Sangkhlaburi is an idyllic place and well worth visiting as it is off the tourist trail and thus great for the tourist who wants to see "real Thailand" (whatever that is:)). The place is well known to Thais who come here for relaxing weekends away, or alternatively parties on the floating houses. But violence is not unknown here in the past when the market area in the centre of town was best not explored after it closed. There were clashes between Mon and Thai youth on the bridge area but hopefully that is some years passed now.
Wangka (also known as Monside) on the other side of the Bridge is well worth visiting. The village was founded by Luang Phor Uttama in 1949 after he fled Burma with 60 other Mon Families. Uttama passed away in 2006 and since then, the village has been in mourning. Alcohol is not permitted to be drunk in public and doing so would be hugely disrespectful. This only applies to the Wangka, not Sangkhla. Many of the villagers speak Mon as their first language, so don't be surprised if they cannot understand your Thai. If you eat at a Mon restaurant, an easy word to remember is "Dangoon" for "thank you".
Buses go direct from Mo Chit station in Bangkok to Sangkhlaburi. The first ones leave at around five o clock and pass through Kanchanaburi on the way.
There are also many buses/minibuses leaving from Kanchanburi Bus Station. The trip takes around 5-6 hours and can be up to 7-8 from Bangkok. Tour agencies in the Mae nam Kwai tourist area of Kanchanaburi may also be able to help you get to Sanghkhlaburi by minibus.
Red buses pass through Nam Tok (along main road near terminating station for train from Kanchanaburi) every 30 minutes. The fare to Sangkhla is 100 baht.
Incredible scenery from along road around reservoir, well worth the 'slow' bus
minibus (departs from ticketshop at far end of road running from the bus station past the 7-Eleven and the market): 06:00, 06:40, 07:20, 08:00, 08:40, 09:30, 10:20, 11:10, 11:40, 12:30, 13:00, 14:00, 15:00, 16:00 - 3hrs, 146 baht (B175 in Sept 2009; not every scheduled minibus actually runs; if full, charge may apply for luggage)
car: 3 hours, keep your tank full as fuel is more expensive near the border.
The last bus/minibus for Bangkok leaves the bus station at 13:30, the last for Kanchanaburi at 16:00.
Green pickups depart hourly from bus station to Three Pagodas Pass and charge 30 baht for the 30-40 minutes trip. A good option for a group is to hire a songthaew for a few hours and visit Sawanbandan Cave and other attractions as well.
The most common way to get around town is motorcycle taxi. It costs 15 baht from the centre of town to the wooden bridge (Saphan-Mon). To the Wats costs around 50-60 baht. If you're having trouble finding a taxi, there are taxi stands dotted around. One is by the Baan Unrak bakery near the guest houses. There are a few in town near the bus station. Another is in the Mon village on the West side of the bay, down the hill on the main road as you head towards the wats.
Walking is a rewarding option. There are some English signposts around pointing out the main attractions. Use the wooden footbridge to get across the bay. Across the main footbridge and out to the Wats on the Mon village side of the lake is an easy half-day hike. To get there, after the footbridge, follow the road straight ahead until you reach a T-Junction, then turn left (downhill) and follow the main road until the next T-junction. To the right is the main Wat, to the left is the Pagoda and crafts market. A handy shortcut: on the East side (guesthouse side) there is a smaller footbridge at the bottom of the street that Burmese Inn is on, which leads to the start of the main footbridge. Stay on the concrete in the middle as the side walkways are rotting.
You can also rent motorbikes or bicycles at P Guesthouse and Burmese Inn rents motorbikes.
Wat Wang Wiwekaram and Chedi Buddhakhaya - Walk over the bridge to the Mon village, and bear left parallel to the lake. After 2km the concrete road forks. Left goes to the huge golden chedi, with a small Burmese goods market below it, and right goes to the main Wat Wang Wiwekaram. The Wat was built by the late Phara Uttama, who was one of the most important Monks in Thailand, and is still highly revered in the Mon community. There is a large, ornate viharn at the main wat, and in another building there are murals depicting stages of the Buddha's last, and previous, lives. You may wish to hire a taxi as, for some, it might be a long walk to the temple, and it is easy to get lost in Wangka village (although people are happy to point you in the right direction).
