From the bustle of metropolitan Bangkok to the secluded beaches of the country’s many islands, Thailand has so much to offer visitors. Yet few first time travellers make it out to lesser-known provinces beyond the capital, it’s the PR machine for oh so cool Thailand running on overdrive. You can still go to Thailand but you can escape the overdrawn, over trodden backpacking routes somehow. It ain’t all about Khaosan Road…
Kanchanaburi Province, west of Bangkok, is home to some of Thailand’s most iconic sights such as the River Kwai and Death Railway, as well as stunning natural beauty, unique cuisine and welcoming locals. Further south travellers will find remote fishing communities and concealed jungle retreats! Here are some of the top things to see and do in these lesser-known corners of Thailand.
Photo credit: Crossing the border into Laos as seen on Insider Journeys
1.Erawan National Park
This iconic National Park, famous for the Erawan Falls, is a must-see while in Kanchanaburi Province. After a gentle hike to the top of this seven tier waterfall, travellers can enjoy a refreshing swim in one the many emerald-green pools. The park is open year-round, and on the lower tiers picnics can be enjoyed in the lush green surrounds, where monkeys, deer and wild boar can be spotted among the vegetation.
2.Visit Elephants World Sanctuary
Kanchanaburi is home to the Elephants World Sanctuary, where travellers can interact with the endangered Asian elephant in a responsible way. This non-profit organisation was established in 2008 to care for rescued and abused elephants, and is a great way to support the plight of the Asian elephant while travelling in Thailand. The sanctuary is available to visit for the day, or as part of a longer package.
3.The Death Railway and Hellfire Pass
A visit to these iconic historical sites is a must while in Kanchanaburi Province. The Death Railway was constructed during WWII by Prisoners of War, and the infamous Hellfire Pass saw particularly heavy loses. Today, it is home to a fascinating museum and educational centre for travellers to understand these little-known historical events. Visitors can also ride the Death Railway, for stunning views of the River Kwai and surrounding jungle.
4. The Bridge on the River Kwai
In 1942, Kanchanaburi was under Japanese occupation and this iconic bridge was constructed by Prisoners of War. Made famous by the book and the 1950s film adaptation, it is well worth visiting while in Kanchanaburi. Close by, there is also a memorial and the famous Kanchanaburi War Cemetery for those wanting to delve deeper into the history.
5. Night markets
Having explored the unique natural beauty and historical significance of the province, remember that Kanchanaburi is an ideal place to shop for textiles and crafts. Kanchanaburi hosts several night markets, and the cooler temperatures of early evening make this an ideal time to make those essential purchases, as well as sample the region’s incredible street food. Afterwards, travellers are perfectly placed to enjoy a drink or dinner afterwards in one of the towns many bars and restaurants.
6. Koh Klang and Elephant Hills at Khao Sok
Islands aside, the south of Thailand is often missed. However, travellers venturing south of Bangkok can look forward to fewer tourists and incredible natural beauty. For wonderful sea views, charming locals and plenty of space, head to Koh Klang. This small seaside resort (with an abundance of delicious, regional seafood) just off the Andaman Sea is covered by thousands of acres of mangrove forest.
Khao Sok National Park is an absolute treasure and home to the inimitable Elephant Hills Rainforest Camp. With a complete focus sustainability, the camp is a leading institution for the protection of the now rare Asian Elephants. However, being set in the heart of Thailand’s largest rainforest, you can look forward to seeing many other local species, from deer to birds. On the Sok River, you can canoe and explore the many limestone islands. Being a specialist camp, guests can draw on truly expert advice delivered by authoritative local guides.
7. Border crossings
Bangkok is one of the world’s busiest airports, with onward flights to Sydney, Bhutan and Japan. However, Thailand is also perfectly places to enjoy the rest of South East Asia as you might have read on some of my border crossings. For many travellers this means flying through to Myanmar, Cambodia or Vietnam. However, for those looking to avoid aircraft and enjoy a truly authentic border crossing, the travel to Chiang Rai and take a 2-day slow-boat river cruise into Laos. Leaving northern Thailand, travellers can look forward to wonderful scenery and a chance to watch local life unfold on the banks of the Mekong River. What better way to enter the UNESCO protected town of Luang Prabang?
So escape the lures of Bangkok and enjoy the rest of Thailand and South East Asia.