The Bridge over the River Kwai
Situated just to the north of the town, this bridge was made famous by the 1957 film “Bridge over the River Kwai” by David Lean, though in fact the movie portrayed a wooden bridge that was constructed earlier. Both bridges were badly damaged by Allied plane attacks in hut several arches of the rretal bridge stood throughout and it was repaired after the war. The bridge was the key point in the so-called “Death Railway” that connected Thailand and Myanmar. intended to provide a supply line for Japanese troops in Myanmar. though the work was completed only at the loss of countless lives of prisoners-of-war and local labourers supervised by Japanese troops.
The railway line was only used a few times before the Japanese surrender, after which the British tore up pan of the track, making it inoperative. These days it is possible to cross the bridge on foot or by train on the way to the waterfall, about 100 km. lo the north west. Steam train eothusiasts will be delighted lo see a few World War II era machines displayed beside the bridge. Those with a particular interest in the history of the area should time their visit to coincide with the River Kwai Bridge Festival, in late November each year.
JEATH War Museum
“JEATH” refers to the six countries involved in ihe building of the rail way-Japan. England, America, Australia. Thailand and Holland – and this museum located to the south of (he town centre next to Wat Chaichumphon gives a vivid picture of the terrible conditions in which the Allied prisoners-of-war lived. The museum building is a copy of Ihe long thatched bamboo huls that were used to house the prisoners during the war.
On display are paintings, photographs and newspaper articles from the period, detailing the cruel torture methods used by the Japanese The museum is open from 8.30 a.m. – 6.00 p.m.
World War II Museum
This museum, located just south of the bridge, contains war memorabilia in the form of bomb shells, photos and sketches from the period, statues ot important war leaders, and over 100 skeletons of Asian labourers found in a mast grave.
In a separate building there arc displays of Buddha images. Thai weaponry from the Ayutthaya period and portraits of Ihe kings of Thailand. The museum is open from 8.00 am – 6.00 p.m.
Kunchanahun War Cemetery
Perhaps even more moving than Ihe bridge or museums are the lines ol identical gravestones in the cemetery located just near the train station.
The remains of almost 7,000 Allied prisoners are buried here; many of the memorial slabs are unidentified, but several give details of the soldiers, showing thai the great majority were very young indeed. A memorial serv.ee is held each year on Anzac Day, 25 April.
Wat Tharm Mangkon Thong
The main attraction of this temple, located about 5 km. east of Ihe (own centre, is the “Floating Nun”. a Buddhist nun who regularly meditates while floating in a pond. The temple is located on a hillside, and there arc caves above the temple that offer line views of the area.
Ban Kao National Museum
8 kilometres, from Prasat Mueang Sing, and 35 kilometres from town, this also overlooks the Kwai Noi River.
The museum was constructed beside a Neolithic burial site disccvered by an Allied prisoner-of-war during the construction of the Death Railway. Some 4,000 years ago. Neolithic man lived, roamed and hunted beside the Kwai Rivers, sheltering beneath rock overhangs or in nearby caves.
The Ban Kao Museum houses skeletal remains, pots, axe beads, jewellery made from animal bones, and other artefacts dating from that era.