It is amazing how fast infrastructures are developed in this era. It feels like yesterday when the taxi and Tuktuk were to only choice to navigate Rattanakosin area. Now it is much easier. In year 2019, the underground train has made its way to the front-door of the most popular travel destination in Bangkok. This includes the Temple of Reclining Buddha, or well-known as Wat Pho, the Temple of Dawn (Wat Arun), and the Grand Palace. You will be surprised to how easy it is now to travel to these places using the MRT train. In this article, we will show you how to do it the right way.
To get started, head to the nearest MRT station. Do no worry if you only have BTS near you, there are many intersections you can use to get on the subway train. Be sure to check the map once you are at the MRT station. Look for the station name 'Sanam Chai' station, the code is BL30. Now, we are good to go.
We have now arrived at the Sanam Chai station. The station itself is photo worthy as one of the first MRT stations that is designed to match the nearby tourist attractions such as the Grand Palace.
There are about 5 exits from the stations. To get to our Big three, we will go to exit no.1. Once you stepped out of the MRT station, you have now arrived at the most visited temple in Bangkok, Wat Pho. Take a 50 meters walk to the temple's front gate, and we can now admire the largest reclining Buddha.
Tips: There will be Tuktuk waiting in front of the station, and to no surprise, they are overpriced. It is recommended to ignore these campers and look for the other elsewhere.
From Wat Pho, you have choices of going straight to the Grand Palace, or take the shuttle boat to the Temple of Dawn. It will be a roundtrip either way. If you cannot decide, we suggest that you go to Wat Arun first. These three spots is often packed with tourist, and the Grand Palace is always the first spot for any tours. We can forget about the Grand Palace first, so we can navigate these two temples while it is not crowded.
Of course, there are more to the Rattanakosin Island than just the big three. Leaving at Exit 4 will lead you to the famous Bangkok flower market, where you can find numerous flower stores that open throughout the day and night. We have a list here of places you can visit in the Rattanakosin Island, from Sanam Chai MRT station.
The Grand Palace was established in 1782 once served the residence of Thai royals. You will see extravagant architecture of gilded exterior, and combination of modern and Thai art in the complex.
The most sacred Buddhist temple in Thailand housing the most revered Buddha image, the Emerald Buddha. The temple complex is decorated in gold and numerous mythical creatures such as Giants, Kinnaree (Kinnara) and monkeys. Surrounded by the hallway that depicted the mural painting of Ramayana.
A famous temple housing one of the largest reclining Buddha in Bangkok, measured 46 meters long. The temple is also featured as a leading school of Thai Traditional massage. Getting a massage here is rather expensive, but a well worth the money considering the authentic Thai massage experience.
Crossing the river to the Temple of Dawn. Arguably the most famous Bangkok temple in the 20s from the amount of photos uploaded to Instagram. The highlight is the white pagoda from the Ayutthaya era colourfully decorated with pieces of porcelain.
The biggest wholesale flower market in Bangkok. You will find store offering agricultural products from dusk till dawn. It is also the third largest orchid market in the world.
No one comes to Thailand not knowing about Khao San road. The area is well known for its wallet-friendly hostels , crazy parties and a launching pad for backpackers starting out the journey in Thailand. You can find exotic food such as scorpions here as well.
The religious structure that was built for the Brahman ceremonies and festivals. Now it has become one of the best photo shot for both locals and tourists. You can also visit the nearby Wat Suthat.
Kanchanaburi is a great destination with a diversity of attractions and experiential activities for all generations and interests. It is a province full of history, adventure, remarkable natural wonders, and multi-cultural local experiences. Let's look closer to various attractions and activities which are still unknown or less known by major visitors to discover more of this province.
Explore Sangkhlaburi, the land of Mon tribe at the border to Myanmar. This charming small town can be visited in one day from Kanchanaburi by car. The drive is about two hours on the scenic mountainous roads that go along the River Kwai. Mon is an ethnic tribe that originated the Irrawaddy Delta, the Southern border of Myanmar with Thailand. They were believed to be one of the earliest peoples of Indochina and founded the earliest civilization there.
