A city with a great wide river, lots of history and, unexpected, some great vegan finds! Kanchanaburi was the starting point for our month long volunteering at the elephant sanctuary ElephantsWorld.
The city is infamous for it’s Death Railway and the Bridge over the River Kwai. It houses a big war cemetery, some museums on this topic and of course the general backpackers-stuff such as cheap hostels and bars. If you stay on the tourist-strip you can cheaply rent a bicycle to see most of the city.
Oh and learn how to pronounce ‘Kwai’ because you might be saying ‘buffalo’ (“kway”) or even ‘d!ck’ (“kwhy”) without knowing it! Here in speech (without ‘noi’). So yes, because of the movie we have always said ‘river of manly parts’.. Thank you Hollywood!
For a trip outside the city you can visit the Death Railway/Hellfire Pass or Erawan Falls (which has an entry-price around 300 baht). Bring your own food to the falls because there is not much vegan food to buy. After level 2 (it has more levels!) you aren’t allowed to bring any food but you can leave that behind in a locker after paying a small deposit (so most picnicking locals stay at the beginning). So get your carbs before you hike! It’s a nice hike but not the most beautiful waterfall I’ve seen. But I must add that it was dry season when we were here.
VEGAN FOOD: KANCHANABURI
This little city has some amazing spots to eat at. More than I actually expected. There are a few more on the Kanchanaburi-page of HappyCow if you’re interested.
For restaurants I use the following categorization:
Vegan = fully vegan restaurant
Vegan friendly = vegetarian restaurant with vegan options
Veggie friendly = offers meat but has some vegan options
On’s Thai-issan (vegan-friendly) – $
For those in Kanchanaburi: definitely go to On’s vegan restaurant. On our first day off from ElephantsWorld we went to these lovely ladies cooking the most amazing food, maybe even the best I’ve had in Thailand.
The Tom Kha was amazing, pumpkin hummus was a positive surprise (if you don’t like coriander/cilantro ask for mint. A lovely fresh twist), the massaman curry very nice, papaya salad spicy but delicious, and a great laap ishaan; it’s bit sour with a fresh mint taste. And that isn’t even everything on the menu! But the winner for sure was the banana flower salad!
All the main dishes are 50baht, 30 for amazing shakes and only 10 baht for some healthy brown rice. Very nice vegan Thai food for not too much baht’s. Although most dishes are vegan by default and On doesn’t have things like fish-sauce, maybe still tell her your vegan. The Pad Thai could be made with eggs.
Go and try the banana flower salad asap! And if you like to cook yourself; join a cooking class with Miss On. Which we did at the end of our month of volunteering. So go! Because: “Miss On is never off!”
Veg restaurant (vegan) – $
A bit further away from the Bridge over the river Kwai than On’s restaurant you’ll find another vegan restaurant. It’s around the corner (bending to the left) where CJ (supermarket) is, walk a little bit further and on the left side you’ll find it. Look for the yellow vegan (“tjay”) flags. I have also put it on HappyCow, link below!
There are a couple of dishes (buffet-style) with some tasty meat-substitutes. Looking real enough to confuse my vegetarian co-volunteers. Menu changing almost every day. The food is a bit less refined than On’s (in the same street) but still pretty good. And you can try different things if you’d like. But if you can’t handle spicy food; some dishes are local-style spicy, so try or ask first before you pick!
The place is already open early in the morning so go for a nice and vegan Thai breakfast. Staff speaks little English but are nice. This restaurant is comparable to ‘Kaodeng Kaeng Rawn’ in Bangkok.
HappyCow: Veg Restaurant
Vegan food cart (vegan) – $
When leaving the nameless place with a full belly I stumbled upon a food stall which apparently sells vegan food! Everything was written in Thai but lucky me that I just found out about the Thai ‘characters’ for vegan (“tjay”). Like the vegan-universe was testing my Thai-skills!
The lovely lady behind her cart showed me all of her food but unfortunately I was already too full from the other place. I went back the next day and apparently she sells vegan ‘Laap’ (everything was written in Thai). I ordered one to take with me to the Erawan falls. It was a very nice lunch, even two plastic bag-hours later!
If you like laap and it’s herby flavour (mint and cilantro) you should go to this lovely and smiling young lady. Around April she was in front of the CJ.
I’ve added the stall to HappyCow; please update if she is no longer there or switched places :)
HappyCow: Vegan food cart
Veggie restaurant near bus station (probably vegan) – $/$$
While walking around the Kanchanaburi bus station I saw a small restaurant with the yellow vegan flags. It was on a Saturday around 6pm and the place was (already) closed. But if you are near this area and looking for food check it out! It’s in the street parallel and between the big main street and the bus station.
POSSIBLE SLEEPING SPOTS
We stayed at Chitanun Guesthouse with their lovely gardens filled with mango trees. Situated on the tourist-road, without any noise from it! Another ok place to sleep is VN Guesthouse with its basic rooms, river view (especially when you have the raft-room) and tasty (but a bit more pricy) food. But please look around, there are plenty of places to sleep!
If you don’t want to sleep yet, check out the cozy reggae bar Jahmaikarn with live music and great cocktails. Look for the bamboo-build hut and lovely staff. Oh and be prepared on seeing plenty of old guys ‘fishing’ for Thai girls, an industry Thailand is unfortunately infected with.
Another post specifically about the use/abuse of Thai (Indian) elephants in general can be found here. (Link coming) Let’s share and spread awareness!
Read more about Kanchanaburi on WikiTravel