Kanchanburi กาญจนบุรี means "gold town", กาญจน์ or กาญจนา being one of the many words for "gold". Gold (color) is ทอง and gold (metal) is ทองคำ, after that it gets esoteric and most Thai people wouldn't know the meaning: สุวรรณภูมิ Suwannaphum "Golden Land" like in Suvarnabhumi Airport, แหลมทอง lăem tong "Golden Peninsula", มาศ like in คีรีมาศ Khiri Mat (district in Sukhothai province) or ลำปลายมาศ Lam Plai Mat (district in Buriram province), สุพรรณ like in Suphanburi สุพรรณบุรี "City of Gold", กนก gà-nòk and นพคุณ nóp-pá-kun (don't know examples, but a friend's name is Noppakun).
River Kwai does not exist, there is only Khwae Yai River แม่น้ำแควใหญ่ and Khwae Noi River แควน้อย, and the RTGS (Royal Thai General System of Transcription) Khwae is a better representation of pronunciation than Kwai. The brigde originally was over Mae Klong River แม่น้ำแม่กลอง, part of which was renamed to Khwai Yai to match the name of the bridge. More information here: http://www.seat61.com/Bridge-on-the-River-Kwai.htm (Excellent website for information about traveling by train!)
View of bridge from War Museum with train crossing (fairly new Chinese Temple in background):
The Eastern & Oriental Express (Bangkok-Singapore) drives a 100 km detour (about 50 km each way) to go over the bridge.
Saengchuto road ถนนแสงชูโต = hwy 323 main road running through the town. Bus station and railway station about 100 m from Saengchuto road, but several km apart.
Mae Nam Kwae road ถนนแม่น้ำแคว main foreign night entertainment area. Many guesthouses as well. I was surprised to find dozens of bars, restaurants and massage places. Staff in bars and massage places look like they cater for the the single male traveler looking for company. Highest number of such venue I have seen outside Bangkok, Pattaya, Phuket, Chiang Mai; more than I saw in Phnom Penh or Siem Reap. Common prices for 1 h massage: Thai 200 Baht, Foot 200, Oil 300.
Song Kwae road ถนนสองแคว ("road of the two Kwai rivers" - where Kwai Yai and Kwai Noi form Mae Klong) along the river. Has several Thai style discos and karaokes. On the river side, floating restaurants and park and benches, where locals sit and chat and drink. This would be the place to go to socialize with locals who are not in the service industry. In fact, I encountered a heavily made-up ladyboy with a gaggle of obviously gay boys. One of them offered several times to drive me back to my room on his motorbike, but he was not my type, so I walked.
Pak Praek road ถนนปากแพรก has several heritage buildings, with signs in Thai and English to describe their history. (details see separate post) The road becomes a walking street at night, but I didn't witness much activity.
Pra Sit Song Kram road ถนนประสิทธิ์สงคราม I noticed a vegetable night market being set up when I walked through Sunday 02.11.2014 23:50.
Public swimming pool directly north of Public Hall ศาลา 60 พรรษามหาราช (accessible from Song Kwae road or Pak Praek road. Covered by a roof, but open to the air, at night illuminated. Entry 40 Baht, open Mon-Fri 16:00-20:30, Sat+Sun 8:30-12:00 and 16:00-20:30. Lockers available, but you have to bring your own padlock.
Tap water must be very hard, judging by limescale. Water in bowl for flushing had a white substance on surface after standing overnight. Tap water is potable (I drank 0.5 liter without adverse effect). Basins at Erawan waterfall are limestone as well, deposited from flowing water.
There was a fair in the park on the western side of the river (สวนสุขภาพ easily accessible by bridge hwy 3228). They had a collection of cars converted to discotheques (number plates from other provinces as well), with coyote girls.
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