Mon was the first receiver of Theravada Buddhist missionaries from Sri Lanka and adopted Buddhism as their national religion. The majority of them migrated to Thailand in 1661 and 1814 after their rebellions were put down by the Burmese. Mon refugees were granted residence in the central and western Siam including Ratchaburi and Kanchanaburi. Visit Mon temples including Wat Wan Wiwekaram, found by the revered monk and abbot of the temple "Luang Por Uttama" in 1949 and the 850-meter-long bamboo bridge where you can see Mon people making merit by offering food to the monks and children jump down into the river. It is the longest wooden bridge in Thailand and is the second-longest in the world after the Mandalay's U Bein Bridge in Myanmar. The villagers speak Mon as their first language. Don't be surprised to see Mon women with "Tanaka" powder on their faces as sun-protection like commonly practiced in Myanmar.
Another interesting attraction is the border market at the Three Pagoda Pass which was the main gateway for Burmese troops to invade Siam in the past. This border point shall be upgraded to the permanent international custom border in the near future. Enjoy observing the busy border market trading wooden handicrafts, dry food, and consumer goods, etc. For slow travelers, there are several small guesthouses around Khao Laem Reservoir with a beautiful lake view to stay and get more insights into the Mon culture and way of life.
Swod fighting is one of Thai martial arts besides kickboxing. In Thai history, men and women practiced both for self-defense and protection of the country from invaders. Nowadays kickboxing has become popular worldwide but very few people know about our arts of sword fighting and very few schools teach and train as a sport for the new generations such as the Buddhaisawan Sword Fighting School in Kanchanaburi.
Kanchanaburi was an important location of several wars between Thailand and Myanmar. The last and most important war called "Songkram Kao Tap" when Myanmar sent 9 troops to invade Thailand from North to the South during the establishment of Bangkok in 1785. The biggest troop came to the Three Pagoda Pass with a double number of soldiers more. Myanmar however lost in this war with no return.
The Buddhaisawan Sword Fighting School has been established and famous for Thai kickboxing and martial arts since the Ayuthaya period. It became a part of the triumph in this crucial war. Here are skillful "Kru" or teachers and trainers who inherited the skill and arts of fighting from their ancestors. Although the art of kickboxing is unavailable due to lack of teachers, the arts of fighting with sword and other weapons are open to interested Thais and tourists. You can be pre-arranged as a day trip or multi-day course.
Among several caves of Kanchanaburi, the Than Lod Caves are not less beautiful with limestone mountains, waterfalls and lush forests full of giant fishtail palms (Caryota urens), giant sugar palms bamboos and dipterocarps. The caves located in Chaloem Rattanakosin National Park, the smallest park of Kanchanaburi which is about 1.5 hours drive from town.
On a 2.5 km trail, there are two caves and 5 levels of the walk. Starting at the smaller Tham Than Lot Noi with 300 m walkway, a small stream runs through the illuminated cave with many beautiful stalactites. You will feel the cool and pleasant breeze along the trail which ends at the forest trail of 2 km which leads to the next big cave, the Tanlod Yai. At level 3 is the Traitrueng waterfall where visitors can take a rest and enjoy the lush natural surroundings. This point is where the most challenging one-kilometer long trail starts with lots of climbing on steep jagged limestones and bamboo stairs to the Tanlod Yai Cave which is a spectacular sinkhole with a natural stone arch over the stream.
At the end of the trail is a temple and monastery offering an alternative route out of the park. The road winds through a bamboo forest and through a small Karen village Khao Lek to the main road. Visitors shall not reach the national park later than 2 pm to allow themselves enough time to climb up to Tanlod Yai cave as the level 3 is closed at 3 pm and the park is closed at 5 pm to allow the wildlife to come down to the waterfall including the protected spicy like the chamois.
Wildlife watching and study is one of the new activities offering by Salakpra Wildlife Sanctuary which located nearby the Erawan National Park. Visitors can combine a visit to the Erawan waterfalls in the afternoon by taking a ride with a 4WD jeep into the deep jungle to the wildlife conservation outpost is located. Accompanied by the park ranger, visitors will learn about the story of Salakpra Wildlife Sanctuary and animal behavior from their traces such as footprints, dung and food sources. Wildlife such as elephants, deers, antelopes, guars, etc. could be seen here, especially before sunset time. As a protecting area, visitors have to leave the sanctuary by the latest at 6 pm.
