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HomeNews and travel articlesThe Death Railway in Thailand

The Death Railway in Thailand

09 August, 2019
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The Death Railway

The Death Railway is a popular tourist attraction in Thailand – and for good reason.

The railway, which has a long and bloody history, is located in the scenic area by the River Kwai.

Read about the history of the railway, and how it came to be named the Death Railway.

The history of the Death Railway

the bridge over the River Kwai

During World War II, the decision was made to build a railway linking Bangkok in Thailand with Rangoon in Myanmar (Burma) to create a direct transport route between the two capitals – a stretch of around 415 km.

How the railway got its name

The construction of the railway and the bridge required more than 60,000 prisoners of war and more than 200,000 Asian labourers. The labourers had to toil in the mosquito-infested jungle, under the harsh conditions brought about by the monsoon. Many of them suffered from disease and malnutrition, not to being subjected mention torture.

Due to the slave-like conditions, more than 100,000 labourers died during the construction of the railway, hence its nickname, the Death Railway.

Hellfire Pass and the bridge over the River Kwai

Part of the railway runs through challenging terrain and demanded round-the-clock work to get the route finished. One such section is Hellfire Pass. The section was given its nickname by the labourers because at night the site was lit with torches, allowing them to continue their punishing work.

Another challenging area was the River Kwai, which the railway would cross. In order to create a continuous stretch, a bridge had to be built near the town of Kanchanaburi.

The bridge was completed in 1943, but was not strong enough, so a new bridge was erected further up the river. The new bridge was subsequently destroyed in a bomb attack, but was rebuilt after the war. These events were later filmatised in “Bridge over the River Kwai”.

Experience the history right up close

the River Kwai

The area around Kanchanaburi has become one of Thailand’s biggest tourist attractions, and you can get right up close to the history of the Death Railway here.

Kanchanaburi is home to the War Museum and the War Cemetery, where you can learn more about the war, the River Kwai and the railway, which are of great importance to the area. You will also visit Hellfire Pass, the bridge over the River Kwai and even enjoy a ride in one of the historic train carriages on a stretch of the Death Railway.

There are also water-based experiences to be had in the area – namely on the River Kwai. Enjoy a boat trip in a traditional longtail boat to one of the popular flotels, a hotel on the river where you can spend the night. At the flotel, you can relax, soak in the amazing scenery, or engage in one of the many activities available. Close to the River Kwai, there are restaurants and hotels where you can enjoy a breather and absorb Thailand’s history.

Experience the Death Railway on these tours:

Not sure which tour to choose? Please contact our travel consultants, who are at the ready to help you on your next tour!

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