lovely readers been to Thailand? What kind of places did you visit?

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One comment

  1. Wow, very interesting! Good you got to experience all of it.

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