In a nutshell
All travellers who prefer exploring far off the beaten track will feel right at home in the remote, idyllic and peaceful town of Sangkhlaburi. This sleepy town can be found nestled in the northwest province of Kanchanaburi, on the Myanmar border. Filled with both natural and man-made beauties, Sangkhlaburi is an excellent spot to relax and unwind and experience Thailand at its most authentic and unspoiled.
Why go to Sangkhlaburi
This multicultural town offers a wide range of activities that are sure to pique the interest of a diverse array of travellers.
Culture aficionados will appreciate the fascinating mix of inhabitants from Thai, Burmese, Karen and Mon descent and will take great delight in perusing the handicraft goods and scrumptious dishes on offer at the Mon market during the mornings.
A boat ride to the sunken Wat Samprasob temple or a visit to Wat Wang Wiwekaram (Temple Wat Mon), also makes for interesting excursions for those who enjoy history and heritage.
Another must-see sight in Sangkhlaburi is the Mon Bridge or “Saphan Mon”, which is Thailand’s longest wooden bridge (at over 400 meters) and the second longest in the world.
Aside from the exquisite and impressive manmade attractions, the rural town is filled with waterfalls, farmland, forests and small villages. Many travellers who enjoy the outdoors spend their time in Sangkhlaburi canoeing along the scenic waters, trekking through the dense vegetation and swimming in the bubbling rivers and waterfalls. A day spent leisurely exploring the town is best done via a motorbike or scooter as this allows visitors the luxury of independent travel and the freedom to discover hidden gems in this far-flung slice of remote Thailand.
When to go to Sangkhlaburi
The ideal time of year to visit Sangkhlaburi would be from November to March as these months offer less rainfall and more moderate temperatures. April to June in Sangkhlaburi has very high temperatures and high humidity which can make travelling rather uncomfortable and unpleasant. July to October are also the months with very high rainfall and this can make commuting and exploring a pretty wet affair.
Where to stay in Sangkhlaburi
For those visitors spending a few nights in the rural town of Sangkhlaburi, accommodation options are pretty similar to the rest of Thailand; simple, basic, affordable and mostly comfortable. There are several noteworthy resorts and guesthouses in the heart of the town or in the nearby vicinity, which are ideal for travellers who do not have their own modes of transportation. However, the majority of accommodation options lie along the northern end of the Vajiralongkorn Lake.
Although Sangkhlaburi has resorts, homestays and guesthouses that cater for a large range of budgets and preferences, the accommodations along the river are slightly more competitive in nightly rates. Fortunately getting a ride into town is still very affordable for travellers.
Another way for shoe-string budgeters to save money on accommodation is to opt for a fan room over air-conditioning, a room without a view, a shared bathroom, and cold water showers if you’re staying in the warmer months.
Instagrammers and social media junkies will be pleased to learn that Wi-Fi is frequently free and surprisingly decent for such a rural, little town.
Where and what to eat in Sangkhlaburi
With the morning sunshine awaking the sleepy town, the morning Mon Market is the ideal place to grab some breakfast and to get a feel of the local flavour and culture. Not only will visitors be able to experience authentic Thai or Burmese dishes, the tasty snacks and dishes at the market are unbelievably affordable.
In fact, by and large the food in Sangkhlaburi is inexpensive, tasty and easy to come by.
Western dishes are also possible but are somewhat more expensive and not nearly as tasty as the local fare. Classic and traditional Thai dishes can be readily found in the restaurants, food stalls and markets and visitors should sample the well-known barbequed fish, Jim Jum (Thai hot-pots), marinated pork, Som Tam (spicy papaya salad), Tom Saap (hot and sour soup), Nam Tok Moo (grilled pork salad)and the all to popular, grilled chicken found sizzling on every street corner. For those who enjoy cheap and cheerful street food, keep a look out for Sai Krok Isaan (fermented Isaan pork sausages) which are often served with sticky rice, ginger, cabbage and chillies.
How to get around Sangkhlaburi
Getting around the charming town of Sangkhlaburi is best done on rented motorbikes, scooters or even bicycles. Fortunately scooters and motorbikes are easy to rent and are often offered at many of the resorts, guesthouses and inns for around THB 200 per day.
For travellers who are not comfortable with these options, motorcycle taxis are also available (but potentially more frightening) with short trips costing as little as THB 50.
Taxis are somewhat more challenging to flag down but for the determined traveller, not impossible. Your best bet of locating a taxi is to hang around the Baan Unrak Bakery or around the bus station in town. If you’re traveling in a large group it might make sense to hire a songthaew (an open-aired pick-up truck with benches for seats) for the day and ask the driver to take you to the temples, market, and lake etc. This could cost anything from a few hundred Baht to over a thousand depending on duration, stops and time of year.
Exploring the town on foot is also an enjoyable way to see the sights and to relish the serenity of the simple life at a slow and unhurried pace.
How to get to and from Sangkhlaburi
Getting into Sangkhlaburi from Bangkok is possible via bus or minivan on a journey of around eight hours of which the last four can be rather unnerving as the incline is unusually very steep.
There are two direct buses that ply this route every day and departure occurs from the Morchit (northern) bus terminal in the sultry capital. Departure times are either 1.30pm or 4pm. It is wise to keep in mind that Sangkhlaburi is a popular destination with Thai locals and this journey is a popular one especially over long weekends and public holidays. Booking a bus ticket in advance during these times is highly recommended.
An easier way of doing this journey might be to take a bus to Kanchanaburi and to then hop aboard one of the many connecting buses or minivans that run to Sangkhlaburi every hour from 8.30am until 4.30pm each day. The journey will take around four to five hours with an air-conned bus costing THB 180, a non air-conned bus costing THB 100 and a minibus costing THB 150. While the minibus is the fastest, the ride can get rather crowded and might not be ideal for travellers with a lot of luggage. Fortunately, this route to Sangkhlaburi is not nearly as busy as the route from Bangkok due to the more frequent journeys occurring hourly, and so booking a seat in advance is not necessary. This journey is a good alternative should travellers from Bangkok realise that the two daily buses to Sangkhlaburi are full.
Getting from Sangkhlaburi to Bangkok is also possible via bus and minivan at 7am, 10.30am, 2pm and 3pm and will cost around THB 250. The air-con buses and minivans in Sangkhlaburi depart from the eastern end of the main market road; and the red local, non air-con buses and songthaews depart from the bus station situated down a side street across from Si Suwan Khiri Road from Thetsaban 2.
For those wishing to make a stop in Kanchanaburi and to then continue on a connecting mode of transport from there, air-con buses leave at 8.45am, 10.45am, 2.30pm and costs THB 180 per ticket. The much cheaper non air-con tickets cost THB 100 and depart at 6.45am, 8.15am, 9.45am and 1.15am. Cheaper, does not mean faster, and travellers can expect to add on an additional hour or two, Minibuses to Kanchanaburi leave at 6am, 6.30am, 7.30am, 11.30am, 1pm, 3.30 and 4pm and cost around THB 150 for a one-way journey.
Is Sangkhlaburi a safe place to visit?
Perhaps as a result of its relatively unknown status and rather low tourism industry, the town of Sangkhlaburi is a peaceful and safe retreat for visitors who long for a slower pace and morning bird song. Acts of crime are miniscule and the biggest threat for visitors would have to be motorbike or scooter accidents.
Although the roads in Sangkhlaburi are far quieter than other parts of Thailand, travellers should not hire a bike without the proper license or driving experience.