The site of the infamous Bridge over the River Kwai. lies 80 miles west of Bangkok. During World War II the Japanese wanted a rail supply link between Thailand and Burma. Engineers estimated it would take 5 years to build the 258 mile railway. The Japanese army had it completed in 16 months at the cost of the lives of 16,000 POWs and an estimated 100,000 civilian forced labourers who died from inhuman treatment, malnutrition and disease.
15 Aug 2000 - Kanchanaburi, ThailandThe end of the holiday was near. We had been to the paradise islands of Ko Samui and Ko Pha-Ngan but it was now time to return to Bangkok for our return flight back to London. Back in Bangkok we found a cheap hotel this time positioned in the middle of the Pat-Pong district and this one even came with its own 'massage parlour'. Neon, whores and pimps were all over the place but we had some food and an early night.
Hywel and I were still suffering the effects of food poisoning from Ko Samui but were getting our appetites back with a vengeance. At this point we just wanted to get back to blighty but we had also booked a trip to the bridge over the Kwai river the next morning and this necessitated an early night.
I can't say it enough but everything in this country has a price. We did look at going on an official trip to the bridge but instead asked the hotel reception if one of their people could take us - for a price. This price eventually turned out cheaper than the official trip and meant that we had our own personal chauffeur for the whole day who would go at our pace rather than the pace of a tour.
At the bridge I tried to imagine what it must have been like as a prisoner of the Japanese in World War II. The place was oppressive enough even for me who is in good health and was carrying a bottle of water. Its no surprise that working in these conditions while weak from hunger and thirst was so costly in human terms.
Unlike the wooden one portrayed in the film of the same name. the bridge is an iron and concrete structure. It was bombed in 1945 but other than the reconstructed sections, it is as it was in World War II.
There is a museum here that isn't all that good. Its more a museum about war rather than a site to inform others what went on here. With a keen interest in military history I was rather unimpressed by the lack of accuracy of the descriptions of some of the items and photographs on display. However, I suppose its a good effort and a lot of people won't detect the errors. It serves it purpose as an anti-war museum well though and I suppose that this message is the only one that should matter.
Kanchanaburi - The Bridge on the River Kwai
The Burma Railway, also known also as the Death Railway, the Thailand-Burma Railway and similar names, is a 415 km (258 mile) railway between Bangkok, Thailand and Rangoon, Burma (now Myanmar), built by the Empire of Japan during World War II, to support its forces in the Burma campaign.
Kanchanaburi - On the death railway
Forced labour was used in its construction. About 200,000 Asian labourers and 60,000 Allied prisoners of war worked on the railway. Of these, around 100,000 Asian labourers and 16,000 Allied POWs died as a direct result of the project. The dead POWs included 6,318 British personnel, 2,815 Australians, 2,490 Dutch, about 356 Americans and some Canadians
Kanchanaburi - View of the repaired part of the bridge
The Allies made several attempts to destroy the bridge, but succeeded only in damaging them in their first attempts. On 2 April 1945, bombers destroyed it. During the attack, the Japanese forced prisoners to stand on the bridge as a human shield.
After the war, two squarish central sections were made in Japan to repair the bridge, and were donated to Thailand.
Kanchanaburi - Cruising the River Kwai
Tours can take passengers along the river for scenic view of the country.