Scootering Around Kanchanaburi

See full gallery
Table of Contents

When you mention scooter and Thailand in the same sentence, most people get a little nervous. When we told a Thai friend's mom that we would be scootering around Kanchanaburi, the first thing she said was "Why would you go to Kanchanaburi?" followed by "Wait, YOU ARE RENTING A SCOOTER?!?".  

Reasons to Travel to Kanchanaburi?

Kanchanaburi is a quiet riverside town located about 150KM west of Bangkok. It is a gateway to both Sai Yok National Park and Erawan National Park.  For those seeking some adventure, Thai history, and a getaway from the hustle and bustle of Bangkok, this is an ideal destination.

We chose to visit Kanchanaburi to experience the countryside of Thailand, explore the famous Death Railway, cross the bridge over River Kwai, and hike Erawan Waterfalls.

Bangkok to Kanchanaburi by Train

I know, I know, the title says 'Scootering Around Kanchanaburi'. But we had to get to Kanchanaburi first. Turns out the train to Kanchanaburi is rather famous. There were lots of people waiting for the train, and as it rolled in, everyone pulled out their smart phones/cameras to take a photo. I believe the train is famous to the western world because of some old movie called "The Bridge on the River Kwai". The movie came out in 1957. I haven't personally seen the movie, but apparently it was a big thing when it came out.  

For Thai people (and other SE Asians) on the other hand, the train and railway are famous for a different reason. They hold a historical and somewhat sentimental value to them. Crazy numbers of people died during the construction of the railway during the Second World War. Not a super cheery topic, but you can read more about it on Wikipedia if you are interested.  

The train also happens to be the cheapest mode of transportation from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi (฿100 baht one way). Other options (which are probably more comfortable) are taking a coach bus or a mini-bus (a big van).  The train was actually pretty uncomfortable. The seats were hard, the train lurched lots, it stopped at every station, and the only form of ventilation was the open windows. Normally, you think that open windows are great. Well, I guess I would take open vs closed, but Kanchanaburi is one of the hottest regions of Thailand, so it was just hot air in your face. Who am I kidding, most of Thailand is hot. I'm also particularly bad with heat, which is why I complain about it a lot. If you are ok with 36 Deg. C, just ignore my heat complaints for the rest of the post.

Train to Kanchanaburi from Bangkok information: The train to Kanchanaburi departs from Thon Buri Station (as oppose to Bangkok's main train station, Hua Lamphong). To get to Kanchanaburi, you want to get on the "ordinary" train heading to Namtok at 7:50AM (train #251) or 1:55PM (train #259). Train tickets are ฿100 one way and can only be purchased at the station.

Train to Bangkok from Kanchanaburi information: There are only two daily trains from Kanchanaburi back to Bangkok (Thon Buri Station). The first (train #260) departs from Kanchanburi Station at 7:19AM and the second (train #258) departs from Kanchanaburi Station at 2:48PM. Tickets are ฿100 each - can be purchased on the train.  

Where We Stayed in Kanchanaburi

Based on what our Thai friends were saying about Kanchanaburi, we assumed that there would be no tourists. They made it sound like a hot and desolate region. To be fair, that is actually a pretty apt description. However, there were tons of tourists. In fact, the place we booked happened to be on "tourist row". An entire street (Maenamkwai Rd) that catered to foreigners. Everyone spoke English, a taxi would try to pick you up every 2 minutes, and there were more bars and coffee shops than you could shake a stick at.

Our lovely accommodation was located right on the river. We thought that it would be super cool to stay in a bamboo hut that was actually over water. I had assumed that it was supported by stilts. Turns out they just took old oil barrels and used them to float the structure. This made things rather interesting. Every time a boat would go by, our hut would bob up and down. It was a pretty fun experience, however, there was no AC (I mean, it was only $17 CAD/night). Trying to sleep when it is 36 Deg. C is rather difficult. The other on-land bungalows that you could rent from the same place had AC.  

