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Visit the nearby museum which chronicles life in the POW camps and the history of the jungle railroad's construction. Also take a walk through the immaculately maintained Allied War Cemetery where you'll find the graves of more than 8 000 POWs who died working on the bridge and railway for the Japanese imperial Army.

Museums in Kanchanaburi
Museums in Kanchanburi.

The museums, lacking any substantial government funding, have basic but interesting displays. The English is at times misplaced and a little macabre but it does stop those who are floundering from stalling altogether. One caption for example, commenting on the detonation of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, states that, "the city was destroyed in a jiffy". The main cemetery though, with its rows of gravestones cannot fail to touch upon the coldest of hearts. The ages of the dead are mind numbingly young; the average could barely be 25.

After exhausthing Kanchanaburi's city centre sights, you can opt to take a tour to 'Hellfire Pass'. The tour (you pay, they drive you places) included an hour-long elephant ride. Plodding your way through the jungle the novelty soon wears off though, elephants aren't half slow! Gimmicky as it seems, elephant riding is big business in Thailand and nearly every tourist tries it out at some stage of their trip. Most elephant rides deliver you to the stunning Pha That waterfall, where you cool off with a refreshing dip and change transport back to the four wheeled variety. Eventually you reach 'Hellfire Pass'.

The Jeath War Museum.

This museum is actually a reconstructed Allied prisoner-of-war camp. The name JEATH is derived from Japan, England, America, Australia, Thailand and Holland. The thatched detention hut with cramped, elevated bamboo bunks contains photographic, pictorial and physical memorabilia dating from the Second World War. Several prisoners of war who survived appalling conditions have donated items from that time to add to the museum's authenticity.
Admission: 30 Baht
Open Daily 8:30 am - 4:30pm

Ban Koe National Musuem.

A small Tambon located on the bank of the Kwai Noi River approximately 35 kilometers from the city is a site where some ancient Stone Age tools were found. In addition, a Neolithic burial site was discovered by the Dutch Allied POW, Dr. Van Hickderen, who was forced to build the Death Railway.

The consequences of findings revealed that tambon Ban Kao was once a dwelling of prehistoric men. Some critical discoveries included skeletons of prehistoric men, tools made from gravel stone and axes. The Ban Kao Museum houses skeletal remains, pots, axe heads, jewellery made from animal bones and other artefacts dating from that period.

Hellfire Pass.

The pass is the most infamous in a series of cuttings along the Death Railway's course, and was so named because of the gaunt shadows cast by torch light as the workers dug through the night. Hellfire Pass took just 12 weeks to complete, the tools available were staggeringly basic; one reason why 70% of the cuttings workforce were dead by the time the job was done. Walking between the solid walls was strangely eerie.

A drill head sticking out of the rock was a vivid reminder that this wasn't an ancient ruin but one horrifically young. Back in Kanchanaburi relaxing by the riverbanks, you can pass your time swimming in the river - the bridge upstream a vivid reminder of its past - but soaking up the stunning beauty of the region. For those who stay longer than the half hour it takes to walk the River Kwai Bridges tracks, a peace and tranquility so far removed from the horrors that have made this small town infamous await discovery in Thailand.

Death Railway War Museum.

The War Museum is one of two war museums about the Death Railway built in 1942 / 1943. It is located only 300 metres from the Bridge on the River Kwai in Kanchanaburi. The Museum is located in the grounds of a temple at the junction of the Kwai Yai and Kwai Noi Rivers. The Burma Railway, also know as the Death Railway, the Thailand - Burma Railway and similar names, is a 415 km railway between Bangkok, Thailand and Rangoon, Burma, built by the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II, to support its forces in the Burma campaign.

Forced labour was used in its construction. About 200,000 Asian labourers and 60,000 Allied prisoners of war worked on the railway. Of these, around 100,000 Asian labourers and 16,000 Allied POW's died as a direct result of the project. The railway connection between Thailand and Burma had been surveyed at the beginning of the 20th century by the British Government of Burma, but the route - through hilly jungle terrain divided by many rivers, was considered too difficult to complete.


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