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Sangkhlaburi – End of the line

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Last Update: January 2023

Sangkhlaburi is a town in the West of Thailand close to the Myanmar border. A visit is easily combined with a trip to nearby Kanchanaburi, but lucky for us, mass tourism has not yet discovered Sangkhlaburi.

The list of Thailand’s highlights seems endless. Fortunately there are still places like Sangkhlaburi that are not yet overrun by tourists, but certainly worth discovering. Interesting cities oozing with local culture. Small laid-back riverside towns and spectacular nature reserves. Maybe not exactly hidden gems, but without the usual crowds, only visited by the few travelers in the know.

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Without a doubt, the area around Sangkhlaburi is one of the most picturesque in Thailand. For me, Sangkhlaburi resembles a Thailand as I had always imagined. Lake views, rural landscape with peeks into village life and a backdrop of green forest clad hills.

Nearby Thungyai wildlife reserve and Khao Laem National Park boast wildlife, jungle, caves and waterfalls. Mind you, even the road to get here from Kanchanaburi is gorgeous. And with the Myanmar border just 22km up the road, Sangkhlaburi really is the end of the line.

View of Sangkhlaburi lake and bridge
Sangkhlaburi lake and bridge

Originally a Karen town, nowadays Karen, Thai, Mon and Burmese live side by side, although there is a large separate Mon settlement (Wang Kha) on the other side of the famous wooden Saphan Mon bridge. Due to the presence of a few large refugee camps, you will also see many NGO expats in and around town.

When to visit Sangkhlaburi

Sangkhlaburi is very wet. The rain season that already starts in May and lasts through October brings lot’s of rain. Although at this time of year nature will be lush green and waterfalls are spectacular, outdoor activities are challenging. Interesting hiking routes are mostly inaccessible because of the mud and there’s just no fun being on the lake in the continuous drizzle.

This part of Thailand can also get uncomfortably hot with highs up to 38C in April. Therefore, in terms of weather, November to March are probably the best times for a visit to Sangkhlaburi

Things to see/do in Sangkhlaburi

Khao Laem Lake

Half day activity

The lake is actually a man made reservoir that was created in the 1980’s. A large part of the Kwai river valley was flooded and the original village of Sangkhlaburi with it. In dry season some parts of the sunken town are still visible. It’s possible to see it up close by renting a boat at the wooden bridge pier for about THB300. My advice is to do this early morning or late afternoon as the sunrise/sunset on the water offers spectacular sights. In rainy season it will only be the old bell tower and the brick hall of Wat Samprasob that are visible, peeking just above the waterline.

Saphan Mon Wooden Bridge

Half day activity when combined with the temples and big Buddha

The almost 450m long bridge crosses a side arm of the lake and is an absolute must see. It’s the longest wooden bridge in Thailand connecting Sangkhlaburi town with Wang Kha, a small Mon settlement on the other side. The bridge collapsed in 2013, but has since been repaired. As a result, it looks a lot better and more sturdy than ever.

Saphan Mon wooden bridge in Sangkhlaburi
Sunset over the Saphan Mon

Naturally, the villagers are somewhat exploiting the bridge for tourism purposes. So, expect trinket sellers and children offering themselves as guides. It’s actually not that bad (yet) and the bridge remains an excellent location to watch the sunrise/sunset. Furthermore, the bridge offers lot’s of photo opportunities with traditionally dressed Mon going back and forth, carrying heavy loads on their head.

Wat Wang Wiwekaram and Buddhakaya Chedi

If you made it across the bridge and reached the Wang Kha settlement, you’re in a great position to go and see two of Sangkhlaburi’s most distinctive landmarks. They are situated a mere 10 minute walk South of the settlement. The best part is that you can visit them in one go since they are only 500m apart.

I can’t decide which of the two is most impressive. Wat Wang Wiwekaram is large with a golden roof and all the bling so common for Thai style temples. Buddhakhaya Chedi is a massive gold colored stupa in India style. There’s also a tower that you can climb for spectacular views over the lake.

Wat Wang Wiwekaram in Sangkhlaburi, Thailand
Wat Wang Wiwekaram
Buddhakaya Chedi in Sangkhlaburi, Thailand
Buddhakaya Chedi

Big Buddha

If you’re up for it, continue your walk from the temples for another kilometer direction South to see the big Buddha. Or maybe, if you’re not in the mood for the climb uphill just behold the 37meter high Buddha statue from afar. Construction of the statue has been going on for 4 years now, but at the time of writing is finally almost concluded.

Three Pagodas Pass

Half day activity when combined with the cave and lunch at the border

Do visit the Three Pagodas Pass at the border with Myanmar. It’s not really spectacular and you cannot cross the border, but the place has great historic significance. For centuries it served as an important waypoint on the India-Southeast Asia route. Also, both Burmese and Siamese armies used it as an entry point to invade each other in many wars. During WWII, the Japanese army had their infamous death railway built through the pass.

It’s an interesting place and certainly worth the short 22km journey. Maybe stop on the way for a peek at the Kaeo Sawanbandan cave.

Khao Laem National Park

Half, whole or multiple day activity

Above all, you should hike the nearby Khao Laem National Park (entrance fee THB200) to see waterfalls and caves. Several guesthouses in Sangkhlaburi can arrange transport or tours to the park for you.

