This is the ending of a popular film called “The Bridge on the River Kwai” (1957) based on a book by French writer Pierre Boulle. The bridge in the film was located near Kitulgala (Sri Lanka). The bridge on the river Kwai is located in Thailand in Kanchanaburi.
The black iron bridge was brought from Java under the Japanese supervision by Allied prisoner-of-war labour (mostly Australians, Dutch and British) as part of the Death Railway linking Thailand with Burma. Still in use today, the bridge was the target of frequent Allied bombing raids during World War II and was rebuild after war ended. The curved spans of the bridge are the original sections. A daily train is still following the historical route from Kanchanaburi to Nam Tok Railway Station.
I was able to take some picures before my battery went dead. So not many pictures but hopefully interesting information.
This railway was intended to move men and supplies to the Burmese front where the Japanese were fighting the British. Japanese army engineers selected the route which traversed deep valleys and hills. All the heavy work was done manually either by hand or by elephant as earth moving equipment was not available. The railway line originally ran within 50 meters of the Three Pagodas Pass which marks nowadays the border to Burma. However after the war the entire railway was removed and sold. The prisoners lived in squalor with a near starvation diet. The men worked from dawn until after dark and often had to walk many kilometres through the jungle to return to the camp. Due to the difficult terrain, thousands of laborers lost their lives. It is believed that one life was lost for each sleeper laid in the track. You can find more information here.
There is a War Museum at the bridge. Open from 7:00 AM to 6:30 PM, admission fee 30 Baht. We didn’t go inside. Instead we decided to walk over the bridge and the see caves located nearby. Also we had some time to browse souvenirs in a nearby shops. I don’t think I got anything but it’s one of a few places where I remember looking for things to bring back home.
The Kao Pun Wat and the caves are located about 5 km from the town and you can (as we did) take a boat to get there (or drive). You need to pay the admission fee of 20 Baht. The Wat Tham Khao Pun is located within a well-lit limestone cave with an many Buddha images. It is one of the more interesting and extensive temple-caves to visit in the region.
Wat Tham Khao Pun became notorious in 1995 as the site where a drug-addicted monk that lived at the wat buried a British Tourist and disposed of her corpse in a nearby sinkhole. The caves were also used during WWII by the Japanese to store weapons and equipment.
When we got there we were welcomed by a group of young kids, some boys and a girl. They wanted to show us around what ended in them running from one thing to another not giving us much time to look around. I think it was a matter of competition who will get the tip. It was so funny to look at them not being able to say a word in English and still trying to draw our attention with facial expressions to show us what is worth looking at.
I remember we really wanted to live in a wooden house on the river but couldn’t find a place we liked in a good price. Finally we decided to spoil ourselves with a nice hotel with beautiful pool overlooking the river. One of more expensive accommodations on our way. The water was lovely and in the evening we sat at the pool drinking and swinging on a wooden swing.
Summary: If you loved the movie there is a point in going to Kanchanaburi otherwise it’s nice but you could do better ;)