Saphan Mon - The 400m wooden bridge itself is well worth a visit and is the longest handmade wooden bridge in Thailand. There is a small cafe on one end which is a great spot for a drink and a view. Be careful when crossing the bridge though, it is made and repaired in a chaotic manner and you need to be careful of your footing. There are donation boxes at either end which pay for the bridges constant upkeep. So consider donating, as you will receive an amazing photo in return! Local children like to jump off bridge into lake.
Wat Saam Prasob (The Sunken Temple) - When the water level of the lake is low (usually in the dry season) you can hire a boat to take you (or hire a canoe from P Guesthouse to paddle yourself out) to see three sunken temples, the last remaining vestiges of the old town flooded for the creation of Khao Laem Reservoir; (one temple is not sunken but is a minutes walk from the water and arguably the most pretty; hugged or held up by trees and their roots it is between the other two temples; Wat Saam Prasob is the furthest one so the price for visiting one or three is the same). (The top of Wat Sam Prasob 1-2 m of temple is in view in September.)
Observe & taste the traditional wonders of Thai cuisine at Scenns
Visit Three Pagodas Pass and the border market (and, if the border's open, cross over to Payathonzu, on the Myanmar side of the border). The road out to Three Pagodas Pass passes a side-road to a waterfall. To reach the waterfall, you must walk through the jungle and cross rivers, sometimes by swimming (at least in the rainy season). There is another side-road to Wang Bandan cave. Visit the shoe factory shop for some good prices of export quality shoes.
Join an organised trek into the surrounding jungle. P Guesthouse offers good-value one-day treks by longboat, elephant and bamboo raft. Burmese Inn offers boat rides, rafting and treks including multiple-day treks.
Visit Baan Unrak Children's Home for their Wednesday night dinner and yoga show (contact Baan Unrak Bakery for time and directions). Make a generous donation. Volunteer opportunities may be available.
Visit Baan Unrak Animal Sanctuary if you feel like giving some love to some needy furry friends.
Franky's Jungle Trekking, ☎ +66 87 059 0148. Unique jungle trekking experiences in the national parks surrounding Sangklaburi. Anything from a 1 day trek to a 6 day 5 night trek to Umphang.600 baht. edit
Scenns, ☎ +66 8060 23184, . Take a Thai cooking or Thai language or Thai dance class; quick & wonderful ways to enter the Thai culture & mindset; three fun things to do while in Sangkhla at Scenns.Daily, monthly and weekly rates.. edit
Swimming Breiki river, dive off the rocks into clear water or walk on the sands; watch the birds and buffalos and more on the way; stop at the old gate to Sangkhla where the Burmese were fought. Go by boat from the bridge.
Visit Coconut Island by long tail boat from the bridge; 90 minutes each way; leave at 07:00, take a picnic, return by 1400 or so; buy the rarer little coconuts (special for Thai desserts) about THB50 each &/or take a roast chicken from the market to give to the Karen family living there, (eagles eat theirs) and they appreciate something in return for being the spectacle.
The Sunken Temple in mid-April, when water level is low
Weaving for Women - Textiles are sold by displaced ethnic refugees at a small shop about 200 metres down the hill from the post office. The shop is run by Daisy Dwe, who fled Burma and has settled in Sangkhlaburi to help other refugees. Excellent products for a great cause. These are also sold at the restaurant/internet cafe/bakery signed 'Baan Un Rak' about 150 m past Soi 1 at the bottom of the hill on the main road.
Baan Unrak Weaving, (About 100 m past Soi 1 at the bottom of the hill on the main road), . 08:00-20:00. Quality hand-crafted, ethical clothing & accessories are sold here. Part of the NGO Baan Unrak Children's Village, the weaving and sewing centre provides economic development and job opportunities for single mothers on the border of Myanmar. All profits go towards supporting the Baan Unrak mission, which provides a home for disadvantaged women and children in the community.edit
Town market - if you wake up early enough, catch the early morning stalls selling Thai and Burmese breakfast snacks. At midday the market winds down but there are plenty of stalls selling cheap and tasty Thai food at the top of the hill, opposite the bus station, providing cheap food most days, but reportedly not open at weekends.
