BY Shane, The Bear Traveler

My Day Trip to Death Railway in Kanchanaburi

Hey, it's Shane here 🤩  I have my day trip itinerary of the historical Death Railway for you and when you are in Kanchanaburi, don't forget to pay a visit to this humbling place. 

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 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, a nearly 3-hour drive from Bangkok and a 4-hour drive from Pattaya. 

So, grab your backpacks as here are some of my great suggestions for a day trip in Kanchanaburi to explore the history of the ‘death railway.’ 

 

The Bear Travel  Trivia!

The Death Railway length is 415 Km connecting Ban Pong in Thailand with Thanbyuzayat in Burma.

 

10 am - Bridge Over the River Kwai

It's probably a long drive from either Bangkok or Pattaya. But now you are here in Kanchanaburi, I would highly recommend you to begin with the Bridge Over the River Kwai. With books and films inspired by the tragedy, this was the perfect place to start my day trip in the morning 🤩. 

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.

 

The Bear Travel  Fun Fact!

Visiting the Death Railway is like stepping into history. The war cemetery, Hellfire pass memorial, and the Bridge over River Kwai are open for visitors. The famous novel and movie The Bridge Over River Kwai depict the history of this place. 

 

12 Midday – Thailand-Burma Railway Center

Just a 15-minute drive from the bridge I arrived at the Thailand Burma Railway Center and it 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 Cemetery. This allied war cemetery holds the graves of nearly 7,000 soldiers from the Commonwealth and Holland who died in the construction of the ‘death railway.’ A 30-minute stroll around the cemetery gave me a stark reality of war. When I saw how young some of the soldiers were that died when constructing the railway, it was truly a sobering experience for me. 

 

The Bear Travel  Did You Know?

The Death Railway, also known as Burma Railway was built by the Japanese in WWII. It was built at a cost of thousands of lives of local and Allied war prisoners.

 

4 pm - Hellfire Pass Memorial

80 km Northwest of Kanchanaburi, at the end of my day trip, I reached 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. I was really moved by this experience and felt humble.

 

When we think about Thailand, we generally base our perspective on the nation as a land of sunshine. Thailand is all about the beaches, rich culture, Buddhism, and amazing holiday destinations. Also, it includes all the 5-star hotels, top-notch hospitality, and jaw-dropping nightlife 🤩. 

A day trip to Kanchanaburi will really open your eyes more to 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. 

I hope you enjoy my day trip itinerary for Kanchanaburi and make your tour to the Death Railway worthwhile by following my recommendations. 

So keep exploring. Till my next trip then. Cheers! 🤩 

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Written by
Shane, The Bear Traveler

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