When we think about Thailand, we generally base our perspective on the nation being a land of sunshine. Thailand is all about the beaches, rich culture, Buddhism and amazing holiday destinations with 5-star hotels, top-notch hospitality, and jaw-dropping nightlife. However, Thailand not only has a vast ancient history but also colorful modern history as well, such as in Kanchanaburi.
One of the most detailed accounts of modern history in Thailand revolves around the part Thailand played in WWII and the Burma-Thailand Railway. This all ties into the Bridge Over the River Kwai legend. The area that was most impacted by WWII and the building of the railway was Kanchanaburi. The region is nearly a 3-hour drive from Bangkok and a 4-hour drive from Pattaya. Here are some great suggestions for a Day-trip in Kanchanaburi to explore the history of the ‘death railway’.
10 am – Bridge Over the River Kwai
Although it was probably a long drive from either Bangkok or Pattaya, now you are here in Kanchanaburi, we would highly recommend you start at the start with the Bridge Over the River Kwai. With books and films inspired by the tragedy, this is the perfect place to start.
The Infamous ‘Death railway’ was built by prisoners in WWII under the supervision of the Japanese army between September 1942 and December 1943. It is believed that 16,000 prisoners of war from the United Kingdom, Australia, America, and Holland, along with 90,000 laborers from Myanmar and Thailand died during the construction of the railway. Most died through both bombings and the cruelty of the Japanese army. The bridge is free to visit, and although it’s not the original one, it is a place of great reflection
12 Midday – Thailand-Burma Railway Center
The Thailand Burma Railway Center is just a 15-minute drive from the bridge and is a poignant memorial and beautiful tribute to those who died building the WWII Burma-Thailand Railway. This interactive museum has lots of information and is a research facility dedicated to the history of the Thailand-Burma railway. The center is fully air-conditioned and offers an educational and moving experience where dry eyes are a rarity for visitors.
2 pm – Kanchanaburi War Cemetery
Talking of moving experiences, nothing puts this travesty into perspective quite like visiting the Kanchanaburi War Commentary. This allied war cemetery holds the graves of nearly 7,000 soldiers from the Commonwealth and Holland who died in the construction of ‘death railway’. A 30-minute stroll around the cemetery will give you a stark reality of war. When you see how young some of the soldiers were that died when constructing the railway, it’s a sobering experience.
4 pm – Hellfire Pass Memorial
80km Northwest of Kanchanaburi, you will find the Hellfire Pass Memorial. This museum is a 4km stretch where 500 prisoners worked for 16 to 18-hours per day to construct the railway. Near the start of the trail, you will find the Hellfire Pass, which the locals call Konyu Cutting.
The museum also has a free audio guide that will describe what you are seeing on the trail. The audio really helps to try and capture the almost incomprehensible conditions that the prisoners were working under.
A day trip to Kanchanaburi will really open your eyes on the dark history that happened in the region during WWII. It is important that we know more about our past so we do not let it become our future. We hope you enjoy our day trip itinerary for Kanchanaburi.