Western Thailand Travel
(Mountains, Plains And Beaches)

Kanchanaburi Province 

There are a number of western Thailand travel destinations that are definitely worth visiting including the provinces of Kanchanaburi, Phetchaburi, and Ratchaburi.  While there are six geographical regions in Thailand to explore Kanchanaburi is particularly special for those people interested in history.  Located only 120 kilometres west of Bangkok, Kanchanaburi was built in a strategic location as a confluence town where the Kwae Noi and Kwae Yai Rivers converge to form the Mae Klong River.

HISTORY

However, the earliest settlement of this region dates back around 800 years to the Ayutthaya period, as evidenced by the Wat Pa Lelai temple. This ancient temple with its large sitting Buddha which is located approximately 20 kilometres away at Suphan Buri suggests that this border town had prospered during the 13th century.

Today this beautiful province (which has a population of approximately 52,000 people) is defined more by its natural beauty that inlcudes steep rugged mountains and waterfalls (including Erawan Falls) that open out into a broad plain that faces southeast into the Gulf of Thailand.

However, apart from the natural beauty which is showcased within the Erawan National Park, Kanchanaburi feels like a sleepy river-side town that is built around a number of historical sites and buildings that relate to WW2 when this area was under the control of the Empire of Japan.

During this period (i.e 1941-1945) the Japanese utilised both Allied POWs and forced Asian labour to construct the infamous Thailand to Burma Railway and Death Railway Bridge. Today these popular tourist sites provide an important insight into the lives of the Allied POWs that worked and died here. Hence, Kanchanaburi has some of the best places to visit within western Thailand.

These places include the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery (see picture above that opens daily between the hours of 8 AM and 6 PM), the Chongkai War Cemetery, the Bridge on the River Kwai, the Jeath War Museum (see picture below that opens daily between the hours of 8.30 AM and 6 PM) and the World War 2 Museum and Art Gallery (located adjacent to the Bridge on the River Kwai).

Apart from sightseeing at the locations noted above, Kayaking is also available at Kanchanaburi for those wish to engage in different outdoor activities. The Safarine company rents Kayak's along Taiwan Road close to the River Kwai Bridge.

As Kanchanaburi is a quiet town its accommodation, dining, shopping and entertainment options are quite limited. There are a number of guesthouses situated along Mae Nam Kwai Road that cater towards the budget minded tourist while the larger resorts are situated outside of town and more along the river.

While there are only a couple of restaurants (including the Daily Club Restaurant which opens daily between 8 AM and 8 PM) and massage shops, there are a few cheap beer bars which seem to cater towards the backpackers.

GETTING THERE

The best way to travel to Kanchanaburi within western Thailand is by either bus or train. Buses depart daily from Bangkok's Southern Bus Terminal located in Thonburi district regularly between the hours of 5 AM and 10 PM with the journey taking approximately 2 hours.

Trains depart Bangkok's Thonburi Train Station daily at 7.45 AM and 1.45 PM. The journey takes around 3 hours. Additionally, a number of tour companies in Bangkok also operate daily services by mini-van that take visitors to Kanchanaburi and directly to the Bridge on the River Kwai.

Once at Kanchanaburi Railway Station (see image below) tuk tuks, motorcycle taxi's and songthaews (i.e. converted utility/pickup trucks) can transport you around the town or to more outlying areas.

The Bridge on the River Kwai (Western Thailand)

The Bridge on the River Kwai or 'Death Railway' as it has come to be known is one of the most popular western Thailand travel destinations being situated approximately 3 kilometres north of Kanchanaburi province.

Construction on the railway commenced back in June of 1942 when Thailand including Kanchanaburi was under the control of the Empire of Japan. Both Allied WW2 POWs along with forced Asian laborer's were utilised to build the infamous Burmese Railway which also included a number of bridges.

One of these was "Bridge 277" which was built over the Mae Klong River in Kanchanaburi (and made famous by the 1957 British WW2 based film named "Bridge on the River Kwai" by David Lean).

Today though, this bridge symbolizes the harsh and inhumane treatment encountered by both POWs and forced Asian laborer's who worked on the Death Railway during WW2 (Click here to read more).

GETTING THERE

The best way to travel to Kanchanaburi within western Thailand is by either bus or train. Buses depart daily from Bangkok's Southern Bus Terminal located in Thonburi district regularly between the hours of 5 AM and 10 PM with the journey taking approximately 2 hours.

Trains depart Bangkok's Thonburi Train Station daily at 7.45 AM and 1.45 PM. The journey takes around 3 hours. Additionally, a number of tour companies in Bangkok also operate daily services by mini-van that take visitors to Kanchanaburi and directly to the Bridge on the River Kwai.

