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River Kwai Bridge in Kanchanaburi

Kanchanaburi is one of the most beautiful provinces of Thailand, with a delightful landscape. It is already well known among war historians and archaeologists for its Neolithic burial grounds. But the past is notRiver Kwai Kanchanaburi Kanchanaburi's only attraction, the province also has numerous other places of interest for nature-loving visitors. Among the sights to head for are the Death Railway Bridge, War Cemeteries, Prasat Muang Singh Historical Park, Erawan Falls and the National Park.

Kanchanaburi outside the Town Hall is a bustling area. The river bank functions like the town's main street, with busy ferry landings, floating restaurants serving succulent freshwater fish and as the launching pier for Kanchanaburi's notorious disco rafting parties.

The river at this point broadens up to a width of almost a kilometer. It is here that the floating disco party special, a popular local outing, originated. The party venue is on a pair of big two storey raft-houses floating in tandem, one serving as restaurant and the other a disco floor with powerful disco noise boxes. A tugboat tows out the floating party-house pier down or up river to make merry out in the open waterway.

While in the city, dining or lunching on the floating restaurants lining the riverbank is an unforgettable experience for the succulent freshwater fish and the local scene. Ferries laden with farmers, their bikes and pickups ply the crossing every few minutes. An enlivening spectacle for diners is the departure of the disco party rafts, floating their merry ways down river until disappearing around the bend with their noisy music still reverberating over the water.

Kanchanaburi borders with Myanmar (Burma). A rugged mountain range, the Tennasarim, and almost impregnable jungle separate the two countries. British engineers surveyed the indomitable terrain?s in 1905 for a projected rail route and forthwith declared impossible to build. The Japanese army did it in 17 months in war-time conditions. A grim toll of over 100,000 lives was sacrificed to the harsh conditions, mostly sickness, through malnutrition, lack of medicine and medical care, resulting in epidemics which wiped out entire camps of POW's and laborers by the thousands.

Every year, on April 25, friends and relatives of the Allied POW's come to visit their graves. The main cemetery is opposite Kanchanaburi train station with 6,982 copper-plaque tombstones. An other is at Chungai district across the River Kwai with 1,750 headstones. The cemeteries are immaculately tended all year round.


Bridge over the River KwaiThe Bridge Over the River Kwai
The bridge was constructed with dismantled steel spans brought over from Java. Two of the original spans, with round shape, were knocked down by Allied bombings to disrupt the death railway operation. The fallen round spans were then replaced with angular spans as appear at present.

A unique war-train museum stands at the foot of the bridge. The significant exhibit is a rail convoy truck fixed with railway wheels, which bespeaks of the ingenuity of the engineers of the Japanese Imperial Army. The Annual Light and Sound Festival: This is held in the first week of December at the bridge site, re-enacting the bombing of the bridge for local and foreign tourists.

War Museum: The museum, located near the River Kwai Bridge, displays the collection of weapons, tools and utensils of the Allied prisoners of war and Japanese soldiers during the Second World War. Jeath Museum: The museum was built by a monk of Wat Chai Chumpol in the form of a replica of Allied POW's quarters in a Death Railway detention camp - a long bamboo hut with earthen floor, like a henhouse. Raised narrow bamboo bunks lining the two walls, serving as the living space.

JEATH is the acronym of the nations involved in the Death Railway construction, namely: Japan, England, America, Australia, Thailand and Holland. On the walls are enlarged reproductions of photos taken during the railway construction and also paintings of the atrocities inflicted on the POW's. There are also collections ofWar Museum World war II Artifacts found in the area, including the blown-out shell of the bomb that was supposed to have downed the Bridge Over the River Kwai.

The Death Railway: The Death Railway line is still in operation. The rail line snakes through scenic and thrilling natural terrain. The whole train, hugging the mountainside at a dizzy height over raging river far below, creeps over the World War II rail line laid on creaking wood-trestles.

The Death Railway train ride runs on a regular schedule. The train leaves Kanchanaburi Station at 10:31, chugs over the Bridge on the River Kwai at 10.35am., or thereabout, en route Namtok Station at 12:30. There is a combination tour to the renowned Saiyoke Waterfall. Picnic on the train is not frowned upon.

Kanchanburi Town Gate: This is the remain of Kanchanaburi town built in 1833 during the reign of King Rama III. It is located on Lak Muang Road near the meeting point of the Kwai Yai and Kwai Noi Rivers.

The Kanchanaburi War Cemetery: On Saeng Chuto Road, opposite the railway station, it contains the remains of 6,982 prisoners of war who perished during the construction of the "Death Railway".

The Chong Kai War Cemetery: 2 km south of town, on the bank of the Kwai Noi River, this occupies the former site of the Chong Kai Prisoner of War Camp. This second cemetery is more peaceful, attractively landscaped, and contains some 1,750 remains.

Wat Tham Mankhon Thong: Situated 4 km from town on the bank of the Kwai Noi River. It is well known for the incredible performance of the nun floating in a deep pool. There is a small museum where a variety of ancient objects found in the area are on display.

Wat Tham Phu Wa: The monastery in natural surroundings, famous for meditation, is 15km away from the provincial capital. There is a beautiful cave with plenty of stalactites.

Somdet Phra Sri Nakarin Park: Situated in Kanchanaburi?s Agricultural College at Tambon Nong Ya, 9km from town, it is also known as "the Stone Garden" which abounds with stones of different sizes and shapes in its large area.

Wat Tham Sua and Wat Tham Khao Noi: Located at Tambon Muang Chum, 4km beyond Wachiralongkorn Dam, these two adjacent temples house very beautiful Thai and Chinese style buildings and huge Buddha images situated on the mount.

Ban Kao National Museum: The museum, some 35km from town, was constructed beside a Neolithic burial site discovered by Dutch prisoners of war during the construction of the "Death Railway". Specimens of Neolithic remains are on display. It is open from 09:00 - 16:30 on Wednesday to Sunday and closed on Monday and Tuesday.

Kanchanaburi Cultural Centre: The collection center of human life styles from the past till the present is displayed at the Rajpatara Institute of Kanchanaburi, 14km out of town on the route to Sai Yok.

Wat Pa Lelai: This monastery is 18km away from the provincial capital. It is located at Tambon Lat Ya which once was an ancient border town involved in battles between the Thai and the Burmese during the Ayutthaya period to the early Bangkok period. Another nearby temple called Wat Khun Phaen houses a ruined pagoda dating back to the early Ayutthaya.

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