Kanchanaburi, western province bordering Myanmar (Burma),
has an infamous WWII history. This is where 16,000 Allied POWs and 90,000
Asian laborers died during the construction of the Death Railway. The
Bridge of the River Kwai - a small part of the death railway is one
of the most visited tourist spot in Kanchanaburi.
Art Gallery & War Museum
9am to 4.30pm daily
A smaller building opposite the main museum contains
WWII relics, including photos and sketches made during the POW period
and a display of Japanese and Allied weapons. Inside, a glass case contains
106 skeletons unearthed in a mass grave of Asian laborers.
over the River Kwai
Immortalized by the book and movie of the same name,
the real bridge spans the Kwai Yai River, a tributary of the Mae Klong
River 3km from Kanchanaburi's town center.
The materials for the bridge were brought from
Java by the Imperial Japanese Army during their occupation of Thailand.
In 1945 the bridge was bombed several times and was only rebuilt after
the war - the curved portion of the bridge are original. The first version
of the bridge, completed in February 1943 was all wood. In April of
the same year a bridge of steel was constructed. It is estimated that
16,000 POWs died while building the Death Railway to Myanmar (Burma),
of which the bridge was only a small part. The strategic objective of
the railway was to secure an alternative supply route for the Japanese
conquest of Burma.
Construction of the railway began in September 16,
1942 at existing terminal in Thanbyuzayat in Burma and Nong Pladuk in
Thailand. Japanese engineers at that time estimated that it would take
five years to link Thailand to Burma by rail, but the Japanese Army
forced the POWs and Asian Labor to complete the 415km 1m width railway
in 16 months.
Roughly 2/3 of the railway run through Thailand. Much
of the railway was build in difficult terrain that requires high bridges
and deep mountain cuttings. The rails were finally joined 37km south
of the Three Pagodas Pass, a Japanese brothel train inaugurated the
line. The River Kwai Bridge was in use for 20 months before Allied bombed
it in 1945. The Japanese even tied Allied POWs on the bridge to discourage
Only one POW was know to have escape, a Briton who
took refuge among the pro-British Karen guerrillas. Although the number
of POWs who died during the Japanese occupation is horrifying, the figure
for the labourers, many from Thailand, Burma, Malaysia, Singapore and
Indonesia are even worse. It is estimated that 90,000 to 100,000 coolies
died in the area.
Little remains of the original railway,
west of Nam Tok, Karen and Mon carried off most of the track to use in the construction
of local building and bridges. The Railway Museum in front of the Bridge have
engines used during WWII on display. Every Year during the first week of December
there is a nightly Light & Sound Festival at the bridges, commemorating the Allied
attack on the Death Railway in 1945 complete with the sound of bombers and explosions,
fantastic bursts of light and more. It ends with a firework display. The best
way to get to the bridge is to catch a songthaew from town or a motorcycle taxi
which is much cheaper. You can also take a train from the Kanchanaburi railway
station to the bridge for 3B.
Kanchanaburi Allied War Cemetery
Kanchanaburi Allied War Cemetery is better cared for with green lawns and healthy
flowers. It's only 15 min walk from the River Kwai Hotel. This is a war cemetery
for the Royal Dutch Army. The inscription on the wall depicts the events during
the war. A book containg all the names of the victim used to be place here but
was remove and put in cemetery office due to mishandling by the public.
Kai Allied War Cemetery
Located across the Mae Klong River,
take a ferry boat from the pier at the west end of Lak Meuang Road, then follow
the curving road through picturesque corn and sugarcane field until you reach
the cemetery on your left. The Chung Kai burial plaques carry names, military
insignia and short epitaphs for Dutch, British, French and Australian soldiers.
Wisuttharangsi Road, near the TAT office.
daily from 8.30am to 4.30pm.
Phra Maha Tomson Tongproh,
a Thai Monk who devotes much energy to promoting the museum, speaks some English
and can answer questions about the exhibits. The museum itself is a replica example
of the bamboo atap huts used to house the Allied POWs during the Occupation. The
long huts contain various photographs taken during the war, drawing and painting
by POWs, map, weapons and other war memorabilia. The acronym JEATH represents
the fated meeting of Japan, England, Austrialia/America, Thailand and Holland
at Kanchanaburi during WWII.
Hellfire Pass - Sir Weary Dunlop's
The Australian-Thai Chamber of Commerce completed
the first phase of Hellfire Pass memorial project in 1988. The purpose of the
project is to honor the Allied POW and Asian conscripts who died while constructing
some of the most difficult stretches of the Burma-Thailand death railway, 80km
northwest of Kanchanaburi. 'Hellfire Pass' was the name the POWs gave to the largest
of a 1000m series of mountain cuttings through soil and solid rock, which were
accomplished with minimal equipment.
on Sir Weary Dunlop's Memorial:
"When you go home,
tell them of us and say we gave our tomorrow for your today."