In a nutshell
Located 350 km North of Bangkok, Kamphaeng Phet is too often considered just a quick day trip from Sukhothai.
Why go to Kamphaeng Phet
This is a pity since those who decide to stop for a bit longer will discover a place full of history, natural beauties, friendly people, few (or even none sometimes) Western tourists and amazing street food where everything is still cheap as you would expect from a small town in the North of Thailand.
Kamphaeng Phet has a long history, dating back to the 13th century when it was a strategic town during the Sukhothai kingdom and it also remained quite relevant also throughout the Ayutthaya reign.
The historical park, which is a Unesco heritage site since 1991, will keep you entertained for a full day. But as we said, Kamphaeng Phet has a lot more to offer; situated on the East bank of the Ping river, an almost two km riverfront will give you the chance to enjoy some relaxing time tasting delicious food from one of the many stalls offering any sort of specialties, watching the sunset or exploring the surprising vibrant nightlife in one of the chilled bars with live music. And for nature lovers, a couple of national parks and the Phra Ruang hot springs will keep you occupied at least for a few days.
When to go to Kamphaeng Phet
To avoid the rainy season that hits Northern Thailand from May till October, the best time to visit Kamphaeng Phet is one of the remaining months. Especially from November till February, when temperatures drop down a bit, making visiting the historical park or trekking in the national parks more pleasant and enjoyable.
If you’re a noodle lover plan your trip at the beginning of December (1st to 3rd), when every year during the Noodle Festival several stalls will sell any variation of this popular dish while live music and traditional ceremonies and performances will keep you entertained.
Where to stay in Kamphaeng Phet
There’s not a lot of choices available in Kamphaeng Phet, but Three J Guesthouse (79 Ratchvitji Rd) is a good solution for almost any traveller. With a big variety of rooms ranging from simple and cheap single with fan and a shared bathroom (THB250) to bigger bungalows with air-con and a private bathroom (THB600), the major attraction of this guesthouse are the owners, super friendly and welcoming, and always ready to give you a useful piece of advice and help you with whatever you need. When we found out that all the motorbikes for rent around town were mechanic, the young owners did not hesitate to give us their mother’s Fino.
For something more up-market you can check one of a couple of hotels close to the market and the river. Navarat Hotel and Chakungrao Riverside Hotel both sit in a good location within a few minutes walking from the riverside and offer modern and spacious rooms with rates starting at THB1000. A bit of luxury in the simple Kamphaeng Phet.
Where to eat in Kamphaeng Phet
If, like us, you love Thai food and especially authentic and cheap street food, Kamphaeng Phet is definitely a place to go.
A large night market by the river and a lively day market will give you the opportunity to taste an endless variety of Thai dishes; whatever you fancy, noodles, meat, fish, vegetarian, you name it, you’ll find it at almost any time of the day and always at affordable prices. Expect to pay between THB30 and THB80 for the majority of the dishes.
Several nice restaurants can be found on the western bank of the river where you can eat local freshwater fish in a more comfortable setting. There’s not a lot of choices for western food, but all the guesthouse restaurants will have some option in their menu.
How to get around Kamphaeng Phet
Kamphaeng Phet city centre is small enough to be easily covered on foot. If you’re not staying close to the river, you can rent a bicycle (THB50 per day) or a motorbike (THB200). Both bicycles and motorbikes (and even a car if you’re planning a day trip out of town) can be rented at Three J Guesthouse. Bicycle is also a good option to visit the out-of-town part of the Historical Park which is quite big to be covered on foot.
How to get to and from Kamphaeng Phet
Bus is the only means of public transport you can take to get to Kamphaeng Phet (unless you’re travelling around Thailand in your own car, of course).
Conveniently located almost half way between Bangkok and Chiang Mai, Kamphaeg Phet makes for an ideal place to stop and break up the long journey. The bus station is located a few km away from the centre, on the western side of the Ping River. To get to the centre you can either get a motorbike taxi (THB40) or one of the regular brown songthaews. Many guesthouses and hotels will arrange a pick-up service if you ask them while making your reservation.
In Bangkok buses to Kamphaeng Phet leave from Morchit Bus terminal approximately from 9am until midnight. Buses depart every hour and the journey takes between 5 and 7 hours. Tickets are THB200 for express, THB260 for the VIP and THB300 for VIP24.
If you’re travelling around Thailand by train the closest station is in Phitsanulok. Local slow non air-conditioned buses depart from Kamphaeng Phet to Phitsanulok and vice versa all day long. The journey takes 2 and a half hours and tickets are THB60.
Some of the other destinations with direct bus connection to Kamphaeng Phet are Sukhothai (1,5 hour, THB60), Kanchanaburi (6 hours, THB300), Rayong (with a stop in Pattaya, 8 hours, THB500), Mae Sot (for Myanmar; 3 hours, THB200) and Mae Hong Son (only overnight buses, 12 hours, THB600 first class, THB900 VIP). Check at the bus station for schedules and prices since they might change depending on the season.
If you’re travelling by car from Bangkok, take the highway 32 to Nakhon Sawan and then the highway 1 to Kamphaeng Phet.
Is Kamphaeng Phet a safe place to visit?
It is. Since there are yet not many tourists stopping in town for the night people are extremely friendly, smiling and ready to help you in any situation. There’s a hospital located two km south of the city centre and a tourist police office at the bus station.