“Death Railway” is an Important Piece of Thai-Burmese History

Earlier this week, we went over our top 3 day trips from Bangkok. Of course, The Bridge on the River Kwai was up there as one of our picks. We briefly went over the controversial history behind the “Death Railway” and the Oscar-Winning film set in Kanchanaburi. Today we’re going to expand on that, giving you a full background on Kanchanaburi province and its dark past.

About Kanchanaburi Province

Kanchanaburi is Thailand’s 3rd largest province, spanning 13 different districts (Amphoe in Thai). While the province has recently become famous for its campgrounds near Erawan Falls, it’s had quite the reputation for the Bridge over the River Kwai. Along with the bridge itself, there’s a handful of war museums that are worth your time. (The Hellfire Pass Memorial Museum and JEATH War Museum in particular)
Kanchanaburi has a much more relaxed vibe compared to Bangkok, but what place doesn’t? Chill out on the riverside, grab some friends and go camping! You can get the typical lake experience, complete with swimming docks and latenight bonfires in any of the provincial parks. It’s not just a hotspot for tourists though. Local Thais love making the trek for the easily accessible waterfalls and natural beauty. Exploring Kanchanaburi is pretty simple; it’s hard to get lost. We recommend renting a bike once you’re here to get the full experience.

History of “Death Railway”

1942: The Japanese army made the call to build a 415km railway to connect Thailand with Burma. It was a military power play, securing transport between their bases in Singapore and India. The key word here is “power” because it took tremendous force to create. An estimated 100,000 lives were lost in the construction of the railway, including 16,000 prisoners of war. By the time it was finished being built, Japan had more or less lost the war in Southeast Asia already. The bridge was bombed in 1944 and the railway later taken down by Thailand. To this day, there’s a huge stigma towards Death Railway and most that ride it are tourists. On the bright side of things, there’s an annual celebration of the first bombing of the bridge.

The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), Directed by David Lean

With an astounding 87/100 on Metacritic and a several awards under its belt, this movie is no slouch. It’s in the top 3,000 movies of all time on IMDB and for good reason. David Lean perfectly captures the WW2 setting of Kanchanaburi. The story follows the British prisoners of war who were forced into the construction of the Burma-Siam Railway. At first, the prisoners decide as a group that they should sabatoge the railway plans, but are later persuaded the other way by Colonel Nicholson. Under his leadership, it became symbolic for their struggle through rough conditions. They wanted to prove their worth by making it through to the end and show the world what Britain stands for. That’s all we’ll say on the plot – it’s best viewed with less expectations.

Quite possibly the most well known film set in Thailand, The Bridge on the River Kwai

Bridge on the River Kwai Itinerary

06:00 Shuttle pick up from Slumber Party Bangkok
09:40 Arrival at the War Cemetary of the Allied Prisoners of World War 2, visit to the Jeath War Museum, walk along the Bridge Over the River Kwai, train trip along the Jeath Railway
13:00 Buffet lunch at the Krasae Cave
15:00 Depart Kanchanaburi back to Slumber Party Bangkok

Price: 1,550 Baht
How to Book: Ask us in person or send an email to bangkok@slumberpartyhostels.com!

Hopefully that was enough to satisfy you history buffs out there! If not, we bet it was a good starting point at least.