The Bridge on the River Kwai | The thrilling history
The River Kwai, a must-visit!
For centuries rivers have played major roles in the lives of mankind. Rivers have been and will always be important influential factors in human living and in the ecology cycle. Centuries ago cities were built around rivers because they provided the basic needs for the mankind, and they still do. Let us zoom in into Kanchanaburi, Thailand. Flowing between and along the beautiful nature and mountains of Kanchanaburi, the River Kwai, divided into two parts – the River Kwai Noi and the River Kwai Yai – is a well-known river in Thailand, especially because of its history regarding World War II.
The impressive history of the Bridge on the River Kwai
The Bridge on the River Kwai is part of the Burma Railway, also known as the Death Railway, Thailand-Burma Railway and more similar names. The Death Railway was about 415 kilometers long, between Ban Pong in Thailand and Thanbyuzayat in Burma. Early in 1942, Burma was invaded by Japanese forces. Japan really depended upon the sea to supply their forces, by bringing supplies and troops, in Burma where they were fighting the British. Because this place was vulnerable to Allied attacks, a railway between Thailand and Burma seemed the solution to avoid the 3200 kilometers long sea journey. The work started in 1942. More than 180,000 Asian laborers and 60,000 Prisoners of War worked on it. The railway was built by hand. The ground was broken with pickaxes and shovels. Earth was moved with buckets and litters. Iron drills and hammers were used to bore holes in the rocks. There was a lack of hygiene, there was no running water, no things such as toothpaste or toilet paper. There was a lack of food and if there was food, it was rotten most of the times. These horrific working conditions where the reason many Prisoners of War suffered and died from many different diseases. This combined with the difficult terrain was the reason that about 90,000 Asian laborers and more than 12,000 Prisoners of War, including about 6,900 British, 2,800 Australians, 2,800 Dutch and 130 Americans, died during the construction. The work was finished in a year, but as you can read, it came at a very high cost.
“One life was lost for each sleeper laid in the track”
In 1944 the bridge was bombed by Allied forces. Three parts of the Bridge on the River Kwai were destroyed. Two of the central spans were rebuilt. In the War Museum you can find the original parts. Due to the featuring in books and movies, the Bridge on the River Kwai became famous worldwide. The line was closed in 1947, but the section between Nong Pla Duk and Nam Tok was reopened ten years later in 1957. Now it is a tourist destination. The track is developed into a walkway with side platforms. This allows crossing the railway bridge on foot. These platforms are useful as viewpoints and for avoiding trains. A small tourist train runs back and forth across the bridge.
Kanchanaburi, the capital of Kanchanaburi Province is a town in the west of Thailand. The distance between Bangkok and Kanchanaburi is about 130km. The easiest way of how to get here is by going with the bus. Buses, featuring air condition, are available from different places across Bangkok. The journey will take about three hours. Besides the buses you can also decide to go for a better experience by taking a train ride, departing from Bangkok Noi Railway Station. However, keep in mind that this journey will take longer. If you have your own transportation you can easily reach this place by using the freeway from Pinklao.
Last but not least, a tip you do not want to miss!
Are you planning to visit Kanchanaburi directly after arriving in Bangkok? Hotel de Bangkok is the place to stay for the night and to visit Kanchanaburi the next days. Are you staying somewhere else in the heart of the city of Bangkok? Private air conditioned vans can pick you up at any location in downtown area, even from the airport, to get you to Kanchanaburi. Please have a look at this website for more information about the tour packages and additional accommodations at the River Kwai in Kanchanaburi.