Established in 1965, Salakpra was Thailand's first wildlife sanctuary, created to protect a rich forest fauna close to Bangkok and the famous River Kwai. Over the years, it has been diminished and abused through official neglect and a growing human population around the area. There were few wild animals other than 130-150 elephants whose forest home is degrading every day at the hands of local people and outsiders exploiting it for free. Due to the construction of Khao Laem Dam, the wild elephants' food trail has been disrupted and there is not enough food for them in nature.
Nowadays the number of wildlife is significantly increased. About 400 wild elephants roaming in the forest here. The park has to provide enough saltlicks and water ponds during dry months to keep them in nature. Visitors can help shoot grass seeds to the forest which will grow during the rainy season to feed the wildlife and make fire prevention lines in the forest.
There are several student groups visiting Salakpra for educational purposes. Here they can do camping, learn how to survive in the jungle and study wildlife behaviors. To visit the deeper protected zone for wildlife watching with 4X4WD, a pre-appointment has to be arranged, however, it can be also canceled at last minute in case wild elephants are on their way on the trail!
Ban Nongkhao is a Thai village, located about 12 kilometers away from the province. Villagers here still live simply in an agricultural society and old-style houses practicing culture and traditions which has been transmitted from generation to generation. Tourists can experience hands-on activities with the villagers such as rice pounding, cooking typical Thai desserts, growing and harvesting rice, joining tonsuring ceremony, and singing Phleng Yoei, and Phleng Phuang Malai folk songs. The village also offers homestay for visitors who want to get an insight into local life and Thai tradition. Visiting the village will make your visit to Kanchanaburi a memorable experience.
If you're sitting in your hotel room in Bangkok and wondering where could you go, why not give Kanchanaburi a chance. The province is rich with history and gorgeous floating hotels. You can choose from a wide range of activities, be it adventurous or casual sightseeing. Now, grab your key and get the wheels rolling. Thanks to modern technology, we don't need to go through the struggle of paper maps. Let us mourn to those who lost their time and their way on the road trip. If you are planning on driving on your own, please read the following guide from the TripAdvisor forum.
The Kanchanaburi War Cemetery is situated in the city. The well-maintained cemetery contains the remains of 6,982 Allied Prisoner Of Wars who perished during the construction of the ‘Death Railway’. Its serenity reminds the visitors of the war and its eventual outcomes. This place is a must-stop for all tours coming to Kanchanaburi.
The world-famous movie star. It is one of the most important landmarks in Thailand. The story of conflict and bloodshed is embedded into the very core of this destination. With the awareness push from the movie, it continues to draw tourists' attention from around the World. If you happen to hire a driver, you can board the train to enjoy the scenery of the world's most dangerous railway track and have your driver pick you up at the next stop. Krasae Cave.
If you happen to see the train at the River Kwai Bridge, you can choose either hopping on the train or hopping your car and drive to the next destination for the great highlight. Krasae cave has located the cliff just beside the railway above the Kwai Yai River. This is your best photo spot. The train will slowly approach and you will get the photo with a combination of the train, the railway, the cliff, and the river. Else, you will also enjoy the thrill of walking on the railroad above the river. Be very careful as the track is not built for the safety of walking.
The area that took many POWs life, the Hellfire Pass. They were cruelly forced to drill through the mountain with their bare hands. Their only tools were pickaxe and shovels. Miraculously completed in six months, life afterlife is spent eroding through the rocks. Some people also leave the photo at the location as the memorial of those who suffered. You will be walking moderately at this destination. It will be a little warm during noon so choose your timing wisely.
I know some of you already want to relax at a place with no tragedy-filled history. Let's go and get wet at the most beautiful waterfall of this province, the Erawan Waterfall. I recommend visiting this place during the weekdays and possibly try to avoid the public holidays. With less crowd, you can enjoy the waterfall at it's best. This is a great location of the casual trek, sightseeing, and even swimming. For foreign Visitors, there is a 300 THB National Park fee.
