The Thai Kanchanaburi is actually best known for one construction: The Bridge On The River Kwai that was built during the Second World War by forced laborers. But not only the famous bridge will take you back to the radical history of this place. Several poignant places in this area together form the dead track in Kanchanaburi.
Kanchanaburi lies about 125 kilometers west of Bangkok and is perfect for a day trip, but even better as a destination in itself. This small town is a perfect base to start the search for the history of this area. There are plenty to find and some hotels even offer rooms on the river. At the VN Guesthouse you have for 400 Bath (a tight 10 euros) a private room with views over the river, air conditioning (no luxury) and Wi-Fi.
The death trail in Kanchanaburi
To visit the city it is convenient to rent a bicycle or scooter, because the sights of the dead track in Kanchanaburi are just a bit too scattered. Our first stop is the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery where some 7,000 prisoners of war are buried. We silently watch the Dutch names on the tombstones with the personal texts.
Right next to the cemetery is The Thailand-Burma Railway Center ; an interactive museum and research center on the construction of the Thailand-Burma (Myanmar) railway. In a painful but clear way, the museum gives an idea of the situation in which the POWs (Prisoners Of War) occurred during the construction of the railway. Moreover, we see many children deeply impressed by watching the video images together with their parents.
Bridge On The River Kwai
Then we cycle along the river to the JEATH museum which fits well within the list of sights, but leaves a lesser impression than The Thailand-Burma Railway Center. Just before sunset we arrive at the o so known bridge. Together with a lot of visitors we walk up and down the bridge, but do not really find the grandeur from the 1957 film.
The highlight of our visit to this area is actually following the dead track in Kanchanaburi. There is still a train in use, which takes you over the famous bridge to Nam Tok; the last station that is still in use. After a short bus ride the final destination comes into view: the Hellfire Pass Museum. Hellfire Pass (Konyu excavation) represents a certain part of the route that was extremely difficult for the prisoners of war to work on. Visitors are asked to make a donation as the entrance fee for the museum is free.
There is also a lot of information on display here, but the best thing about the museum is the audio tour with the 4 kilometer long walking route that visitors can follow. Listening to many stories from, for example, POWs themselves, you’ll pass a piece of the original railroad through the Hellfire Pass. The incredibly violent past of this place has, over the years, been replaced by a serene tranquility. Along the route of the dead track in Kanchanaburi, in some places the remaining tools and utensils remain in the rocks, which gives extra experience to the story. Deeply impressed we are taken to the horrors that took place at that place. There is hardly any better history lesson.