Our Amazing Thailand Airbnb

Filed Under: Airbnb, Hotels

Yay! We’re finally to the fun part of the trip!

As best as I can tell, there is not a single chain or points-friendly hotel in all of Kanchanaburi Province, though there is a spate of local accommodations, hostels, and guest houses. Home-stays seem to be the done thing, for the most part.

I’ve been craving some more complicated travel — not that I don’t love my life, and getting to travel in ridiculous luxury — sometimes it’s just nice to switch things up. Of course, there’s a limit to how rugged and isolated you can get when traveling with a family, but when my colleague Jordan suggested Kanchanaburi (“just go; it’s beautiful, and you won’t hear any American accents while you’re there”), it sounded perfect.

Heather took on the task of finding a place to stay, and found a great place about an hour outside of Kanchanaburi city, right on the River Khwae. The house was actually on some kind of military-controlled property right at Hell Fire Pass, so it took some effort to get there.


As soon as we pulled in the driveway we were welcomed by the hostess, given glasses of cold papaya juice (so yummy), and shown to our “cottage.”

We clearly have different definitions of “cottage”

The grounds were expansive, with a reception area and a few small cabins at the top of the hill, and then a huge grassy area separating two other cabins on the riverfront.


I’m not sure how many of these get rented out on a regular basis, but our cabin was completely isolated from the others. We only saw other guests one of the nights we were there.

Our cabin from across the lawn

To be clear, this wasn’t a luxurious property (in fact, the first time my husband looked at the pictures he responded with “Oh my.”), but in terms of finding something more local and authentic to the area it was perfect.

Cabin with steps up to the main living area, or down to the river

The structure was on two levels, with the main house on the upper floor. The entire front of the building featured a large deck cantilevered out over the river, where a series of rafts had been bound together to create a swimming area.

River and swim platforms

The entrance to the cabin was off the deck, and opened to a large central room with a small fridge, television, two sofas, and futons laid out for the girls.

Living room

On either side of the main room, and up a small step, were two additional bedrooms. The futons were very comfortable, and everything was immaculate. We all slept incredibly well here.

One of two identical sleeping areas

Through the back of the cabin was an indoor/outdoor kitchen, along with two bathrooms.

Kitchenette with coffee/tea setup

Views from the kitchen

Each bathroom had a sink and mirror, a shower, and a separate toilet space.

Bathroom vanity

Indoor/outdoor bathroom

The bathrooms were perfectly tidy, and had plentiful warm water. Warm, not hot, but we weren’t actually expecting heated water at all, so this was a spectacular bonus.

Outside of a few geckos in the bathrooms, we didn’t really see much wildlife in the house, and even though the bathrooms were all open-air they were still quite private.

And the views, oh the views!

River Khwae and mountains

The ground floor of the cabin was the “dining” area, and had a hammock and some extra tables.

Cabin ground floor

Our rate included a full breakfast, which typically consisted of perfectly cooked eggs, sausage (at least one type), ham, bacon, grilled vegetables, fresh fruit, juice, and toast. Once the hostess realized how much we liked Thai cuisine, delicious soups started appearing at breakfast as well.

We also had the option of taking dinner at the airbnb. Given the isolation of the property this made a ton of sense for us, so while we had interesting lunches from various shops and vendors while we were out exploring, we returned every night to delicious meals at “home.”

Hungry families aren’t interested in waiting for fancy food photos to be staged

We gave them free rein over the menu, and had the most delicious food every night. I mean, would you like to have a Thai grandmother cook for you all week? Of course you would. The dinners were never more than 1100 baht total (for all seven of us), and always offered more amazing food than we could possibly eat.

Because the cabin was so isolated and peaceful (and maybe because we were doing so much hiking during the day), we found ourselves going to bed by 8PM nearly every night.

Which, while lame-sounding, meant the entire family was up each morning to watch the sunrise.

Sunrise on the River Khwae

Watching the fog roll over the river with a cup of coffee in hand, surrounded by my family (in their first-class pajamas!), was so delightful. I couldn’t have special-ordered a better series of mornings.

Photo credit to my husband, for what is probably the best picture of the entire trip

Could this be any prettier?

We spent four nights here, and had a great time playing in the river, reading books, and just visiting. It was the perfect base for exploring the area, and we felt very much “at home” during our stay. The hostess and her family went just above and beyond in helping us plan our time in Kanchanaburi, and even went so far as to help us find a driver at the very last minute. I cannot say enough positive things about the hospitality here.

So, given the space, location, and breakfast for seven, how much would you guess this cost?

Using miles & points skills for airbnb

You can’t play this game for years and not have a tendency to want to maximize every lodging opportunity. And there were a couple of things that worked in our favor.

To start, airbnb gives a credit when you sign up as a new user, and also gives a credit to the person who referred you once you’ve completed a booking. So I referred Heather, we each referred our husbands, and we soon had our own little pyramid scheme of four accounts, each with a $25 credit.

Beyond that, American Express had an offer in fourth quarter giving $50 back on purchases of $100 or more. Gift cards were specifically included, so we bought 4 x $100 — enough to cover our stay in Kanchanaburi.

Combining the (moderate) fee for extra guests with the airbnb service fee, our total for each night was $129.

$129 – $25 credit – $50 from Amex = $54

Yep. $54 a night for seven people, including breakfast. I’m not sure you can even camp in the US at those rates nowadays, so I was pretty happy, even though I wasn’t earning (many) points. 😉

I’m sure someone will be along shortly to tell me that I overpaid for Thailand though. But really, I thought it was a more than fair price.


loved our stay here, and would return in a heartbeat. The owners were outrageously friendly and helpful, the property was perfect and peaceful, and the food was some of the best we had in Thailand.

