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Bridge on the River Kwai

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Bridge on the River Kwai -

A ride along the death railway

Article by - Your travel partner in Indochina, Myanmar and Thailand.

Immortalised in the pages of a novel and by a Hollywood movie, the real bridge on the River Kwai that greets tourists today is pieces of its former self, steel and concrete having replaced wooden sections that did not survive destruction and bombings.

In June 1942, the Japanese government resumed the construction of an abandoned railway project that would connect Myanmar with Thailand and be used as a safe route in which they could supply their troops in Myanmar. Their labour force consisted of Australian, British, American and Dutch prisoners of war as well as local labourers and civilian labourers from Singapore, Malay and Java. The single most hazardous operation of the 415 kilometre railway project was the construction of bridges; fatal accidents occurred on the bridge on the River Kwai project almost daily. Many centuries later, the site is drawing in tourists who are curious about this place that was the scene of such death and destruction.

Tours to the area usually visits the province of Kanchanaburi and its nearby memorials, museums and cemeteries to honour the many Allied soldiers who died working on the railway. Most were laid to rest at Chong-Kai Cemetery and Kanchanaburi War Cemetery. The JEATH War Museum, run by monks on the site of a former POW camp, displays a collection of photographs and memorabilia from the war. A local train offers a tour of the area and along the original railway, which runs parallel to the River Kwai and passes over mountain cliffs and through fields of rice, cassava, corn and sugar. The area, with its mountain scenery and local minority villages, also offers opportunities for jungle treks, elephant rides, fishing and river rafting.

More in Kanchanaburi

Kanchanaburi is not just ghosts of the past. It has recently become a popular vacation spot for Bangkok residents and tourists in search of quiet charm and natural scenery. New resorts have been built along the Kwai Noi and Kwai Yai Rivers, with accommodations that range from basic to deluxe. The province is also home to the Erawan National Park, which is home to rare species of birds, gibbons, barking deer and rhesus monkey, as well as one of Thailand’s largest waterfalls.

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