Are you prepared to climb 157 steep steps to marvel at the temple atop the mountain? If the answer is no, then you can take the cable car. Visit the temple to see the largest Buddha statue in the province, Chin Prathanporn, which was built in 1973. This massive buddha statue reached 18 meters in height and 10 meters wide. Apart from the religious structure, you will be awed by the stunning panoramic view of rice fields, and Maeklong river.
For locals, a visit to Kanchanaburi is not complete without visiting the highly rated cafe which has the view of vast rice fields and Wat Tham Suea from afar. There is various type of drinks you can choose from Coffee, Soda drinks, Smoothie which ranged from 70-120 Thai Baht. Props like straw hats in different shapes are provided for shutterbugs. In my own opinion, just the view of the rice field already makes this place unskippable.
Kanchanaburi is a vast province that expands to the Myanmar Border. Hence, completing all destinations in the province would be impossible for a day trip. There are many great hotels and rafts to spend the night at. Some also offer jet ski renting and kayaking on the Kwai Yai River. The list is growing every day, and that's great news for us as a traveler. Happy traveling!
The northern part of Thailand is the mountainous area outlined by several mountain ranges. Amid these mighty mountains, lives several hill tribes with distinctive origin such as Myanmar, Laos and China. Chiang Mai as the travelers' hub of northern Thailand, is the best beginning place for your hill tribe visit plan. It is already suggested that these people would be living on the hills. So you should be ready for a moderate amount of walking and trekking. Without further ado, let me lay out the list of Hill Tribes you could and should be visiting in Chiang Mai.
The Hmong a.k.a 'Independent People' has migrated to Thailand from South China over a hundred years ago. Their number in Thailand is only second to the Karen Tribe. You can notice them by their black velvet clothing with elegant decoration, mostly pink and red fabric strapping around their waist. A popular place to visit and get a glimpse of the Hmong is Doi Pui. The Hmong village on Doi Pui is a little touristy and not much to say about authenticity. Yet, It is still a great destination for those who want to have a soft hill tribe experience.
A recommended Hmong Experience would be staying overnight at the Hmong Hill Tribe Lodge. This accommodation offer an immersive hill tribe stay. Most employees in this hotel is Hmong people and the hotel is located right below the their Village. There are shows and demonstration to get you to know better about Hmong culture and tradition. A soft trek village visit is also available in the morning.
Do you know that?
For the Hmong, it is normal for a man to marry several women. I have approach the Hmong ladies, and modestly asked their opinion about this tradition. Gentlemen, it is true. However, it is an old tradition and modernization has done its job well. Many said they would not allow/tolerate their men having anyone else.
Coming from Southern China, the Akha moved to Thailand using two different routes. Some traveled from Kengtung, Myanmar and the others traveled directly through the Myanmar borders by the Mekong river. This group of people is very common in Northern Thailand. Recognizing them by the way they dress is almost impossible as there are as much as 8 subgroup of the Akha tribe, which dress and speak differently.
A great place to visit the authentic Akha Tribe would be Chiang Rai, another beautiful city not far from Chiang Mai, famed for its elegant White Temple. Huay Kee Lek Village is a well-known Akha villages that accepts Travelers.
Do you know that?
The Aka is very serious about getting a son as he will become their heir who will take on their family name. If the wife of the Akha family is unable to deliver a boy child, there is a need for the man to remarry with another woman in order the produce a heir for the family.
Found in many provinces in northern Thailand including Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Mae Hong Son. Like most hill tribes, the Lahu worships Spirits. Every Village has a "Tobo", a religion leader who is responsible for communicating with Gods and Spirits. Today, there is an increasing number of Lahu people who embraces a religion such as Buddhism, Catholic or Christian. The Lahu has a very distinctive clothing. They uses black, blue and sometimes red fabrics. Unfortunately, it is quite rare to sight the Lahu in their tribal clothing. Most have switched to the more comfortable modern clothing.