If you’re considering a stay in Kanchanaburi, even just for a night or two, this cabin is highly, highly, recommended.

Darling rope swing and picnic area

Has anyone been to Kanchanaburi? Where did you stay?

If you don’t already have an account with airbnb, you can receive a $20 credit when you sign up as a new user. We receive a credit as well, which we of course appreciate. Feel free to share your links if you’re a current user!

  1. As great as the luxury afforded by miles & points can be, there is still something special about finding the perfect local (well, at least closer to the locals) experience.

    Beautiful place!

  2. Great Review as always!! Life isn’t all about the points, I am glad you stepped back to enjoy some real local tourism (the best kind). This is what travel is meant for not to see the best buffet spread at a Ritz Carlton.

  3. Airbnb has another positive attribute: competent, sensible problem resolution. I booked with a crooked airbnb host in Playa del Carmen and I declined to enter the suite upon arrival. But the crook had my money, paid uo front through airbnb.

    Airbnb looked into my complaint conscientiously and I was repaid in full, plus a goodwill credit. I judge a company by how they handle exceptions and problems. Airbnb gets a higher-than-passing grade.

  4. Which is a better trip option in November: Bangkok -> Chiang Mai -> Krabi or other way around?
    Koh Samui and other gulf Coast breaches are out of question at that time?

  5. @ YYZgayguy — That’s great to know! I haven’t had any problems, but that certainly makes me more comfortable.

  6. @YYZgayguy- Your host didn’t actually have your money. One of the best things about Airbnb is that the host isn’t paid until 24 hours after the scheduled check-in time. So Airbnb didn’t actually pay him/her, and just processed a credit card refund. This gives an incentive to hosts to be honest in how they present their properties and conscientious in dealing with guests- if things are bad enough like in your case, they won’t get paid. It’s not perfect, of course, but an important safeguard for guests

  7. During the Bali volcano eruption last year. All flights were cancelled and airports closed. Couldn’t check in and decided to cancel. Called Airbnb for refund. No problem they said, “We are aware of the situation” All money refunded within 5 days. Fantastic service also.

  8. I’ll chime in. I think the price ($129) is just about right, considering state of the room, location and the breakfast menu.

    You probably can find cheaper place, but you might have problem with some bug and wildlife in house.

  9. Tiffany – GREAT review and thanks for surfacing this alternative option for readers. When traveling with families, this can often be a better value overall than cashing in devalued points at hotel properties. Although we used HouseTrip (the UK-based version of Airbnb), it operates very similar to Airbnb. Our accommodations were OUTSTANDING during a 4-week trek through Europe for the four of us, including a 2-level apt in Venice, 3-br apt in Barcelona, a villa at a working farmhouse in Tuscany with vineyards literally right outside our door, and a 2-br apt in Paris in the Marais.

    While one trades off the service of hotels, they gain the incredible value and experience of ‘living’ like the locals, going grocery shopping which arguably gives a traveler much greater connection to the culture of where they are.

    So glad to hear your experience was incredibly worthwhile.

  10. How did you arrange your transportation. Did you hire a different guy every day and paid him accordingly or you arranged something for the whole trip? and of course cost wise how expensive?

  11. I love home stays but I always use HomeAway or VRBO to avoid Airbnb’s 12% service fee. You got a great deal with the Amex offer stacked though. Hope they bring that back or HomeAway does something similar.

  12. @Tiffany, you could have earned some extra points through Virgin America as they offer up 1pt per US$ spent through their Airbnb portal. I’m pretty sure Lucky posted about it a couple of months ago.

  13. I do find the rates for similar properties on airbnb to be higher vs vrbo and the like. VRBO tends to have very high cleaning fees ($150 per stay is pretty common) and other misc fees (I’ve seen application fees for $35, 4% fee for using a credit card, a forced damage claim waiver (instead of a refundable deposit) for $50 etc.) but even then Airbnb still tends to be more expensive.

    Also, I had a less than perfect response from airbnb when my host cancelled on me (thankfully a few weeks before but by this time all the decent properties were gone, it was new years eve in Prague) and all airbnb did was give me a 20% additional credit to find another place, which was nowhere enough as I had booked months earlier, I still had to pay quite a bit out of pocket to find a comparable place.

  14. Great review!

    It sounds like you had 4 Air BnB accounts that earned sign up credits but were able to use them all. How do you use multiple accounts to pay for a single stay?

  15. @ Jason — Yep, we just told the host what we wanted to do to make sure they were okay with it, and then booked consecutive nights.

  16. The most popular ways the local travel in Thailand is hiring a van for 6 to 10 passengers. The price per day is 1,800 to 2,000 baht per day with driver. They will be with you the whole trip. You will pay for gas and tipping. The other question is do you go north or south of Thailand. Both are high seasons in Thailand. The north is definitely cooler has a lot of festival, beautiful flowers. The south has clear water not merkey, again you can’t predict the weather.

  17. I like to travel not only because it’s the best way to change the picture outside the window, and get rid of boring thoughts at least for a while. Travel is always a reassessment of values and an awareness of the life path. After visiting temples in Chiang Mai, I began to accept my life in a new, happiness became as accessible and tangible as it was in the childhood. So strange and very rich sensation, among my memories, are trips to the coast on a hired scooter in Cat Motors, and a fresh breeze that foretells a new warm sunny day. In truth, it was a great vacation!

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