Mist in jungle at Khao Leam National Park in Sangkhlaburi
Bring a guide

The nature reserve comprises a whopping 1500km2 of lake, jungle and limestone mountains. Next to its pristine beauty it’s also famous for the rich wildlife. You can visit the park on a day trip to go swimming at the Kroeng Kravia waterfall. For overnight stays, the park’s HQ offers campsite and bungalow accommodation.

Baan Unrak

Short or evening activity

Baan Unrak Children’s Home and Animal Care has Wednesday night dinners or you can just show up to give some love to the kids and animals. Certainly, donations are more than welcome.

No, no, no, do not skip this part even though you think travel insurance is boring. Sangkhlaburi is in the middle of nowhere and any serious injuries or ailments will almost certainly involve costly medical transport to Bangkok. Mind you, payable upfront if you lack proper insurance.

Make sure your medical care abroad is covered, including evacuation and repatriation. Don’t rely on your normal medical insurance to cover adventurous activities such as hiking and your motor bike rental escapades.

Read more about travel insurance here, or get an instant quote right now!

Where to stay in Sangkhlaburi

A new wave of accommodation opened theirs doors in Sangkhlaburi since 2018. Sadly, not all of them made it through Covid times, but fortunately sufficient quality accommodations remain. Most options are concentrated in the area between Sangkhlaburi town and the wooden bridge, with some of them even raft (guest)houses. recommends:

Sri Pech Home
Budget = from THB500 to THB1000
Simple, but super cozy cabins, each with their own small outside terrace. Close to the wooden bridge and a 15 min stroll to the heart of the village. Best bring a torch if you’re walking in the evening.

Poochommhok Resort
Mid Range = from THB1000 to THB2500
If you travel with kids then this resort is the one to go. Situated in a quiet area, about 1.5km town and the wooden bridge. It’s safe and has a swimming pool (not only for kids) to cool down. You can opt to stay in the main building or in one of the spacious villas. Be aware that during weekends the hotel often fills up with holidaying Thai, so book ahead!

Compare all Sangkhlaburi accommodation and read reviews on Agoda. The best prices, regular discounts and off season deals.

Where to eat in Sangkhlaburi

Sri Daeng (Soi Sangkhlaburi, in town opposite the hospital). An old favorite and very popular restaurant in Sangkhlaburi and with good reason. Tasty Thai and Karen food, good service and friendly pricing.

Sri Daeng restaurant dish in Sangkhlaburi
Sri Daeng restaurant dish in Sangkhlaburi

Baan Unrak Bakery (corner Soi Si Suwan Khiri and Soi Si Suwan Khiri 1) Support a good cause, work on your health and enjoy delicious food. That’s three birds with one stone. Pun intended since the bakery is all about vegan food. Coffee, bread, wonderful pastries, burgers, salads and pad Thai. It’s all vegan and the proceeds go to the Baan Unrak children’s home.

Lee’s Kitchen (Soi Si Suwan Khiri, close to the P-Guesthouse). Time for something different. This is an authentic Korean restaurant in remote Thailand. Yes, the owner is Korean and a very likeable person. Korean BBQ, kimchi, bibimbap and soju, it’s all there and delicious. A welcome addition to the Sangkhlaburi restaurant scene. Although price-wise just a tad higher than average, the variety and flavors are worth it.

Korean food in Sangkhlaburi at Lee's Kitchen Korean Restaurant
Korean food in Sangkhlaburi

Toy’s Restaurant (Soi Sankhla Buri, 27/1 Moo 3, South of Soi 6). Simple and tasty Thai food for a very friendly price. Also, they serve a few Isan dishes like papaya salad and grilled chicken with sticky rice. They don’t really maintain their FB page, but the restaurant is very much operational and cooking up a storm. Can’t go wrong here.

Last, but not least, of course there’s always the market around Soi Thetsaban in town. It turn turns into a night market, also dubbed “walking street”, in the evening with ample food options from 2pm to 10pm. Rather small, but nice and cozy.

View over the lake in Sangkhlaburi
Dinner with a view. I won’t tell you where this is, since the view was great, but the food far from.

How to get to Sangkhlaburi

Buses from Bangkok Northern bus terminal (Mo-Chit) depart in the morning to Sangkhlaburi. Travel time is app. 7 to 8 hours. Buy your ticket directly at the bus station and be there early as seats are limited.

From any other direction (except from the Myanmar border), Sangkhlaburi is best reachable through Kanchanaburi. Actually, coming from Bangkok I recommend to travel via Kanchanaburi as well and maybe have a short stay there (3h30m, depart from Sai Tai Mai Southern bus terminal). Book your ticket Bangkok-Kanchanaburi online.

Regular buses leave from the Kanchanaburi bus station to Sangkhlaburi: Bus 4h, Minivan 3h25m, but you cannot buy this ticket online so you will have to purchase it straight at the Kanchanaburi bus terminal instead. To get out of Sangkhlaburi purchase your ticket at the bus terminal in the center of town.

Getting around in Sangkhlaburi

From town it’s an easy 1.5km walk to the wooden footbridge. Wang Kha is another 500m and to get to Wat Wang Wiwekaram add another 1.5km. For a trip to the Myanmar border hop on the green songthaew at the bus station (town center) for a 30-40min trip (THB30). Alternatively charter a blue songthaew and bargain a good price for the day or a few hours.

Make use of motorbike taxi’s for short trips in town, THB20-60 depending on the distance. There are usually a bunch of them hanging out around the market in Sangkhlaburi town. The most fun way to go however, is to rent a motorbike. Either your guesthouse provides rentals themselves or they will know a place nearby that does.

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