Death Railway Museum (Western Thailand)

Another popular tourist attraction at Kanchanaburi and within western Thailand is the Death Railway Museum and Research Centre which is one of three such museums in Thailand.

This particular museum which is housed within a two-story building was completed back in 2003 and provides historical information and exhibits regarding the Thailand to Burma railway which was built by Allied POWs and forced Asian labor between 1942-43. The building which also includes a couple of souvenir/coffee shops and toilet facilities is located in close proximity to the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery.

Apart from the exhibits and models which depict the lives of those prisoners who worked on the railway, the museum also includes a library which has a collection of maps, books, photographs, historical documents and over 105,000 personal records of the serviceman who worked on the Thailand to Burma railway in the western region of Thailand. Each of these resources that have been carefully collected provide an important historical record regarding the events surrounding the construction of the Death Railway.

GETTING THERE

The museum is located in Kanchanaburi close to the Bridge over the River Kwai.

Erawan National Park (Western Thailand)

The Erawan National Park was designated back in 1975 as Thailand's 12th national park and is one of the most scenic locations within both Kanchanaburi province and western Thailand. Set out over 550 square kilometres and located approximately 70 kilometres from Kanchanaburi town this popular national park has a number of spectacular natural features as a result of its steep mountain peaks and sheer limestone cliffs.

These natural features include four limestone caves named Wang Badan, Rua, Mi and Phratat and they include both stalagmite and stalactite formations (see images below).  There is also the amazing seven-tiered Erawan Water Fall (Click here to read more).

GETTING THERE

The best way to travel to the national park is by taking a bus from Kanchanaburi which run about every hour between 8 AM and 5.20 PM (although the last bus back to Kanchanaburi is at 4 PM sharp). Alternatively, you can take a day tour to Erawan National Park via a tour operator in Bangkok. These bus tours normally arrive at the park around 10.30 AM.


The Erawan National Park is open daily between the hours of 8 AM and 4 PM. There is an entrance fee of 200 baht for adults and 100 baht for children.

Phetchaburi Province (Western Thailand)

Another beautiful western Thailand travel destination is the province known as Phetchaburi.  Located approximately 160 kilometres southwest of Bangkok this province is situated along the border of the central and western regions of Thailand. Due to its location, Phetchaburi also borders the country of Myanmar in the west and the Gulf of Thailand in the east.

HISTORY

Covering an area of some 6,225 square kilometres Phetchaburi (which means city of diamonds) is said to be one of Thailand's oldest settlements, dating back to the 8th century when it was inhabited by the Mon people. The prangs of Wat Kamphaeng Laeng temple highlight that the Khmer also settled in this region during the 12th century.

Hence, due to its long history, Phetchaburi has a number of ancient temples which reflect the different periods of occupation and a royal palace (called Khao Wang) that was built in 1860 by Rama IV near Phetchaburi city.

However, Phetchaburi is more than just a province steeped in history as this is a region that offers tourists a variety of attractions including the natural beauty of the Kaeng Krachan National Park (Thailand's largest national park which covers nearly half of the province) to the sand and surf found at its beaches along its 80 kilometre eastern coastline (including Hat Chao Samran and Cha-Am Beach).

While the landscape of Phetchaburi region is mostly flat its water source (i.e. from the Phetchaburi River) originates within the Tenasserim Hills in the Kaeng Krachan National Park. The river meanders its way through Phetchaburi city along a 210 kilometre course into the Bay of Bangkok.

Phetchaburi is not a large town, therefore the selection of shops and entertainment is somewhat limited. There is a market, a variety of bars and restaurants which serve traditional Thai cuisine and a Big C Hypermarket that includes a selection of shops along with a couple of pizza shops and a KFC.

While visiting Phetchaburi make sure you should try their famous Thai dessert known as Khanom Thai which is a sweet finger food made from several ingredients including coconut, palm sugar, egg and flour. There are no metered taxi's in Phetchaburi so the best way to get around is by tuk tuk or motorcycle taxi.

GETTING THERE

The best way to travel to Phetchaburi is to take an express bus from Bangkok's Southern Bus Terminal (on platform 6) located on Borom Rachachonnani Road at Sai Tai Tailing Chan (see picture below). The journey from Bangkok to the Phetchaburi Bus Terminal takes approximately two hours.

Cha-Am Beach (Western Thailand)


Cha-Am Beach is a world class holiday destination that is located only 170 kilometres southwest of Bangkok.  Cha-Am is a district of the Phetchaburi province which sits along the border separating central and western Thailand. The Phetchaburi coastline including Cha-Am is definitely one of Thailand's premier locations due to its lovely beaches that have clean white sand, clear blue waters, shady pine trees and of course, the close proximity to Bangkok.

