Sangkhlaburi is an idyllic Thai mountain village far off the beaten path for most foreign tourists in Thailand. Deep in Kanchanaburi Province, this town is extremely isolated as it can only be accessed by one road leading into the mountains. Sangkhlaburi is about two to three hours from Kanchanaburi’s provincial capital just before the road ends at the Burmese border. The town is known for its beautiful temples, historic wooden bridge, and unique hill tribe culture.
I had an opportunity to visit Sangkhlaburi on my three week motorcycle journey throughout Northern Thailand. I really enjoyed this area and strongly recommend it to others looking for a Thai adventure because it is extremely welcoming to the budget backpacker yet so far away from the commercialization of many Thai tourist destinations.
How To Get There
Buses leave from Mo Chit station directly to Sangkhlaburi several times a day with the first going at 5:00 AM. The journey will take 7-8 hours. There are also more buses and minivans from Kanchanaburi bus station heading to Sangkhlaburi throughout the day. From the bus station, its possible to get a songtaew or motorcycle taxi to hotels and guesthouses in the area.
Where To Stay
If you want the true authentic Thailand experience, stay at J. Family Homestay. J – the owner of the home – is an older Thai lady with a huge personality. She used to live in America and speaks English quite well. J’s daughter runs the day-to-day operations at the home and generally will be the first to greet guests when she isn’t caring for her adorable children.
The home is an old two story wooden house with guest rooms upstairs. As is tradition in Thailand, the mattresses are on the floor giving it that extra Thai feel. If I recall correctly, the price was 200 bhat per person in a shared room with two beds. As the homestay wasn’t busy, I had the room to myself. They also rent out motorcycles which are a great option for checking out the surrounding area. The house is technically close enough to walk to the Mon Bridge or Night Market, but everything is much easier on a motorcycle.
What To Do
Unfortunately I only had one night in Sangkhlaburi which was not nearly enough. With prices like 200 bhat a night, I could have stayed here for a week enjoying all there is to offer, but I was on a motorcycle trip traveling at a much faster pace. There is a large NGO community in Sangkhlaburi so there are many opportunities to volunteer. In fact, a nice Japanese man staying at J’s Homestay asked if I’d help out with his non-profit foundation for the day teaching and playing with kids, but I had to turn him down since I didn’t have enough time. Besides volunteering, there are other opportunities to learn Thai language or Thai cooking.
My first night, I went out for dinner at the local night market just up the street from J Homestay. This market runs every night, but it is much bigger on Saturday nights. While I was there I saw several different stalls selling traditional Mon food, some of which I had never heard of or seen before. I stopped at one stall and met a very nice family who I ended up chatting with for a couple of hours in Thai. They had an adorable 8 year old daughter who initially was shy of me at first, but when she learned I could speak Thai she completely opened up. She was quite adamant that mermaids exist in the real world and showed me several YouTube videos confirming her theories. Too cute. I learned the family lives just next door to J’s house, and they made me promise that I’d come back to Sangkhlaburi one day.
Besides the night market, the main attraction in town is the Mon Bridge – a 440 meter wooden bridge connecting the town with the Mon settlement on the other side. The best time to view this bridge is early morning or around sunset when the lighting is just right. Once on the Mon side (the opposite side of J’s Family Homestay) there are several shops and eateries. On the Mon side, after the bridge just to the right there is a small shop – usually packed full of Thai people – selling Jok. Jok is a morning rice porridge that is a very popular breakfast in Thailand. Sometimes it can be a bit bland, but this restaurant added just the right amount of seasoning and spices making it perfect. I ordered a second bowl.
Another great place to check out is a beautiful golden temple at the other end of town. Besides the temple, there are several shops nearby selling a variety of souvenirs.
A little further from town and best visited by renting a motorcycle is the Thai-Myanmar border at Three Pagoda Pass. The name “Three Pagoda Pass” sounds really epic, but in reality, the name just comes from a small flat area nearby the border with a few small pagodas. There is, however, some shops selling cheap goods and a cool sign at the border crossing. It was actually possible to “enter Myanmar” at this post, but I couldn’t go very far. The guards were quite nice, but they told me I couldn’t cross a certain barrier and enter the small town on the other side. They said I technically was in Myanmar where I was standing though. So I guess that was cool.
After checking out the border, I got some lunch at a nearby noodle shop and continued on my way to Thong Pha Phum National Park to stay in a tree house for the night. Read more about my adventure here.