Excursions — 26 August 2011 9 h 18 min

Kanchanaburi and the Bridge on the River Kwai

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How to visit Kanchanaburi and the Bridge on the River Kwai

During World War 2, the Japanese used Allied prisoners of war to build a railway from Thailand to Burma so they could supply their army without the dangers of sending supplies by sea.  Many prisoners died under appalling conditions during its construction, and the line became known as the ‘Death Railway’.  It was immortalised in David Lean’s 1957 film ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai’ which centres around one of the line’s main engineering feats, the bridge across the Kwae Yai river just north of Kanchanburi.  Although the film was shot in Sri Lanka, the Bridge on the River Kwai really exists, and still carries regular passenger trains from Bangkok as far as Nam Tok.  For anyone interested in 20th century history, a visit to Kanchanaburi and the infamous Death Railway is a must
How to get there: The “Slow Train to the River Kwai”…

From Bangkok:  There’s something not right in taking a tour bus to see the Death Railway and the Bridge on the River Kwai.  It’s far better to take the train, using the Death railway itself, and costing only 100 baht (£2 or $3). Two trains a day leave Bangkok Thonburi station (also known as Bangkok Noi) on the West side of the river in Bangkok, for Kanchanaburi then River Kwai Bridge station (on the Bangkok side of the Bridge a few minutes beyond Kanchanaburi), then crossing the Bridge itself & running alongside the scenic River Kwae over the Wampo Viaduct to Nam Tok.  At weekends there’s also a tourist day excursion train.

The trains are 3rd class only, but don’t let this put you off as they are clean and comfortable, see the photo above right.  In fact, sitting next to an open window whilst clickety-clacking through the Thai countryside is easily the most pleasant way to reach Kanchanaburi.  There’s no buffet car, but vendors walk up and down the train selling soft drinks, beer, and pre-packed fruit and food.  The slices of Pomelo are lovely, not too sweet and not too sour.

The luxury option:  The Eastern & Oriental Express…

There’s one other way to visit the Bridge on the River Kwai, and it’s the luxury option.  The superb Eastern & Oriental Express cruise train links Singapore with Bangkok up to 3 times each month, and it makes a detour to the Bridge on the River Kwai on the way, with time to get off and visit the bridge.  A Singapore-Bangkok journey costs around £1,200 per person for 3 days, 2 nights, all meals & afternoon tea.  For this luxury option, see www.orient-expresstrains.com or browse inclusive tours incorporating this train at www.railbookers.com.


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