This one time remote fishing village now provides a good balance between popular beach activities and relaxation which are both provided in abundance at this beach.  With  thinly spread hotels close to it's foreshores and plenty of tranquil and secluded locations for couples and families along its kilometres of beach space, it is easy to find the perfect atmosphere at Cha-Am (Click here to read more).

GETTING THERE

There are a number of ways to travel to from Bangkok to Cha-Am Beach including by plane, train or bus. Trains depart Bangkok's Hualamphong train station daily at 9.20 AM and 3.35 PM with the journey taking about 4 hours. The train station at Cha-Am is located approximately 2 kilometres from the beach so you will need to take a taxi from the train station to complete the journey.

Buses from Bangkok's Southern (Sai Tai) Bus Station depart daily between the hours of 5 AM and 10 PM with the journey taking approximately 3 hours.

Flights from Bangkok (i.e. from Don Mueang Airport) to Hua Hin (located 25 kilometres from Cha-Am) are available via Solar Air who have flights on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 4 PM. Flight time is around 30 minutes with a cost of about 2,700 baht for adults.

Kaeng Krachan National Park (Western Thailand)

Kaeng Krachan National Park is located approximately 53 kilometres west of Phetchaburi city and approximately 115 kilometres from Bangkok.  The national park which opened back in June 1981 is Thailand's largest, covering an area of some 2,915 square kilometres and is situated within the rugged granite Tanaosri mountain range.

This is one of Thailand's most ecologically diverse national parks  incorporating pristine rainforests, waterfalls, caves, and rugged mountain ranges (which peak at approximately 1200 metres above sea level) and the picturesque Kaeng Krachan reservoir lake.  This man made lake is a marvel in itself covering an area of approximately 46 square kilometres with a water capacity of some 710 milliion cubic metres (Click here to read more).

GETTING THERE

The best way to travel to the Kaeng Krachan National Park from Petchaburi city is by songtaew (i.e. taxi).  The journey is about 53 kilometres and will cost around 600 baht each way, which will get you to the park entrance and if you wish to travel further to your campsite etc it will cost extra.. 

Santorini Park (Western Thailand)

The Santorini Park is one of the newest amusement parks within  the Cha-Am district having officially opened on May 5 2012.  This new complex is said to have been architecturally inspired by Santorini Island in Greece with many of the buildings having a very Mediterranean feel to them with their white and blue colour combination.  As Cha-Am is itself a  city by the sea the theme seems to work quite well. 

This relatively small amusement park combines boutique style shopping with fun rides, restaurants, cafe's and other activities to create what the owners of the 500 million baht amusement park term as 'an amused shopping experience' (Click here to read more).

GETTING THERE

The Santorini Park is located along Petchakasem Road in the Cha-Am district.  The park opens daily from 10 AM to 8 PM Monday to Friday and 10 AM to 10 PM on Saturday and Sunday with an entrance fee of 50 baht.  The best way to travel there is by bus or taxi.   

Mrigadayavan Palace (Western Thailand)

Mrigadayavan Palace is a glorious beach-side property that is located adjacent to Bang Kra Beach which is situated between the towns of Cha-Am and Hua Hin within western Thailand.  This large royal complex contains no fewer than 16 teak buildings that were constructed for King Rama VI (i.e. Vajiravudh 1910-1925) back in 1923 as his summer residence. 

This palace is built on prime beachfront land and is surrounded by meticulously kept lawns and gardens which is what you would expect at a royal residence (Click here to read more).

GETTING THERE

Mrigadayavan Palace is located within the Rama VI Military Camp approximately 10 kilometres south from Cha-Am town, and approximately 14 kilometres north of Hua Hin town along Petchkasem Road. Thus, a taxi is the best way to get there.

Mrigadayavan Palace is open daily to the public (every day except for Wednesdays) between the hours of 8.30 AM until 4.30 PM. Dress codes apply so long sleeves and pants for men and no short skirts for ladies. Shoes are to be removed on entry.

Prachuap Khiri Khan Province
(Western Thailand)

Located along the Malay Peninsula within western Thailand is the coastal province of Prachuap Khiri Khan. This province which is approximately 212 kilometres in length and 10 kilometres in width covers a total area of some 6,300 square kilometres and shares its western border with Myanmar (i.e. Burma) while its eastern coast looks out over the Gulf of Thailand (see map below).