Renting a Scooter

Ahhh, we are finally here. The real purpose of this post. Our nice scooter that took us so many places. We decided that we wanted to see a couple things while in Kanchanabui - Erawan falls and the portion of the railroad where the train in by the river. We could have taken red taxi trucks, but they would have wanted a tidy sum of money for taking us to these destinations. Plus, we wanted to see the train by the river in the early morning. I think we had to wake up a 5:15AM to start that trek. Anyway, the conclusion was that a scooter was the best method of transportation.

Google told us that there was a place called "200B Motorbike Rent". Sounded like a deal to me. Last scooter rental cost 250฿ in Kuraburi. The Google reviews were also very good - said a nice auntie was the owner. I think the location on google maps might be slightly off, but we found the "shop" eventually.

The rental shop seemed like it was run out of a house - typical Asia?.  Google was right. There was a nice auntie who ran the business, and her older white associate. Married perhaps? Not sure. Regardless, the 200฿ got us the scooter for 24 hours, and we just had to fill up the gas we used. We also had to hand over 1 piece of I.D. so Nancy gave up her B.C. I.D. card. One of those pieces of ID that are handy, but if stolen it wouldn't be the end of the world.

Scooter Rental Information: As mentioned above, we rented an automatic scooter for 200 ฿  for 24 hours from a place called "200B Motorbike Rent" (Google's location of the business is not 100% accurate, so here is the approximate location of the shop). The rental included two helmets, a pad lock and a full tank of gas. The shop required us to fill out a form with basic information, pay the rental cost upfront, and hand over some form of ID as a deposit. Other than that, we were good to go. As usual, the scooter was to be returned with full tank of gas. As a general note, there are many places in town that offer car and scooter rental services, especially along Maenamkwai Rd, so take your pick!

Look Mom, I'm Scootering Around Kanchanaburi

But seriously, this isn't something to be telling your mother about. If your mom is anything like mine (worries a lot, over protective, nags, sometimes lectures - you know, typical Asian mom), this would probably just give her more grey hairs (which you will be blamed for).

See The Death Railway by Scooter

This is one of the places we really wanted to visit. There is a nice section where the train meanders alongside a river. It is build up on a trestle that hugs the side of the mountain. This is also a section that you can walk along - when the train isn't coming haha. We also had our drone with us in Kanchanaburi, meaning that we could potentially get a shot of the train from a perspective that most people don't see.

This particular section of track was also about 50 min. away from our accommodation by scooter. For those of you who haven't tried it, riding a scooter for 50 min. isn't super comfortable. You would also think that 27 Deg. C you wouldn't be cold. Well, apparently wind chill is real. I thought that it would be warm, but early in the morning with no direct sunlight, coupled with windchill, it was actually really cold. This might sound ridiculous, but I saw someone wearing a down jacket.

Timing your visit with the train @ River Kwai Bridge: There are only a few trains scheduled each day. Visit the famous bridge at these times to catch a train passing: 6:15AM (westbound), 7:32AM (eastbound), 10:44AM (westbound), 2:40PM (eastbound), 4:33PM  (westbound), 5:31PM  (eastbound). NOTE: the times provided are approximate times based on the train schedule, arrive early to ensure you don't miss the moment!

Timing your visit with the train @ The Death Railway: The famous Death Railway section is between Lumsum Station and Thamkra Sae Station. Just like the River Kwai Bridge section, the train only passes the death railway part only a few times a day. To time your visit with a train, visit the following times: 6:00AM (westbound), 7:34AM (eastbound), 1:40PM (westbound), 11:47AM (eastbound), 4:13PM (westbound), 5:47PM (eastbound). NOTE: the times provided are approximate times based on the train schedule, arrive early to ensure you don't miss the moment!

Erawan Falls by Scooter

The other place we really wanted to visit was Erawan Falls. It should be noted that Erawan falls is not close to the Death Railway. It took us another hour and fifteen minutes on the scooter to get to the falls. We had really sore butts. Entry fee was 300฿ per person + scooter fee (20฿). So in total we paid 620฿ for the two of us on one scooter.

