Kamphaeng Phet – peaceful historical ruins & waterfalls

Three words I’d use to describe Kamphaeng Phet? Interesting, authentic and non-touristic. The small-ish town is about halfway between Kanchanaburi and Chiang Mai, which makes it a perfect stopover to avoid a night bus. Some stunning UNESCO temple remains can be found within the town, and there are a number of beautiful waterfalls and trekking trails about an hours drive out the centre.

Kamphaeng Phet seems to be avoided for some unknown reason by tourists – we only saw a couple of other foreigners in the town. However, this made the place seem more authentic and undiscovered, which was really refreshing. A couple of days is enough to see the main sights, but stay longer if you want to explore the National Parks.

Getting There & Around

We took the bus from Kanchanaburi which took 6 hours and cost £6.50 / 280 Baht each. We got the 6pm bus, but the bus broke down for an hour, meaning we arrived very late into Kamphaeng Phet. I’d recommend taking the morning bus instead.

Kamphaeng Phet is also easy to get to/from Sukhotai, Chiang Rai, Chiang Rai and Bangkok, as well as other towns. Buses seem to pass through the bus station quite regularly, although the timetables online don’t seem to be updated.

We caught a bus to Chiang Mai which cost us about £7 / 300 Baht and took 4-5 hours. There seemed to be 5 or 6 buses running each day.

Kamphaeng Phet Bus Station.
Kamphaeng Phet Bus Station.

Red, open-back taxis operate around the town and are relatively cheap. Just hail one down, say where you want to go and negotiate a price.

We hired mopeds from our accommodation to drive out to Khlong Lan National Park. Although some of the roads in/out the town were busy, the rest of the journey was pretty relaxing.

We also hired bicycles to cycle within the town from our accommodation. Traffic wise it was fine, but the bikes were in pretty bad nick (collapsing saddles, squeaky pedals), which made the journey more challenging.

Accommodation

I highly recommend staying at the quirky 3 J Guesthouse. We paid £5 / 220 Baht each a night for cosy, comfortable, en-suite double room. The guesthouse itself is pretty wacky, but in a good way, with interesting shaped wooden furniture and a multitude of decorations and ornaments.

The owner is a fascinating guy, who built the guesthouse up gradually over some years. He also has a farm towards the Myanmar border where guests can go and stay for a couple of days. Although he doesn’t advertise this online (which I think is a shame), it’s worth factoring in a couple of extra days if it’s something you like the sound of.

Mopeds and bikes can be hired from here at a very reasonable price.

3 J Guesthouse, Kamphaeng Phet
Ste relaxing at 3 J Guesthouse.

Things to do

Khlong Lan National Park & waterfall

This National Park is beautiful place, covering 300 square km. Although we didn’t venture far into the park, I recommend a visit, even just to see the spectacular 100 metre high waterfall. It’s possible to swim in the falls, but unfortunately it was too cold when we visited.

Khlong Lan National Park Waterfall, Kamphaeng Phet.
Khlong Lan Waterfall.
Khlong Lan National Park Waterfall, Kamphaeng Phet.
Ste, me, Kate & Jake.
Khlong Lan National Park Waterfall, Kamphaeng Phet.
Look how tall this waterfall is!!

There’s a small shop and visitor centre with interesting information about the flora and fauna in the park, as well as the animals that can be spotted. The park are also working with WWF to reintroduce tigers. As of 2017, there were 16 wild tigers in the park.

Khlong Lan National Park Visitor Centre
Khlong Lan National Park Visitor Centre.
Kamphaeng Phet Khlong Lan National Park.
A really interesting display showing how long it takes for rubbish to decompose. Makes you think about throwing away rubbish eh?!

If we’d had longer, I would have liked to stay in the park for a couple of days to do some trekking and exploring.

It took us about an hour to drive to the National Park from Kamphaeng Phet. The majority of the roads aren’t busy, so driving the peds wasn’t stressful.

Kamphaeng Phet sunset.
Sunset on the drive home.

Hill Tribes Cultural Centre

The Hill Tribes Cultural Centre is on the road between Kamphaeng Phet and Khlong Lam National Park, but closer to the National Park. It’s a small museum, but has a couple of rooms with hill tribe costumes, instruments and things used in daily life. The museum clearly doesn’t get many foreign visitors – the lady was so happy to see us, had photos with us and asked us to write in the guestbook. There is also a small shop that sells good quality, well-priced textiles, bags, notebooks etc., similar to ones you’d find in a night market, but better quality and locally made. The museum is free to enter and it’s a great place to support if you’re passing.

Hill Tribes Cultural Centre Kamphaeng Phet. Lahu Tribe traditional dress.
Traditional clothing from the Lahu Tribe.
Hill Tribes Cultural Centre Kamphaeng Phet.
A small but interesting display in the Hill Tribes Cultural Centre.

Historical Park – temple ruins

Kamphaeng Phet is known for its extensive UNESCO temple ruins. We hired bicycles to cycle around the temple parks which I’d really recommend – walking would have taken ages!

UNESCO Kamphaeng Phet Historical Park.
Bike gang 🚲

There are two parks with individual entrance prices, or a combined ticket is available for both. We bought the combined ticket which cost £3.50 / 150 Baht each and included a comprehensive map and information booklet about the ruins.

UNESCO Kamphaeng Phet Historical Park.
Temple ruins in Kamphaeng Phet Historical Park.
UNESCO Kamphaeng Phet Historical Park.
A giant Buddha Statue.
UNESCO Kamphaeng Phet Historical Park.
Exploring the ruins.
UNESCO Kamphaeng Phet Historical Park map.
Ste modelling the Historical Park map.
UNESCO Kamphaeng Phet Historical Park.
Beautiful ruins.

Cycling around the temples was very quiet and peaceful – we only saw a couple of other visitors. Kate and Jake had just been to the ruins in Ayutthaya, and said the ones in Kamphaeng Phet were better because they were surrounded by nature and they weren’t crowded. I guess because Ayutthaya is closer to Bangkok it attracts more day-trippers and tourists.

I’d really recommend a visit to this beautiful archaeological site – it’s fascinating!

UNESCO Kamphaeng Phet Historical Park.
You can even climb up the temples here!

Places to eat

  • Breakfast – we ate a tasty, cheap breakfast at our accommodation, which included loads of fresh fruits and juice.
  • Night Market – the night market in the town centre is predominantly meaty food stalls, however we found a small Pad Thai stall in the middle and used Google Translate to say “No fish. No meat. No egg. No animals.” Although the lady thought we were mad, she understood and we had a delicious meal for only 80p / 30 Baht each. Using a translator is a good way to make sure nothing fishy gets in your food! The market seemed to start about 4/5pm and was finished by 9pm.
Khamphaeng Phet Night Market.
Pad Thai stall in the Night Market.
Khamphaeng Phet Night Market.
Jake found some crepes as big as his head!
  • Small restaurant by national park – I’m not sure of the name, but this little place was along the small road to the National Park entrance. Again, we used Google Translate to say we were veggie and got a delicious, cheap meal of rice and veg. The restaurant overlooked the countryside.
Kamphaeng Phet National Park food.
Simple, but delicious.
  • Restaurant in bus station – Ste and I ate some rice and vegetables at the bus station before our journey to Chiang Mai for £1 / 50p. The lovely man at the restaurant showed us the Thai symbol for Jain – which Thai’s understand to mean vegan. Very handy for future meals.
Thai symbol for vegan/Jain.
Thai symbol for Jain = vegan.

Next stop: Chiang Mai

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