Burmese Inn - About 800m down the hill on the right-hand side down Soi 1. A simple menu with reasonable prices, but a good standard of Western, Thai and Burmese food.
Jimmy's House - Birdland Books, run by 'Big Jimmy' Opposite the temple on the Thai side of the bridge 50 metres further on than Burmese Inn. Good selection of delicious Western, Burmese & Thai food. Also sells & trades books. A good source of local information.
Baan Unrak Bakery - Also on the main guest house road, just after the temple, on the left. The bakery has some tasty cookies and also cakes and breads. The restaurant serves coffees, teas and some simple Thai and Western food and has free Wi-Fi. There's also a bookshop.
Wangka Village - there are countless cafes and restaurants in the Mon village. "Guuteeoh" noodle soup is a popular local dish.
P Guest House - good menu of local and foreign dishes, reasonably priced at 50-80 baht for main meals. Head south from Post Office past Temple and Baan Unrak Bakery. Exquisite view across lake to chedi. Recommended for a sunset dinner.
Toy's restuarant-affordable price for Thai food with a friendly owner "Aoom" (prices start from 25 baht)
There are no obvious Western-style bars. Though you can do as the Thais do and order a bottle of whisky, a bucket of ice and soft drink from one of the local restaurants. Beer from the local supermarkets is 42 baht for a large Chang. A selection of wines from Kanchanaburi is available from 260 baht for a bottle with white and two varieties of red available.
You can also head to P. Guesthouse to enjoy a farang atmosphere. P Guesthouse is very popular with Bangkok urbanites taking a short break from the city. An exquisite view across the lake. Especially recommended for a sunset drink.
Western Bar(Garden Home) - Approx 700 m from the bus station, down the hill on the right hand side. They have many cocktails and Thai beer. They also offer soft beverages and food. The place is kept very clean and also has a landscaped outside sitting area. This place is new but already proves popular with farangs.
There are a few guest houses around 2 km from the city centre (around 10 baht by motorbike taxi). Be careful with the tap water, since it is possibly sourced from a lake.
Burmese Inn - Approx 800 m from the bus station, down the hill on the right hand side on Soi 1. Rooms with double, TV, fan & private bathroom cost 400 baht, and 800 baht with air-con. Fan rooms are 200 baht, but very basic in a rickety wooden building. Free wi-fi though range is limited. There is a reasonably priced and charming restaurant. Staff are friendly and the mother speaks decent English. You can hire motorbikes and boats here, and a range of tours including boat trips and treks can be booked through the staff.
Birdland Books, 13/1, ☎ 086-8016738. Just a little further up from the Burmese Inn on the left-hand side of the road, These rooms start from 100 baht per night with share bathroom. Ask 'Big Jimmy', a US expat, of 30 years for advice about activities & sights in the area. They also sometimes have motorbikes for rent. Facilities are basic but the service is excellent and friendlyedit
Heading south from the post office past the high school, temple and Baan Unrak Bakery:
Potanee Resort The rooms are around 1,200 baht with air con, en suite bathroom and a lovely view of the reservoir. Breakfast is included.
Grandma's Homestay, next to the bakery and opposite Wat Si Temple, ☎ +66 87 977 0687. Very basic, but a lovely, warm, family atmosphere and the hub of life for passing tourists and volunteers. Has own laundry service. Book at <email@example.com>basic room in a self- contained apartment with one other room. Has a Thai toilet and hot shower- 150 baht. edit
P Guesthouse - Reasonable rates, great food, friendly staff and good-value fun tours. The internet is a litile expensive at 40 baht/hour, unless you have your own laptop, but overall a very pleasant place to stay. 250 baht for double, fan and shared bathroom. 900 baht for air-con double with en suite. 1,300 baht for trek (longboat, elephant and raft) plus one night's accommodation.
Phornpailin Riverside Resort - Go another 500 m past P Guesthouse to find this riverside resort. Rooms from 1,000 baht. All rooms include air-con, hot water, cable TV, and minibar. The property also has 24-hour security. Big restaurant on site with large menu.
Haiko guesthouse - Japanese style room for 650 baht for hot shower, double bed, fan
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