Erawan Falls is a really beautiful place. There are a total of 7 different waterfalls in the park. Each of them more beautiful than the previous. Nah, not actually. I think the beauty peaks somewhere at waterfall 4 or 5. We didn't bother going any further haha (it is hard to appreciate waterfalls after going to Iceland).

In these waterfalls you will also find lots of fish. These fish aren't what you expect, they will swim up to you and nibble on your deadskin!! We had a nice foot pedicure while enjoying the waterfalls.

For anyone who is worried about their physical condition - the hike is not difficult. If you take it slow, there shouldn't be any issues, even if you are fairly unfit. The first waterfall is actually pretty close to the park entrance. There might even be a golf cart service to get you there.

Erawan Falls is the 12th National Park of Thailand. It's worth noting that the Thai government is very strict when it comes to preserving their national parks. There are a handful of park rangers throughout the park to enforce a no plastic and food policy beyond waterfall #2. As a result, many people choose to picnic and hang out at waterfall #2.

If you read our 3 Weeks in Thailand update, you will know that this is also the place where I found wild boars sleeping by the urinals.

Erawan Falls Park Information: Park opens 8AM to 4:30PM everyday, all year round. Food is strictly prohibited beyond the 2nd waterfall, and all plastic bottles brought beyond the 2nd waterfall will require a 20 ฿  deposit. Entrance fee is 300 ฿  for foreigners (200 ฿  for children), 20 ฿  for motorbike and 30 ฿  for car. Park is accessible via car/motorbike, bus, or private tours.

The Gem Trade

When you get off the train by the Bridge on the River Kwai, there is a market around it. Clearly aimed at tourists. They sell a ton of gems, gold, and jewelry. Almost 100% sure it is all fake. How would these stall owners afford expensive goods? This made me curious as to why they were all selling gems. Turns out, a lot of sapphires are mined not far from there, and that Bangkok is one of the major hubs of the global gem trade. In fact...the Silom district (where we had our apartment in Bangkok) is famous for gems. After our trip to Kanchanaburi, we actually went there and I found what I believe to be one of the most reputable businesses in the area. Our friend, Joe, even bought a couple sapphires there to make into earrings for his girlfriend.  

Gems in Bangkok

It was really cool looking at the gems up close. It was also nice that all the gems had their associated price tags on them (the white owner said there was no haggling. The price indicated was what you paid). I found it super interesting to see the different grades of gems and how much the price changed based on quality. I compared two rubies. One with an imperfection in the middle of the stone, and one that would be considered very good quality. The gemologist at the store looked at the two with me. She said "I would buy the one with the flaw in the middle. Once it is set, no one would even notice the flaw, and you save yourself a lot of money". I didn't buy it. I was just curious. Wasn't about to drop $600 USD/ct. on a 2.4 ct. ruby. Sorry Nancy.

Kanchanaburi: Post Trip Thoughts

After our 3-day-2-night trip to Kanchanaburi, we were sad to leave the country side of Thailand but very happy to escape the heat. The length of our trip was very appropriate to see a lot of the attractions around town, but because of the heat and the distance between attractions, we were not able to bring ourselves to explore as much as we wanted.

For future visitors, we would recommend taking the train at least once from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi, or from Kanchanaburi to Namtok. The train ride itself is a highlight in experiencing Kanchanaburi, however, the ride is long and if taken in the afternoon, can be gruelingly hot. Our train rides to and from Kanchanaburi took up a large amount of our time (each way is 3+hr.). This meant we had less time to explore Kanchanaburi.

To the nature seeking, and waterfall chasing adventurers, we recommend hiring a mini-bus for the day to take you around town. Taking the mini-bus is not the most cost-effective solution if you were travelling alone, or in pair, but it is great if you are in a group of four to six. I know this may not seem as fun as exploring on a scooter, but it will save you time (cars are faster than scooter on the road) and save your body from buttaches and sun burns.

Surrounding attractions

Because the heat got the better of us and we did not have enough time or energy to explore more, we had to cross out some attractions on our list. Below are some of places we would've liked to visit. Check them out!

Table of Contents