Tourists visiting Thailand aim to charge through the famous shopping districts, to partake of the mouth-watering delicacies, and to get a feel for the place’s culture all in a matter of a few days. The usual journey is comprised of quick stops on the side of the street to sample the food, forays into different shops to look for the best souvenir and a visit or two at a temple or museum. But are you still looking for something more unique? If so, then why not try a day trip to the historical River Kwai?

 

How to Get There

River Kwai is located in Kanchanaburi, Thailand's third largest province. The province is a less than 3-hour drive from Bangkok, and one can get there by train, car or bus.

 

From Bangkok, it is best to get to Kanchanaburi by taking a train using the Death railway itself. Each trip costs only about 100 baht. The trains may be categorized as third-class, but they are the embodiment of cleanliness and comfort. For a small amount of money, one can experience a pleasant ride through the Thai countryside. Despite the lack of a buffet car, passengers need not worry about starving as there are vendors who peddle food and drinks through the whole train journey.

 

It is possible to travel to Kanchanaburi and the River Kwai Bridge from Singapore, Malaysia or Southern Thailand without having to go into Bangkok and out again.  Express trains coming from Hat Yai, Penang, Hua Hin, and Surat Thani  all stop at Nakhon Pathom Station, which is approximately 64 kilometers southwest of Bangkok. It is where one can change onto the local trains to Kanchanburi.

 

The Sights

Listed below are the attractions that any modern-day vagabond can't dare to miss out on a day trip to the River Kwai. Prepare to be captivated by the colorful history behind each destination.

 

The Kanchanaburi War Cemetery

The Kanchanaburi War Cemetery is the final resting place of almost 7,000 prisoners of war. They were captives of the Japanese Army during World War II. In the face of such a staggering number of dead, not to mention their very young ages, one cannot help but feel a sobering sense of solemnity. Even the most cold-hearted will be shaken to their cores at the thought of all those people who were brought over to Thailand to help the Japanese build the railway line running 415 kilometres from Ban Pong in Thailand to Thanbuyuzayat in Burma.

 

Thailand-Burma Railway Centre

On the west side of the war cemetery is the Thailand-Burma Railway Centre, an interactive museum, information and research facility that was built for the purpose of presenting the history of the Thailand-Burma Railway. The center displays every aspect of the railway construction, from the planning and construction to even the living conditions of the prisoners. The museum is fully air-conditioned, has an in-house café and a shop perfect for selecting souvenirs.

 

The Bridge on the River Kwai

A boat ride along the three majestic rivers Maeklong, Kwai Noi, and Kwai Yai will reveal many colorful floating houses and enticing views of pure nature. The highlight of the trip for most people is seeing the bridge on the River Kwai. 

 

The famous bridge actually crosses the Mae Khlung. Through David Lean’s blockbuster, the bridge became famous to tourists as one that crosses the River Kwai and this created something of a problem in the past when people came over to see the Bridge on the River Kwai. The Thais later renamed the river. For more than four decades now, the Mae Khlung has been known as the Kwae Yai ('Big Kwae') north of the confluence with the Kwae Noi ('Little Kwae'), encompassing the bit under the infamous Bridge.

 

The bridge is a bridge. However, the history behind the infrastructure is far from the ordinary. The Japanese had prisoners of war and civilian recruits build a railway to use as a supply line during the Second World War. Instead of the estimated three-year completion, the railway took only a year to get fully structured, because of the harsh and brutal work approach used by the Japanese. The building of the railway took the lives of an astonishing 300,000 men.

 

One can now see a museum, cafes, shops and steam locomotives on static display on the Kanchanaburi side of the bridge. It is safe to walk across the bridge on the wooden planks as long as one stands on the side for when a passenger train passes by.

 

Be stunned into silence by the cemetery and museum, be dazzled by the beauty of nature, and be exhilarated by the boat and train rides. If adventure, culture, and history are the ingredients a tourist is looking for in a trip to Thailand, then a perfect addition to one’s itinerary is a day trip to River Kwai.