On this full day tour from Bangkok you will see the famous Bridge over the river Kwai, the Death Railway built between Thailand and Burma, the World War II museum and the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery. Then you will make a train ride along part of the Death Railway as well as make a longtail speedboat ride on the Kwai river.
Bridge over the river Kwai and Death Railway
The bridge on the river Kwai, that many people know from the 1957 movie with the same name or from the book by Pierre Boulle is part of the infamous Death Railway, built during World War II from 1942 to 1943.
The railway connected Kanchanaburi in Western Thailand with Rangoon in Myanmar, called Burma back then, and was about 415 kilometers long. On both ends construction began in June 1942 working towards each other. In October 1943 the two sides met, finishing the railway.
The line was built to support the Japanese war effort in Burma, where they were fighting the British army. In 1941, Japan occupied Burma which was an English colony at the time. The railway was built to bring troops and supplies to the Japanese army in Burma.
The railway was built by around 61,000 allied prisoners of war (POW) and at least 200,000 Asian forced laborers. It is estimated that some 13,000 POW’s died during construction of the railway, who were buried along the railway or in burial grounds in the POW camps. After the war, the dead were reburied at the war cemeteries in Kanchanaburi. Of the Asian laborers, some 80,000 died.
As the area where the railway was to be build is mountainous and heavily forested with many river crossings, construction of the line was a huge and very difficult task. For some sections large rocks had to be cut making the job even harder. On top of this there was no proper heavy equipment to move the earth, so all the work had to be done by hand with the help of elephants.
Working and living conditions of the laborers were terrible, many died from exhaustion, starvation or diseases like cholera or dysentery. After completion the bridge was bombed by the allied forces and repaired again by the laborers several times.
The JEATH war museum is located next to the Kwai river on the grounds of the Buddhist temple complex Wat Chai Chumphon.
JEATH is short for Japan, England, Australia, Thailand and Holland, which were the countries where most of the men who built the Death Railway came from.
The museum has been built as an exact copy of the original POW camp on the site of the first wooden bridge. The museum contains a collection of photographs taken during the war by POW’s or Thais that show the horrific working and living conditions of the POW’s. Besides the photos there is a number of artifacts, documents and newspaper clippings on display.
The War Cemetery is located in Kanchanaburi town, through which the Kwai river runs. It is here that the remains of 6,982 prisoners of war who died during construction of the Death Railway are buried. Most of the POW’s buried here are British, Dutch and Australian. When the war ended, the dead who were first buried along the rail track and in POW burial sites were reburied at the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery. The cemetery is located close to where the Kanchanaburi POW camp used to be.
Train ride on Death Railway and longtail boat ride
Next on this tour is a train ride on the Death railway to Nam Tok station. The landscape the railway cuts through is very beautiful with mountains, dense jungle and mountain streams. It is one of the most scenic train routes in Thailand. Last part of the tour is a ride on the Kwai river by longtail speedboat. We will then take you back to your Bangkok hotel.
Visit the bridge over river Kwai
+ Speedboat trip + World War II Museum + War Cemetery + Train ride on Death Railway