Being geographically diverse, the province contains a number of natural tourist attractions from clean white beaches, islands and bays to rugged mountains and forests.

HISTORY

Prachuap Khiri Khan has an interesting history being one of western  Thailand's first seashore destinations for their royal family and kings. The province was widely used prior to the Ayutthaya period when it was known as Muang Bang Nong Rom but was then abandoned for a period of time.

The city (which is located approximately 80 kilometres south of Hua Hin, and 205 kilometres south of Bangkok) was later rebuilt and renamed during the reign of King Rama IV (1851-1868) to be known as Mueang Prachuap Khiri Khan or "the city of mountains". Prachuap Khiri Khan once again became a popular seaside resort during the life of King Rama V (1853-1910).

Today, this province (which has an agricultural industry based upon crops such as rice, pineapples and coconuts) has become a popular seaside getaway especially for Thai Bangkokians who seek a more relaxed holiday destination to the noisy foreign tourist places such as Ko Samui and Pattaya.

The town of Prachuap Khirri Khan looks out over Phrachuap Bay which is a great place to buy the fresh and inexpensive seafood which this town is well known for. However, if you are interested in visiting the beach it is best to visit the beaches to the north at Hua Hin and Cha-Am although still within western Thailand.

GETTING THERE

The best way to travel to Prachuap Khirri Khan including Hua Hin is by either train or bus. The State Railway of Thailand offers a number of daily services to provinces within western Thailand.  Trains   depart Bangkok for Prachuap Khiri Khan at the Hualamphong Station. My wife and I traveled to Hua Hin in 2010 by train and took an overnight sleeper carriage for approximately $40.

Buses depart Bangkok's Southern Bus Terminal daily and travel to Prachuap Khirri Khan and Hua Hin daily.

Huan Hin Beach (Western Thailand)

All Hua Hin Beaches are known for their white sand and brilliant sunrises but it is Main Beach which is the most beautiful and family friendly in my view. Located within the Prachuap Khirri Khan province, Hua Hin's Main Beach provides visitors with a 7 kilometre  stretch of soft white sand that merges with the clear blue waters of the Gulf of Thailand.  Main Beach begins from about the Hua Hin town centre and stretches around to the neighbouring Khao Takiap.  

While the beach is is located conveniently close to a number of quality  hotels including the Hilton, Marriott and Sofitel, it has never been developed to the extent of other popular Thai destinations such as Samui and Phuket (Click here to read more). 

GETTING THERE

If you are staying in Hua Hin, the best way to travel to Hua Hin Beach is to either walk or get a taxi depending upon where your hotel is located.  Just ask the reception staff at your hotel for assistance if you are unsure.

Huan Hin Night Market (Western Thailand)

Visiting the Hua Hin Night Market is a must do activity or anyone staying in the lovely town of Hua Hin.  I have visited this market during two separate trips to Hua Hin and absolutely love the atmosphere which it provides visitors.  Nothing seems to stimulate the senses more than a night time stroll within a bustling Thai market where there is a hive of activity occurring all around you and in this respect this market is excellent.   

This popular market which is situated in the centre of town stretches from Petchkasem Road all the way to the railway line, so once you come out at night time you just need to follow the crowds to get there.  A small Hua Hin sign located at the entrance lets you know you are definitely at the right place.  However, Like all night markets within Thailand the Hua Hin Night Market has a large selection of stalls selling both food and consumer goods and services (Click here to read more).

GETTING THERE

The best way to travel to the Hua Hin Night Market is to either walk or get a taxi depending upon where your hotel is located.  Just ask the reception staff at your hotel for assistance if you are unsure. The market opens between the hours of 6 PM to 11 PM daily, although Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights are the busiest.

Khao Takiab Beach (Western Thailand)

Khao Takiab Beach Hua Hin is located just 10 minutes (or 5 kilometres) from the centre of Hua Hin town and is one of the most picturesque Thai beaches within western Thailand.  This beach which was once nothing more than a quiet fishing village, is now a haven for foreign tourists and Thai people alike seeking to enjoy the sun and water along this long wide stretch of soft white sand that is flanked by tall shady trees.

While the beach is flagged by several upmarket hotels/resorts including the Hyatt Regency, the Supatra, and the Boutique, it never feels crowded and by the afternoon much of the beach is shaded from the sun, meaning its a great place to relax and listen to the waves lap up onto the sand.

I fist visited this beach in 2010 with my wife and we enjoyed an late afternoon walk along the beach before dining at a beach-side restaurant attached to one of the large resorts (Click here to read more).    

GETTING THERE

If you are already staying in Hua Hin within western Thailand, the best way to travel to Khao Takiab Beach is to either walk or get a taxi, but it will depend upon where your hotel is located.  

