Erawan National Park and Bridge Over River Kwai: Small Group Tour
$79 | Rating 4.09 / 5 [122 ratings]
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Bucket list experience:
Kanchanaburi, Central Thailand, Thailand
Built during the Japanese occupation of Thailand in World War II, the Burma-Siam train track – better known as the Death Railway – represents a dark chapter of the country’s past.
More than 100.000 prisoners of war and civilian laborers lost their lives due to hunger and exhaustion, making this one of the deadliest construction projects in modern history.
These days, most visitors come to pay their respects at the iron railway bridge made famous by the eponymous 1957 movie Bridge on the River Kwai (though few know it was filmed in Sri Lanka).
But unless you’re a history buff, the bridge itself isn’t all that interesting. Instead, board one of the rickety trains still cruising the tracks several times a day to get a much better feel of the intense suffering this project has caused.
To dive deeper into the railway’s fascinating (and horrifying) history, a visit to the Thailand-Burma Railway Centre, just north of the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery, is highly recommended.
Here, informative videos, maps and recovered journals from deceased prisoners provide a deep-dive into the construction project and its WWII context.
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The Death Railway bridge is a 20-minute walk or short tuk-tuk ride north of Kanchanaburi’s town centre. Dozens of tour companies in Bangkok offer minivan transfers and guided tours to Kanchanaburi, but a DIY train trip from Bangkok’s Thonburi station delivers a more authentic experience at a fraction of the price. On weekends, a slightly more comfortable tourist train departs from Bangkok’s Hualamphong station in the early morning.
If you’re not arriving by rail, rickety trains departing from Kanchanaburi’s main station also ply the Death Railway tracks twice a day, crossing the bridge and passing by steep cliffs along the way. From Nam Tok, at the end of the line, you can catch a bus back to Kanchanaburi proper or continue to the infamous Hellfire Pass further north.
The train runs all year round, seven days a week. Every tour group makes a stop here, so arrive in the early morning or late afternoon to dodge the crowds.
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