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Kanchanaburi - Thailand

Kanchanaburi Bridge on the River KwaiRaft Houses, Kanchanaburi

Kanchanaburi is a small town located a couple of hours west of Bangkok.  The riverside location is really peaceful teeming with wildlife and having some stunning sunsets.  There's also lots to do in the surrounding mountainous countryside.

Stretched out along the river Kwae, the town is split into distinct sections.  The main foreign tourist area stretches alongside the river with many of the guesthouses offering river raft rooms.  These are very basic but provide an incredibly peaceful setting with sunning views and the chance to watch kingfishers and monitor lizards in their natural surroundings.  The peace is only disturbed by the occasional longtail boat ferrying tourists around and the bizarre karakoe rafts being towed noisly up and down the river.

There's a narrow strip of bars and restaurants catering to tourists and many expats who visit for the weekend from Bangkok.  Further north of the tourist strip is the permenant jewellery market – Kanchanaburi is a major border crossing for the gem trade from Burma – and the famous Bridge over the River Kwae (Kwai).  The bridge is more symbolic than impressive looking, but you can walk over it to get a better view of the river itself.

The Death Railway begins its journey from Kanchanaburi, while Erawan National Park is just a short bus journey away.  Longtail boats can take you on a (fast and scary!) tour of several other local attractions, including different views of the bridge and the sobering war cemetry.  The strangest is probably Wat Than Khoe Pun – a cave temple filled with narrow passageways, Buddha images and even giant fig roots dangling into the caves from holes way above.

Kanchanaburi is a great place to unwind – it's close to Bangkok so doesn't involve a lengthy journey – and the riverside setting is one of Thailand's best places to relax.

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