Kanchanaburi is the gateway to the River Kwai and all of the historic museums and relics that surround the area. In World War II, 16,000 prisoners of war and 90,000 Asian workers died working on the Thailand-Burma Railway, more commonly known as the Death Railway. The bridge over the River Kwai, made famous by the film of the same name, is able to be crossed on foot, with several “pull in” areas available for when the train comes. The area has several museums where you can learn about the history of the area, the best of which is the Thailand-Burma Railway Centre, next to the cemetery. It is an interesting place to visit but be prepared to learn about the horrors that occurred here.
How to get there?
Easy to reach by both bus and train, Kanchanaburi is a regular stop on tours of Thailand, thanks to its bloody history. From Bangkok, the minibuses leave Victory Monument when they are full and are probably the easiest method of transport to the area. Trains leave from Thonburi station in Bangkok which is less central than the main Hua Lamphong terminus. The morning train leaves at 07.50 and the next is not until after lunch so make sure you have time to get there, otherwise take a minibus.
The Kanchanaburi War Cemetery is one of the most humbling places you can visit in Thailand, with over 7,000 graves of prisoners of war from Australia, the Netherlands and the UK. Some of the graves bear moving personal inscriptions from family members where other merely mark the grave of ‘A Soldier of the 1939-1945 war’. It is a moving place to visit and is beautifully maintained – a lasting tribute and resting place for many men.
The Erawan Falls in nearby Erawan National Park are an amazing place to visit from Kanchanaburi, especially if you are there for a few nights. The 7 tiered waterfall has brilliant pools for swimming but make sure you bring good walking boots as the trail to the top can be tricky. Easily reachable to tuk-tuk or public bus.