Secret Sangkhlaburi is the northwestern most district of Kanchanaburi province, where it borders the Mon and Kayin (Karen) States of Myanmar (Burma).
Sangkhlaburi shows it’s Burmese influences and has a fairly large community of ethnic Mons, most famously (but not only) at Ban Wang Ka.
This fascinating district has some interesting places to see and gets a good number of Thai visitors.
However, as it’s a bit out of the way, not so many westerners make it this far. But it’s well worth the effort to get here.
1. Lake and Sunken Temple
Backed by jungle covered hills, the huge Khao Laem reservoir that wraps around Sangkhlaburi was created in the 1980s by the construction of the Vajiralongkorn Dam.
Two of the villages submerged by the dam were moved to higher ground and the Uttamanusorn Bridge was built to connect them.
All that remains of the other villages are a few ruined semi-submerged temples, which are best seen during the dry season from December to April.
A low cost boat ride allows you to see them up close, as well as feel the pace of life on the lake.
2. Uttamanusorn Bridge
This wooden bridge, which is also known to some as the Mon Bridge, spans the Songkalia river to connect Sangkhlaburi with the Mon village of Ban Wang Ka (see below).
It’s over 400 meters long and the longest wooden bridge in Thailand. It’s also reputed to be the 2nd longest handmade wooden bridge in the world.
It was built on the urging of a renown monk Luang Phor Uttama, after whom it is named.
During a severe storm and some heavy flooding in 2013 the bridge was swept away. However, it was rebuilt the following year.
It’s a tourist attraction on it’s own and will give you some great instagram snaps.
But it’s a bit rickety and in constant need of repairs so watch your step when crossing. There are donation boxes on the bridge to help cover the cost of repairs so you could give a few baht towards that.
3. Ban Wang Ka
After you’ve crossed the bridge you’re in the Mon speaking village of Ban Wang Ka. Most of the villagers are Myanmar citizens and most are also refugees from that country.
It’s really interesting to see their way of life which is a bit different to that of their Thai neighbours across the bridge.
While only some of the younger Mons can speak Thai, Mon is their native language and is what you’ll hear spoken around you.
The village is fascinating and the people are quite friendly despite their difficult circumstances.
There is a Burmese market, as well as a beautiful temple and Chedi, Wat Wang Wiwekaram and Chedi Buddhakhaya, that are well worth a look.
At the temple entrance are two giant Chinthe, which are mythological lions often seen guarding Burmese temples.
A few hundred meters away on the edge of the lake is the large golden Chedi Bhddhakhaya.
Constructed about 30 years ago, the chedi was modelled after that of the Mahabodhi temple in Boghgaya, India.
4. Three Pagoda Pass
(The video is in Thai but gives you a good view of the area)
Three Pagoda Pass is a crossing point into Myanmar and was a main trade route to the country since ancient times.
This was also the point that the Japanese-built Burma Railway (‘Death Railway’) entered Burma, but there is no longer a working rail line here.
There is a small Thai-Japanese Peace Temple close to the border.
One thing to note (so you’re not caught unawares) is that the pagodas, which were built in 1889 on top of the ruins of much older ones, are actually quite small!
The pass is about a 20 minute drive from Sangkhlaburi and there’s a regular songtaew service between the two places.
5. Khao Laem National Park
This sprawling national park covers 1500sq km of the border area and surrounds the Khao Laem reservoir. The Thungyai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary is adjacent to it.
Small areas of scrubland are dominated by thick forests that cover most of the park. Several waterfalls are within a short hiking range.
Wild elephants, deer, and gaur abound in the park, while reports say that there is also a small population of tigers.
6. Tham Kaeo Sawan Bandan
This is a series of caves within a Buddhist meditation center, about halfway between Sangkhlaburi and Three Pagoda Pass.
Each cave has a specific name based on their characteristics, such as Tham Badan which has knee-level water to wade through, and five others with stalactites and stalagmites that glitter like diamonds.
You need to take great care if you decide to visit these (or any other) caves, as surfaces are very uneven and usually wet.
In some of the caves you have to crouch down or even crawl through holes -- not good if you have claustrophobia.
It takes at least 6 hours to see all the caves, so maybe just tackle a couple.
It’s not advisable to explore caves during the monsoon season.
Sangkhlaburi is about 340km west of Bangkok. Buses run fairly regularly from Bangkok’s Morchit Mai (Chatuchak) bus station direct to Sangkhlaburi, via Kanchanaburi city. Passenger vans also ply the route from the adjoining van station.
Travelling time varies from between 5 to 8 hours depending on the type of bus, traffic conditions etc.
There are also bus and van services between Kanchanaburi city and Sangkhlaburi.
We hope you enjoyed our look at this hidden gem of secret Sangkhlaburi, and will find the time to visit. It would be easy to include it on a trip to Kanchanaburi’s other but well known attractions.
Make sure you have travel insurance while visiting Thailand’s wonders. Medical care is world class but worldly expensive!