Kanchanaburi is a lively, relatively modern town with regular train and coach connections to and from Bangkok. It has bars selling buckets of booze for 10baht (look out for the ”get drunk for 10baht” bar sign, if you needed the hint…) a great night market and loads of choices for those of you wanting to go on river tours or take a day trip to visit ‘The Bridge over the River Kwai’ and Death Railway. Hellfire Pass is also a manageable expedition from here.
Warning: there will be a lot of tourists taking smiley selfies on the bridge, despite the fact that it is only famous because so many people died there. Try to resist the urge to push them off into the water. This is probably frowned upon.
Much of what you can see as a tourist in Kanchanaburi (other than the many, many bars) is related to the dark history of the place. If you can find the time to head a little farther out I’d recommend checking out the Hellfire Pass Memorial Museum and taking a walk along the route. It’s about 80km northwest of Kanchanaburi itself, but the buses to Sangkhlaburi can drop you off en route. If you’re struggling to communicate the idea of a drop-off, motorbike and pick-up truck taxis are available all along the main road. Hellfire pass itself is a pretty serious hike if you’re looking to explore the whole way up, but even on a sweltering 50C day we managed a fair bit before turning round and heading back to the museum for shade and water.
There’s all sorts of other stuff you can get up to if you’re all wartime-historied-out, from Thai cookery classes (that’s me below in the striped dress) to floating markets and waterfalls. The seven-tiered Erawan falls cost 300Baht to access (about £5.50 at the time of writing) and are popular with wild monkeys and tourists alike. Don’t be alarmed if you jump in the water and find yourself getting nibbled on- there are fish living here who have a taste for dead skin, but they can’t give you more than a tickle!