Discovering the River Kwai in Thailand | Kanchanaburi, Thailand | The province of Kanchanaburi is close to Bangkok and borders to Myanmar (Burma). Although there is plenty to see in this region, the Bridge over River Kwai, the museum , Don-Rak Cementery and the ride over the Death Railway are the main attraction, so I went for it. A full day tour, driving for over 2 hours from center Bangkok to the River Kwai Bridge. River Kwai and the Bridge . After entering the Second War in December 1941, Japanese forces quickly overran most of South East Asia. In 1942, in order to find a shorter and more secure line of supply between Burma (now Myanmar) and Siam (now Thailand), the Japanese decided to use prisoners of war and civilian labour to build a single line railway to link existing railheads at Thanbyuzayat in the west and Ban Pong in the east.
Your first stop upon arrival to Kanchanaburi will be to visit the bridge itself and have amazing panoramic views of the Kwai River. Do not miss crossing the bridge walking from side to side, as I am doing on the photo above. From there your next stop will be the Don-Rak War Cemetery and the Kwai River Bridge Museum.
Two forces, one based in Siam and one in Burma, worked from opposite ends of the line, meeting at Konkuita in October 1943. The project cost the lives of approximately 15,000 prisoners of war and 100,000 civilians as a result of sickness, malnutrition, exhaustion and mistreatment.
The Don-Rak War Cemetery. This cemetery, the largest of three on the Burma-Siam Railway, is located near the site of the former “Kanburi” Prisoner of War Base Camp through which most prisoners passed on their way to other camps. The cementery, designed by Colin St. Clair Oakes, was created after the war by the Army Graves Service who transferred graves into it from camp burial grounds and solitary sites all along the souther half of the railway and from other sites in Thailand. More that 5,000 Commonwealth and 1,800 Dutch casualties are commemorated in the cemetery, including 300 men who died of sickness at Niecke and Changaraya and who were cremated. Their ashes are buried in two graves in the cemetery and their names appear on panels in the shelter building. The names of eleven soldiers of the Indian army whose graves elsewhere in Thailand could not be maintained are commemorated by name on a tablet in the entrance building. Next to the cemetery, do not miss visiting the Kwai River Bridge Museum just across the street, that will give you a full understanding of the story behind River Kwai Bridge.
The tour continues by hopping onboard the Kwai River Train, to cross the famous bridge and follow the original train tracks all the way to Thamkra Sae, approximately an hour after. During the journey you will get amazing views of the Kwai River, the area in general, local people to finally arrive to the Death Railway.
The Death Railway, 415 km long Burma-Thailand railway. This railway was intended to move men and supplies to the Burmese front where the Japanese were fighting the British. Japanese army engineers selected the route which traversed deep valleys and hills.
The railway line originally ran within 50 meters of the Three Pagodas Pass which marks nowadays the border to Burma. However after the war the entire railway was removed and sold as it was deemed unsafe and politically undesirable. The prisoners lived in squalor with a near starvation diet. They were subjected to captor brutality and thus thousands perished. After the war the dead were collectively reburied in the War Cemeteries and will remain forever witness to a brutal and tragic ordeal.
I spent the full afternoon there. Had and improvised Thai Lunch right next to the train station of Thamkra Sae but with breathtaking views of the Kwai River. After that I went out on a mini-adventure walking by the rail tracks, where I made the video below. Also after that went into the Buddhist Caves, but that is for another post to come soon.
(*) Special thanks to Diethelm Travel, leading Asia’s Tour Operator, whom offered the full day private tour in full courtesy. Regular and Private tours on comfortable modern transportation, with private bilingual guides. If you wish more information or would like to book this tour, please do not hesitate to contact me Carlos Melia Luxury Travel Curator – www.carlosmelia.com
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