Bridge over the River Kwai
Perhaps the best known attraction of Kanchanaburi, featured in world’s famous book and film, The Bridge on the River Kwai is part of the infamous Death Railway, spanning over Kwai Yai River, built by the prisoners of the World War II under the supervision of Japanese Imperialism Army. The 415-kilometer railway was built to connect Thailand and Myanmar to secure supplies to the Japanese army during their Greater East-Asian War. It is called the Death Railway as it involved the death of too many people during the construction period, between September 16, 1942 and on 25 December 1943 when it completed. It is estimated that more than 16,000 war prisoners (POWs) from England, Australia, Holland and America, together with some 90,000 labors from Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia and Indonesia, died during the construction through experience a series bombing raids and cruelness of the Imperial Japanese Army.
The Bridge, together with the Death Railway, is now regarded as the significant symbol of peace, portraying that war is the great illusion that benefits no one. State Railway of Thailand now offers train travel trips along the Death Railway, running from Bangkok to Noktok Station, on weekends and public holidays. You can also take a walk to cross the bridge on foot, too.
Stretching 414km across western Thailand and into Burma, the Death Railway is a standing testimonial of a story that many wish had never happened. Started in 1942 by Allied POWs, under the orders of the Japanese army, the construction was finished 16 months later, three years and eight months short of the original timeframe. It cut through some of the most rugged terrains – limestone cliffs and craggy mountains – resulting in over 100,000 deaths due to sickness, malnutrition and exhaustion. This rail route linked Thailand’s Ban Pong (Ratchaburi) with Thanbuyuzayat, Burma, to carry supplies across into India.
You can trace the Death Railway route by hopping on the train at Tha Kilen Station (near Prasat Muang Singh) to the terminal station at Nam Tok (Sai Yok Noi Waterfall). This 77-km section passes through the most beautiful section of the Death Railway – as it crosses over the wooden viaduct hugging the cave-ridden cliff – and some of the most picturesque countryside in the country. The journey takes two hours.
Location: Kanchanaburi City to Sai Yok
How to get there: Hop on a songtaew or rent a motorcycle
Hellfire Pass Memorial
Put your experience of the Death Railway in perspective by heading over to Hellfire Pass Memorial. This 500-metre long, 26-metre deep cut through solid boulders is notorious for claiming the most lives. In the 12 weeks of construction, 700 out of 1,000 Australian and British soldiers died. Walking down the old jungle-fringed railway track on the way to Hellfire Pass and Museum, the deafening silence envelopes you. Visit the museum, co-sponsored by the Australian and Thai governments, and learn the moving stories of those whose lives were lost in what is deemed to be one of the darkest pages in World War II history.
Opening Hours: 06:00-17:00
Address: Sai Yok District, Kanchanaburi, Thailand
Tel: +66 (0) 53 24 8604
Kanchanaburi Allied War Cemetery (Don Rak)
Amidst the sound of traffic and ongoing life is the final resting place of those who lost their lives during the construction of the Death Railway. The second you step inside, complete silence pervades. The name plaques of nearly 7,000 Allied POWs are spread neatly across the cemetery’s landscaped grounds. Out of some 100,000 labourers who died during the construction of the Death Railway, 16,000 were Allied POWs, the rest were Thai and Asian forced labourers. Smaller and less visited, the Chung Kai Allied War Memorial (across the river, three km south of the Bridge over the River Kwai) houses the graves of 1,740 Allied POWs. Both are maintained by volunteers.
- Opening Hours: Daily
- Location: Saeng Chuto Road, opposite train station
- How to get there: Hop on a songtaew or rent a motorcycle
Bo Ploi Jewellery Handicraft Centre
If your eyes glow and heart pounds with every time you see sparkling little gemstones, a trip to Bo Ploi is a must. This small village is home to one of Thailand’s most active industrial gemstone mining industries, and Bo Ploi Jewellery Handicraft Centre is where you can watch how these precious and semi-precious stones, particularly blue sapphire, onyx and ruby, are honed and fashioned into dazzling rings, brooches and penchants. Bring more cash than necessary, as you will need it.
Where to shop
- Location: Bo Ploi District, about 48km north of Kanchanaburi City
- How to get there: Non air-conditioned buses leave Kanchanaburi Bus Terminal every 20 minutes (06:00-18:30). The journey takes about one hour.
Erawan National Park
Housing one of the most famous waterfalls in the country, Erawan National Park boasts stunning scenery where over 80% is covered in mixed deciduous, dipterocarps and evergreen forests. The scenic hiking trails crisscross through to the park’s centre piece attraction: the seven-tiered Erawan Waterfall, which flows down 1,500 metres in a series of beautiful cascades, interspersed with emerald water pools.
The hike through the first three levels is fairly easy but from the fourth level onwards, it can be challenging without proper hiking gear. What awaits you beyond level four, though, is definitely worth the effort. Expect to spend three – four hours hiking to the seventh level and back down. With several caves and a diverse array of flora and fauna, you can easily spend an entire day here.
Location: On Highway 3199, about one hour northwest of Kanchanaburi City
How to get there: Buy an organised tour or rent a motorcycle from the city area
Prasat Muang Singh Historical Park
Explore the trace of once-flourish Khmer Kingdom at one of best known Khmer-style religious structures in Thailand. Historians estimated that Prasat Mueang Singh, and its surrounding architectures on the bank of Kwai Noi River, was built between 857 and 1157 as a religious temple of Khmer Kingdom. Prasat Mueang Singh was later abandoned until the reign of King Rama I when the area of Mueang Singh had become one of border cities of Kanchanaburi. The restoration of structures hasn’t completed until 1987, though.
The main remaining structure is Prasat Mueang Sing (Tower of the City of Lions) itself, a Khmer-style architecture with influences from Lop Buri arts. It is framed by 800 x 1,500 meters city walls. During the excavations, historians found precious artifacts, antiques, pottery and religious ornaments with more than 2,000 years of history.
Opening hours: Open daily from 8 a.m.- 4.30 p.m.
Admission: 100 baht.
Contact: 0 3452 8456-7
Getting there: Visitors can take a train from Kanchanaburi to Tha Kilen Railway Station and continue on foot or by local transport to Prasat Mueang Sing, which is just 1.5 kilometers away. Trains depart from Kanchanaburi Railway Station every day at 6.11 a.m. (arriving at Tha Kilen at 7.28 a.m.), 11 p.m. (arriving at 11.59 a.m.) and 4.37 p.m. (arriving at 5.42 p.m.). To return to Kanchanaburi, trains depart from Tha Kilen Station at 6.22 a.m., 1.51 p.m. and 4.31 p.m.
U Inchantree Kanchanaburi
443 Mae Nam Kwai Road, Thamakham Sub-district,
Muang Kanchanaburi District, Kanchanaburi 71000, Thailand