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Bridge over the River Kwai, Kanchanaburi, Thailand

Updated on December 19, 2010
Bridge over the River Kwai
Bridge over the River Kwai

During October 2007 after a short trip to Koh Chang we headed back to Chiang Mai, but not before a short stay in Kanchanaburi town. The province of the same name 'Kanchanaburi' is one of Thailand's largest and least developed and is situated close to the border with Myanmar or Burma. The main tourist attraction in Kanchanaburi are the Bridge over the River Kwai which is part of the Death Railway, The Tiger Temple and the Erawan Waterfalls

Following the journey from Koh Chang we checked into the hotel and during the evening meal we discussed where we would visit. We finally decided we would visit the Bridge over the River Kwai and other attractions on the Death railway and possibly the Tiger Temple.

The River Kwai bridge is the most famous part of the Death Railway, it is 415 km in length and runs from Bangkok to Rangoon in Burma. The Bridge over the River Kwai was constructed by 60,000 allied prisoners of war (POWs) and 180,000 Asian labourers who were forced to work on the bridge by the Japanese Army. The purpose of the railway was to carry supplies and Japanese troops to Burma.


The living and working conditions were so poor that it is estimated that over 100,000 (90,000 Asians and 16,000 POWs) workers died during the construction, hence the name 'The Death Railway'. It is estimated for nearly each sleeper laid of which there were 120,000, a human life was lost, dieing from overwork, malnutrition and illness.

In 1957 a British film was made called 'The Bridge over the River Kwai' based on the bridge construction. However the film does not depict the exact truth of what happened during the construction in WW2.

Walking over the bridge
Walking over the bridge

Prior to walking across the bridge we visited the War Museum and Art Gallery at the Bridge. It is located on the river bank close the the bridge and contains WW2 memorabilia such as clothing, weapons and paintings.

Other places of interest nearby include the Jeath War Museum. Jeath is an anacronym of the countries that participated in the construction of the bridge, Japan, England, America, Australia, Thailand and Holland. The museum includes a bamboo hut which is a replica of the hut the POWs lived in during this time. The museum includes pictures and accounts describing the atrocities suffered by the prisoners at the hands of the Japanese.

There are also two cemeteries, The Kanchanaburi War cemetery and the smaller Chong Kai War Cemetery which are the final resting places of thousands of POWs. Both cemeteries which are immaculately maintained can be very heart rendering and sobering as you walk round.

The bridge can be walked across on foot, ideally walking on the centre of the track. If the bridge is busy with people care must be taken when walking on the edge of the track as there are no railings to speak of. At various intervals on the bridge there small side platforms which make ideal view points.


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