One of the main reasons people visit Kanchanaburi is to go and see the Bridge on the River Kwai and the Death Railway. Made famous by the film of the same name, the bridge you see today is mostly reconstructed due to allied bombing during the Second World War.
There are however some incredible temples around Kanchanaburi that are well worth the extra effort to go and see. We opted to hire a scooter for the day which cost us 150 BHT (3.20 USD) which allowed us the freedom to explore the area at our own pace.
Which Temples Do We Recommend Visiting?
#1 Wat Tham Sua and Wat Tham Khao Noi
Located about 12km southeast of Kanchanaburi town and standing high up on a hill both temples, which stand side by side, can be seen from many miles away.
The entrance to both temples can be reached either by walking up the steep Naga flanked staircase or by a 10BHT brief cable car ride whilst to the right of the stairs are the caves where tigers once lived hence the name of the temple.
Once at the top you can either head left to Wat Tham Khao Noi which is a Chinese style temple or turn right towards Wat Tham Sua with its giant 18 metre high Buddha statue.
The Buddha of Wat Tham Sua which is named Chin Prathanporn, was built in 1973 and is often the first stop off for people wishing to pay their respects, often purchasing sheets of gold leaf and placing them on much smaller statues as thanks. There are several other beautifully decorated chedi that you can take a look inside and one even has a resident monk inside giving blessings in return for an offering.
What particularly struck us during our visit to this amazing temple was the views of the rich green rice fields and surrounding area which, on their own, are enough to recommend a trip to either of these two temples.
#2 Wat Ban Tham (Dragon Head Temple)
Located just a few kilometres along the Mae Klong River from Kanchanaburi is Wat Ban Tham also sometimes known as the Dragons Head Temple.
The first thing you notice when pulling up in the car park is the jolly white Buddha sitting in front of temple with a golden chedi sitting on top of a mountain in the distance. Immediately your thoughts turn to how on earth do you get to the top but that soon becomes apparent.
Heading directly into the centre of the temple courtyard, you are soon faced with a staircase of bright red steps that lead you up into the mouth of a giant dragon. From there you walk through the body of the beast which is decorated with murals of the temple until you reach the first temple cave. Here you will find a Buddha image known as Luang Por Yai Chinnaraj along with a monk who gives a blessing to whomever would like one.
Once you exit the cave its time to head up an iron staircase and into the stifling heat and humidity back out onto the side of the mountain where more steps await. Several minutes later you come to a shrine where another buddha sits with stunning views over the valley below.
After taking a time out for a breather its time to carry on walking. More steps lead to the second and much smaller cave and requires a little bit of climbing to get down its steep stone steps into its depths where you will find a small shrine to a hermit called Ruesi.
Leaving the cave behind its time for the final leg of the accent where you are rewarded with the most incredible views of the surrounding countryside. Here you will find the Golden Chedi that you saw from the car park along with several statues of Brahma and prayer bells.
This is for most, especially in the heat and humidity you will encounter, a pretty tough climb with over 900 steps to negotiate but I can honestly say it was entirely worth the effort. This Dragon’s Head was not only a favourite of ours in Kanchanaburi but across everywhere we visited in Thailand.
#3 Kung Im Chapel
Located next to the Bridge on the River Kwai just on the outskirts of Kanchanaburi is the striking Kung Im temple. On first impressions you might think this is a Chinese temple because of its architecture but it is in fact a buddhist temple decorated with a Chinese theme in mind.
The grounds are full of sculptures of animals, dragons, golden coins and dominated by a huge Chinese Goddess of Mercy statue.
Wandering along the painted red and gold path there’s colour everywhere you look; exquisitely decorated pagodas make for good selfie opportunities or the enormous totem pole decorated in dragons is another.
The main building with its roof adorned with yet more dragons is home to a golden Buddha statue.
If your plan is to ride along the death railway then Kung Im Temple is worth checking out, after all the train takes you right past it.
Whether you are a temple-hopper or not, if you do decide to spend time in Kanchanaburi it is well-worth booking a hotel and spending a little time exploring these wonderful buildings, because unlike other areas in Thailand, these are some of the brightest, most extravagantly decorated we have ever come across.
Have you visited Kanchanaburi? With so many temples to explore perhaps you stumbled across a different one you feel our readers should know about.
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