A Small Town in North West Thailand
Chedi Luang Phaw Utama
I see my path, but I don't know where it leads. Not knowing where I'm going is what inspires me to travel Rosalia De Castro
You may just be on the right road to Sangkhlaburi, a pretty little
town nestled around a lake and surrounded by high peaks, if you feel you
are going nowhere slowly. The town is situated north west of Thailand
near the border of Burma. To get there you need to head out on the highway from
Kanchanaburi towards the lush mountainous west on what seems to be a never ending road to nowhere. Travel distance is around 225 kilometres (133 miles).
is no shortage of natural as well as historical distractions along the
way. One such diversion only 30 kilometres or 18 miles outside
Kanchanaburi, is a prehistorical neolithic burial site believed to date
back as far as 10,000 years.
A little further on towards Sangkhlaburi is a historical park with
several remains of a 13th century Khmer city. And still further up from
there is the remnants of what was once
Hellfire Pass, a mountain access cut from rock by prisoners forced by the Japanese to
build the Death Railway during the World War II.
One of Thailand's popular waterfalls is at Erawan National Park along the route, albeit on a different road. Close by are two limestone caves and another waterfall with large deep pools. Back on the highway again, you can stop over at Hin Dat Hot Springs, where you can take a welcome rest, soak it up in the pleasant mineral rich waters and have something to eat at a food stall. Thereafter, go visit one of the elephant camps along the way.
Sangkhlaburi - Sai Yok National Park
Still further towards Sangkhlaburi is Sai Yok National Park, where a distraction of another kind took place during the Russian
roulette scenes that were filmed there for the Hollywood movie The Deer Hunter. Nestling under some soaring mountain peaks is Thong Pha Thum.
It's the last village you come across before you head up a steep, winding ascent to Sangkhlaburi where a combination of limestone peaks and
the huge lake Vajiralongkorn make for some quite spectacular views.
Approximately half way from this point is Sunyataram Forest Monastery
where one of Thailand's most charismatic and revered monks was once
involved in a series of scandals and subsequently had to flee the
country in the mid 1990's. Posters of the disgraced monk still adorn the
walls and you are very welcome to purchase some of his sermons and
books. The slightly run-down monastery consists wooden
buildings that are spread out around the forest.
Sawan Bundarn Cave
Sangkhlaburi - Sawan Bundarn Cave
Sawan Bundarn Cave is just 20 kilometres (12 miles) from
Sangkhlaburi and situated near the Three Pagoda Pass. Inside the cave
you will encounter bats so small that many of them are only about the
size of a bumblebee. See if you can spot any! Friendly monks maintain
the cave and there is no entrance fee here.
Three Pagodas Pass Border
Sangkhlaburi - Three Pagodas Pass Border
The outlying area of Sangkhlaburi is host to the Karen and Mon hill tribe villages, a few curious caves and waterfalls in the Khao Laem Wildlife Reserve and the Thung Yai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary. Another 25 kilometres or 15 miles further north towards the Burmese border you'll find the Three Pagodas Pass.
This became the main overland trade route between Thailand and southern Burma. Although the pass was named after three small pagodas, the ones seen at the site are not the original pagodas as they were submerged by the reservoir as the lake has become known. There is not much to do here other than to buy a few souvenirs at the busy market. The pass is normally open from 8:00 am until 6:00 pm but tourists are not permitted to cross the border. Local Thai's are the only people allowed to cross over.
Floating House on lake Vajiralongkorn
Sangkhlaburi - Places of Interest
Taking a leisurely stroll across Mon Bridge, named after the Mon tribes people, is an adventure all on its own and well worth the experience. It is
also the longest wooden bridge in Thailand. Just be careful walking
across the bridge, though, as it is quite rickety in places and you would
need to constantly look where you put your foot next. High heels are
definitely not recommended.
The village people who built the bridge, maintain any repairs that are needed. They also know just
how to navigate their way across with absolute ease. Once you reach the
end, you will come across a small Mon village where you can stop for a
cool drink and perhaps sample some of the local cuisine. From here you
will be able to view some of the floating houses occupied by the locals.
The longest Wooden Bridge in Thailand
Sangkhlaburi - More Places of Interest
Once you have completed the 400 metre epic journey across the bridge
to the Mon village and restored some much needed energy, then a visit to
the nearby Wat Wangwiwekaram will only add to your excitement.
The awe inspiring and unusual complex is the amalgamation of Thai,
Burmese and Indian architecture.
To get there you would need to
take a left turn parallel to the lake and walk about 2 kilometres along a
concrete road. Take your time as you don't want to be all hot and
sweaty when you get there. Air-conditioning is a luxury here. If you
like, why not ask one of the locals with a motorcycle to ferry you
On the left you will see a huge golden Chedi and an interesting daily market in front of it selling mainly Burmese handicrafts including simple wooden carvings and textiles including sarongs. On the right you will see the main temple buildings which houses murals depicting the stages of Buddha's past and present lives.
Luang Phaw Utama nearby, is built in the style of the Mahabodhi stupa of Bodhgaya, India and forms part of the same temple complex. It is a towering gold-topped Chedi that commands an extensive and breathtaking view over the surrounding countryside. Inside the temple complex, you will find Thailand's largest marble image of Buddha.
The local information Service Centre
Sangkhlaburi - Elephant Trekking
Now is the perfect opportunity for you to do some jungle trekking or
better still, elephant trekking and perhaps a spot of bamboo rafting as
well. A motor boat ride on the lake is also an absolute must. Should you
be here during the dry season when the water is fairly low, then there
is a good chance you will get to see the sunken ruins of an ancient
older town half hidden in the murky waters. If diving is your scene
you can explore the underwater treasure from a different angle.
Elephant Camp in Town
Return from Sangkhlaburi to Central Thailand
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