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The bridge over the river Kwai, Thailand

Spoorbrug kwai rivier

The bridge over the river Kwai in Thailand is a railroad bridge built near the Thai city of Kanchanburi as part of the Railway of death. During construction many Western prisoners of war lost their lives. It’s the place where more than 100.000 people, among which are 3.000 Dutch people, lost their live during the construction of a railroad track. A pretty intense history and visiting the site is impressive. All information for a visit to the bridge over the river Kwai in Thailand!

A visit to the bridge over the river Kwai, Thailand!

History of the bridge over the river Kwai in Thailand

During the Second World War, Japan starts a conquest throughout South East Asia. To secure proper supply lines between Burma (Myanmar) and Siam (Thailand), construction of a 400 km railroad between these two countries started in 1942. This railway is known as the railway of death. The Japanese decided to use prisoners of war and civilians for its construction.

During the Second World War, about 260.00 thousand Asian workers and thousands of allied prisoners of war worked on the construction of the Burma railway in Kanchanaburi. Working conditions were extremely tough because of the mountainous terrain and the tropical climate. Almost all the heavy work had to be done by hand and prisoners worked for 18 hours per day. The railway saw its completion in October 1943.

As a result of illness, malnutrition, exhaustion, and abuse, the Burma railway cost more than 15.000 prisoners of war and 100.000 civilians their life.


Hellfire Pass

One of the most notorious spots along the railway was the Hellfire Pass. It’s a 1200 meter long pass through a mountain. This is also the location of the famous and notorious “Bridge of the River Kwai”. The Hellfire Pass had to be cut out from the mountains. At night torches were lit, in order to continue the work on the pass. The shadows of the Japanese and prisoners of war themselves on the rocks looked like images straight from hell. This is where this part of the railway gets its name from. This part of the railway is not in use anymore and visitors can walk on the railway through the Hellfire Pass.


Museum of the bridge over the river Kwai in Thailand

The museum provides background information regarding the Burma railway. Objects and stories will give you some information on how the railway was built. The museum is small, but will leave an impression on you and provides you with a great view over the river Kwai and the bridge itself. The museum is about 2 kilometers away from the bus station and at walking distance from the train station. Entrance fee for the museum is about 120 baht per person.

The world famous bridge, known from books and movies (“The Railway Man” and “the Bridge on the River Kwai”), has become the symbol of the Burma railway. The bridge has been restored after the war and is used to this day by local trains. You can walk on it and take pictures. When a train is coming, someone will blow a whistle and will wave a red flag as signal to get to an inlet.

The bridge is five kilometers away from the bus station and three kilometers away from Kanchanaburi train station. It’s easy to reach by (bike) taxi, scooter or with a tour. Entrance to the bridge is free.


War cemetery Don Rak

War cemetery Don Rak is near the railway. This cemetery is impressive and very well kept. There are 5.000 war victims buried here, among which are 1.800 Dutch people. The inscriptions on the tombstones are very moving indeed. It’s sad to see so many men gave their lives for a railway that wasn’t theirs. This cemetery is a place which will turn you silent.


How to get to the bridge over the River Kwai in Thailand?

The Bridge over the River Kwai is located in Kanchanaburi.

  • Bus: Easily accessible from Bangkok with a local bus. From the northern bus station in Bangkok (Moh Chit), you’ll pay 110 baht per person for a two0hour drive to Kanchanaburi.
  • Train: A train is leaving several times per day to Kanchanaburi, from the thonburi train station in Bangkok. The ride will take about 3 hours and will cost 100 Baht.
  • Tours: You can book an organized tour everywhere in Bangkok. The prices of those tours are very reasonable. If you want to visit the bridge, museum in Kanchanaburi and the Hellfire Pass, you will pay about 750 Baht per person.
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