The Bridge on the River Kwai Thailand, or 'Death Railway' as it is also known is one of the most visited historical sites in Asia and is located approximately 3 kilometres north of Kanchanaburi in western Thailand. Construction on the railway commenced back in June of 1942 when Thailand including was under the control of the Empire of Japan. Both Allied World War 2 (WW2) Prisoners of War (POW's) along with forced Asian laborer's were utilized to build the infamous Burmese Railway which also included a number of bridges.
One of these was "Bridge 277" which was built over the Mae Klong
River in Kanchanaburi and made famous by the 1957 British WW2
film named "Bridge on the River Kwai" which was directed by David Lean and starred William Holden and Alec Guinness (see image below). While the film is fictional it was loosely based around the construction of Bridge 277.
Today though, this bridge symbolizes and is a reminder of the harsh and inhumane treatment inflicted upon both the POW's and forced Asian laborer's who worked on the Death Railway during WW2.
I visited this site back in 2009 and the whole story felt close to my heart as my mother's uncle was an Australian POW in Asia who never returned home.
Burma Railway stretches from Bangkok in Thailand to
Rangoon in Burma (i.e. Myanmar), a distance of some 415 kilometres.
The track which was laid through dense jungle while spanning rivers and
streams was completed in 1943 with its chief purpose being to aid
Japan's WW2 campaign in Burma where they were fighting the British.
Due to poor working conditions (i.e. working 18 hour days), disease (i.e. including malaria and cholera), and the brutal mistreatment by the Japanese soldiers, it is estimated that over half of the 180,000 Asian prisoners (i.e. primarily Malayan) and at least 16,000 of the estimated 60,000 Allied prisoners died whilst working on this railway.
Today visitors can walk across the Bridge on the River Kwai (i.e. Bridge 277) or take a train ride along a part of the original railway line and try to gain an appreciation of what the prisoners of war had to endure when building this railway. The Japanese originally built two bridges over the River Kwai, a temporary wooden bridge and a concrete and steel bridge. While both were destroyed by allied bombing during WW2 the steel and concrete bridge was rebuilt and is the one which is still standing today.
KANCHANABURI WAR CEMETERY
The Kanchanaburi War Cemetery which is
located close to the Kanchanaburi Railway Station is the final resting
place to some 7,000 POWs from Australia, the Netherlands and the United
Kingdom. I visited most of these historical sites back in 2009 and
would highly recommend a visit to this location for all people who would like to honor/pay respect to their county's fallen heroes.
The Death Railway is located in Kanchanaburi province in western Thailand. The best way to travel there is by either bus or train. There are plenty of accommodation options available close by for those wishing to stay in this region for more than a day.
Buses depart daily from Bangkok's Southern Bus Terminal located in Thonburi district regularly between the hours of 5 AM and 10 PM with the journey taking approximately 2 hours.
Trains depart Bangkok's Thonburi Train Station daily at 7.45 AM and 1.45 PM. The journey takes around 3 hours. Additionally, a number of tour companies in Bangkok also operate daily services by mini-van that take visitors to Kanchanaburi and directly to the Bridge on the River Kwai.