A great place to learn and lives with the Lahu is in Chiang Mai. Doi Pu Muen's Lahu Village is the authentic and fascinating. You will learn about their proud story about defending Thailand against the communists. And How the King inspired them to change from Opium plantation into the tea plantation. I would recommend staying with them on the hill, tasting their local dishes that even most Thai locals have yet to get a taste of. Those who wish to stay at better and more comfortable accommodation, at the foot of the village hill, there is a good hotel called Phumanee Lahu. Doi Pu Muen is a must-see and it would top our recommendation anytime.
Do you know that?
Lahu people has intimate relationship at a very young age (according to Asian's standard) and would not marry someone from the same village. Every wedding and divorce need to sacrifice a pig to the spirits in the village square. Surprisingly, a divorce is common for the Lahu. If the Lady's parent grow to dislike their Son-in-Law, they will force their daughter to divorce. If you value the life of your pet pig, do not bring him there as we don't know how often they divorce.
Unlike the other mentioned Hill Tribes that come from China, the Kachin origin is from Myanmar. The Kachin has found their home in Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son province. They wear black clothing with small silver balls as decoration on the chest. The Kachin people worships their ancestors and the guardian spirit, but some of them have switched to Christian. Most of their religious ceremony now take place in the Church.
Traveling to a Kachin Village is still off the map of most travelers. Why? Because it never existed. There were no physical information on where the Kachin Village is, or if they accepts travelers. Fortunately, a Kachin village recently has opens up for travelers like yourself. In Chiang Dao, a district of Chiang Mai, Ban Mai Samakkee has seen the importance and the potential of community-based tourism and opened up their village for travelers.
Do you know that?
The marriage of the Kachin take place during their time off from farming and planting. The man will present the bride's family with dowry. If the man could not effort to give dowry to the bride's family, he will need to work for them for 7 years. After 7 years, the bride's family will provide him with some land to make his living. Unlike the Lahu where the man needs to remarry to get a heir, the Kachin bride who failed to deliver a boy child will need to find a mistress for her husband to have her produce a heir for the family.
The most common and well-known hill tribe in Thailand, the Karen. They are said to be the largest hill tribe is South East Asia. They call themselves 'Paka-Kyaw' and dislike being called Karen or Kariang. They are found in many Thailand provinces not only in northern but central Thailand as well. Most of the Karen do agriculture such as farming and plantation. They worship ancestors and spirits.
There are no designated nor popular destination for a Karen Village visit. Due to their large number of population, they are not considered exotic like the others hill tribe. You can expect to see them anywhere in your journey in Chiang Mai.
The Kayan Lawi is a subgroup of the Red Karen. Their uniqueness that amaze everyone is their very very long neck, so some called them 'the Giraffe Women'. From all the Karen subgroup, they are the most famous thanks to their unique traits. They use the large shiny rings to wrap around their neck making it look longer. It is known that the Kayan Lawi girls start wearing the rings at a young age of five and slowly increase the number as years passes. However, modern ladies refuses to continue this tradition. Both young and middle age Kayan Lawi has started taking off their rings. It takes time for their neck and shoulder to recover from a long restrain. The Myanmar government encourage the ring removal. Soon we can expect that this old tradition will become history.
No one wants to stay the same forever
We know and understand that everyone wants to see whats presented in the media such as documentaries, books or website just like ours. But as time progresses, it is normal for people to choose a better and more comfortable way of life. Like us, these people too would like to wear comfortable clothing, work in air-conditioned offices, and sleep in a comfy beds watching Netflix saying goodbye to their days of dirt and sweat. Many travelers seeks authenticity without understanding or embracing this logic. Disregarding that they too are just like us, humans. Thank you to everyone who have read until this section. I wish you a great and happy Thailand experience. It would be great if you can share it with me too!
In Chiang Mai, there is a certain village built to accommodate the Hill tribes. Here you will find almost every hill tribe mentioned and those that are not too. This place is called Baan Tong Luang. Although the village itself is not an authentic hill tribe village , it is a great place for casual travelers who wants a hill tribe experience. The villagers there are authentic and very nice to travelers, some can even speak English too (in order to sell you souvenirs, of course)