Only about 25 kilometers from the Burmese border, set amongst the mountains blanketed in lush jungle Sangkhlaburi lies off the well-trodden path that most take around this spectacular country. A place with few foreigners, but instead many Thai tourists escaping the cities come here as an almost secret getaway. Home to serene picturesque landscape, both ruined temples as well as more modern, local markets and a quiet, slower pace of life. If you’ve been to Thailand before and looking for something away from the norm or just simply want to stay away from the generic destinations, I highly recommend making the trip.
Once here the best way to get around by far is via scooter for 200 Baht a day (rent at P Guesthouse). The surrounding area of the town is absolutely beautiful to simply just cruise around for the afternoon regardless of the sights. The short yet scenic ride to the border not only gives you the chance to peer into Myanmar, but it is home to the Three Pagoda Pass. The border once open for visa runs, though I believe now it has been closed for some time. On the way there is the small Takian Thong Waterfall worth the quick stop. We were the only ones there except for the two children that ‘guided’ us down the short path from the road.
The town itself is centered on the Sapan Mon Bridge connecting the main part of the town with the Mon village across the lake. The bridge is 850m long and I believe the third longest wooden foot bridge in the world after U-Bein Bridge in Myanmar and the Hourai Bridge in Japan. On the Mon side there is a daily morning market that is best and most active in the very early hours. Just beyond the village, still within walking distance, but much more easily reached by scooter are Wat Wang Wiwekaram and Buddhakaya Chedi which looms over the area.
Anywhere around or along the bridge a boat can be hired to take you across the lake to the ‘sunken’ temple. Whether it is sunken or not depends on the levels of the water which change significantly with the season. There is three in total all in ruins and the boats cost 300 Baht to visit one and 500 Baht for all three. Alternatively, P Guesthouse rents canoes for 150 Baht for the afternoon for a slow relaxing paddle around.
Where to EAT – P Guesthouse has a pretty nice restaurant in the front and just up the road is Baan Unrak Bakery, which doubles as a small gift shop. The proceeds from the baked goods go to a charitable cause for destitute women and children. In my opinion though the best places to eat are the Mon market for breakfast where much can be found. Myself, I had fluffy and crispy Burmese pancakes that a lady was making on the corner and a delicious bowl of Mohinga from a small stall with only a few seats. For dinner, head to the night market not from the bus station where the selection broadens to multiple local Thai dishes.
Where to Stay – I would recommend P Guesthouse for a few reasons. Not only do they rent scooters and canoes, but the rooms and property are beautiful. Stone walled a/c and fan rooms on the hill lead down halfway to the lake. The vista spans out over the lake, with the bridge to the right and is exceptional in the morning when the mist still clings to the mountains. You my want to book ahead as it is quite a popular place.
How to get there – Minibuses from Kanchanaburi bus station leave regularly through the day for 175 Baht, although you might suffer from a luggage charge. Another option is renting a bike and riding the 3-4 journey along the winding roads.