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Bridge over the River Kwai

Immortalized by  the book and movie of the same name, the bridge spans the Kwai Yai River, a tributary of the Mae Klong River three km  from Kanchanaburi's town centre.


The materials for the bridge were brought from Java by the Imperial Japanese Army during their occupation of Thailand. In 1945 the bridge was bombed several times and was only rebuilt after the war - the curved portions of the bridge are original. The first version of the bridge, completed in February 1943 was all wood. In April of the same year a bridge of steel was constructed. It is estimated that 16,000 POWs died while building the Death Railway to Myanmar ( Burma ), of which the bridge was only a small part. The strategic objective of the railway was to secure an alternative supply route for the Japanese conquest of Burma.

Construction of the railway began in September 16, 1942 at existing terminal in Thanbyuzayat in Burma and Nong Pladuk in Thailand. Japanese engineers at that time estimated that it would take five years to link Thailand to Burma by rail, but the Japanese Army forced the POWs and Asian Labour to complete the 415 km  - 1 metre width railway in 16 months.

Roughly 2/3rrd of the railway runs through Thailand. Much of the railway was built in difficult terrain that requires high bridges and deep mountain cuttings. The rails were finally joined 37 km  south of the Three Pagodas Pass. The River Kwai Bridge was in use for 20 months before Allied bombed it in 1945. The Japanese even tied Allied POWs on the bridge to discourage Allied bombing.Only one POW was know to have escaped, a Briton who took refuge among the pro-British Karen guerrillas. Although the number of POWs who died during the Japanese occupation is horrifying, the figure for the labourers, many from Thailand, Burma, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia are even worse. It is estimated that 90,000 to 100,000 coolies died in the area.

Little remains of the original railway, west of Nam Tok, Karen and Mon carried off most of the track to use in the construction of local building and bridges. The Railway Museum  in front of the Bridge have engines used during WWII on display. Every Year during the first week of December there is a nightly Light & Sound Festival at the bridges, commemorating the Allied attack on the Death Railway in 1945 complete with the sound of bombers and explosions, fantastic bursts of light and more. It ends with a firework display. The best way  to get to the bridge is to catch a songthaw from town or a motorcycle taxi which is much cheaper. You can also take a train from  the Kanchanaburi railway station to the bridge.

Kanchanaburi Province page 9, River Kwai, Provincial Seal, Erawan Waterfall pictures Kanchanaburi Province, Page 10a, River Kwai Brdge photo's and the river cruise