A travel guide by Window Seater
The Death Railway (Thai-Burma Railway)
About this trip
The Death Railway, or the Thai-Burma Railway, is a train made infamous by a horrific wartime atrocity upon prisoners of war, and then famous by a brilliant (albeit semi-fictional) book and movie – The Bridge on the River Kwai.
The train still operates as a regular Thailand regional train, and also for tourists and survivors to get to the museums and memorials in Kanchanaburi and Hellfire Pass, the River Kwai Bridge, and the nearby Erawan National Park.
But there’s a lot more to this story than what is told in the Bridge on the River Kwai. And, with the train from Bangkok cutting past ancient towns, quirky places, and transitions in Thailand’s geology and modern society, there are surprises along the way that are not tragic at all.
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In this trip
The City of Bangkok
Bangkok is a force. Its the centre of the Thai universe, and is the sort of city that takes a lifetime to really know. Unfortunately, visitors walk into and out of this rich and vibrant city with the wrong ideas.
Salaya, and the Phutthamonton Park
For a small town, Salaya has plenty going on.
Jaseda Technik Museum
There's a strange little museum tucked away out here, but I think it deserves a mention.
Thai Temple Complexes, and Wat Sisrathong
Buddhist Temples are everywhere in Thailand. There's a lot to learn about them. And this one in particular is quite peculiar.
Canals and Bridges of Thailand
Thailand is a country of water, particularly in its floodplains. Canals and bridges have been a major engineering feat.
Nakhon Pathom is a surprise. We really recommend you explore it - particularly the Pra Pathomachedi
Nong Pladuck Junction – the start of the Death Railway
Nong Pladuck Junction is the crossroads where the Japanese began to lay tracks West.
The Thai Economy
As we pass an industrial zone on the outskirts of Bangkok, lets talk about Thailand's economy.
Thai Provinces and Mandalas
The 76 administrative provinces of Thailand often date back to times of chiefdoms and city-states.
The River Kwai
For quite a while on the Death Railway before you reach The Bridge, you might be able to see a river to the South and West - this is the infamous River Kwai... but at the same time, it kind of isn't.
On the Death Railway, you'll be in the floodplain of the Mae Klong, in the greater Chao Phraya floodplain, which is where most of Thailand lives for better or worse.
The Tennaserim Hills
As you reach the end of the central Thai floodplains, you will be meeting the Tennasserim hills.
In Kanchanaburi Town, you'll find the Allied War Cemetary, and a number of museums.
The Bridge on the River Kwai
The Bridge on the River Kwai has become a tourist mecca. Although its a central focus in the famous movie, its just one of many bridges built by the Japanese, and bombed by the allies.
The Kwai Noi Valley
The Japanese took a short-cut to Burma through this valley, which used to run all the way over the Tennaserim range, but the Thai government has since put a dam in it.
The Wampo Viaduct is around 200m long, sits 9 metres high, and is actually the original structure that was built by the POWs, Southeast Asian labourers, and Japanese soldiers.
Embankments on the Death Railway
Embankments were the most common type of engineering task along the railway, and took the most amount of work.
The End of the Death Railway
As you start nearing the end of the Death Railway, we should wrap up the story and say our goodbyes.