Plearnwan Vintage Market (Western Thailand)

The Plearnwan Vintage Market makes its visitors to feel as though they are stepping back in time.  Located within the popular seaside province of Hua Hin in western Thailand this visually unique and eco friendly market provides a boutique style shopping experience.  However, it is the aged look of the buildings and cleverly designed vintage displays which help to create an allusion that you are walking within a village back in a bygone era. 

While only built back in 2009, it is said that this market has been constructed to recapture the feeling and charm of Hua Hin from days gone by, and from my experience visiting the Plearnwan Vintage Village, I would have to say that the owners have achieved this.  Indeed, the word plearnwan is said to mean 'enjoy yesteryear' and judging by the number of Thai and foreign visitors that visit each year, that's exactly what people come here to do (Click here to read more).

GETTING THERE

The Plearnwan Vintage Market is located along Phetkasem Road, Hua Hin and opens daily between the hours of 10 AM and 10 PM  (Fridays are 10 AM until 12 midnight) and admission is free.   You can walk or get a taxi depending upon where your hotel is located but this is such an icon in Hua Hin you will have no trouble getting there.

Ratchaburi Province (Western Thailand)

Located approximately 100 kilometres west of Bangkok and covering an area of some 5,200 square kilometres is Ratchaburi province, which is located in the south of western Thailand.  

The western side of the province is characterised by a mountainous landscape or the Tanawsri mountain range (that includes a series of limestone caves), while the eastern side of the province consists of the Mae Klong River and its fertile and flat river plains.  

HISTORY

This province has an interesting history and it is thought that it dates back to the Dvaravati period (i.e. around 325 B.C.) when it was ruled by King Asoka of India.  The region is also said to have been occupied by the Mon people.  While this region does house a number of ancient ruins (i.e. at Siam Cultural Park) which reflect its long history, today the most popular tourist destination would likely be the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market.

GETTING THERE

Buses depart Bangkok's Southern Bus Terminal to Ratchaburi every 20 minutes each day.  The journey takes approximately 2 hours.

Damnoen Saduak Floating Market (Western Thailand)

The Damnoen Saduak Floating Market stands out as being one of the best markets in Bangkok and surrounding regions.  While there are a number of popular floating markets in Thailand this one really stands out because it provides a unique glimpse into the past while also highlighting the continuity of traditional Thai culture within this region.   

Being located approximately 100 kilometres southwest of the centre of Bangkok, the Damnoen Saduak floating market comes to life in the early hours of the morning and by the time the sun is beating down around the time of morning tea , this crowded area is buzzing with activity along several of its main water canals (Click here to read more). 

GETTING THERE

The Damneon Saduak floating market is open daily between the hours of around 8 AM until noon.  Buses depart from Bangkok's Southern Bus Terminal daily with services commencing around 6 AM.  The Journey takes about 2 hours.   

Suan Phueng Resort  (Western Thailand)

Yabba dabba doo.  One of the most bright, colourful and unique places to visit within the western region of Thailand is the Suan Phueng or Flinstones resort.  Located within the Suan Pueng district (about 60 kilometres from Ratchaburi city centre) in Ratchaburi province the iconic stone age tv characters from the American cartoon show the "Flinstones" have been recreated in large scale for all to admire and enjoy.   

Set within a lush green mountainous landscape Suan Phueng resort offers a relaxed style fun park (including accommodation) that the kids will love utilising the Flinetone theme of Bedrock City.  Thus, the buildings are modeled on the favourite tv characters including Barney, Fred, Wilma, Betty and Dino.  This is a small resort that offers camping restaurant dining (with English and Thai menu's), a novelty shop, and a lake where you can ride a water bike (see picure below).  There are also sheep nearby which the kids  can feed.  

The accommodation is is also based on the Flinestone theme so there is a Betty house, a Fred house, a Barney house and a Dino house and they each sleep about 3 people.  As the theme is based upon Bedrock City the rooms have a stone age feel yet they are comfortable and clean and have air-conditioning and tv and of course beds etc.   The rooms cost between 3,500 and 12,000 baht per night depending upon which house you stay in.  So if you are visiting western Thailand you may enjoy a visit to this quaint resort. 

GETTING THERE

Being located so close to Bangkok yet within western Thailand this is a great destination if you wish to take a day trip and escape the bustle of Bangkok.  If you are traveling from Bangkok you can get a bus to Rachaburi province from Bangkok's Southern Bus Terminal.  The journey takes around 2 hours.

Leave Western Thailand page and return to Best Places to Visit page.