A Glimpse of History in Kanchanaburi

Kanchanaburi is a Thai province around 120 kilometers to the west of Bangkok. To get there, we can rent a car or for cheaper alternative, we can either take a bus, train or minivan from Bangkok, which I took the latter. To take the minivan, we can use the service from Victory Monument, which is easily accessible by BTS. The trip would take around two to three hours depends on the traffic. The weather can get really hot in Kanchanaburi, as it reached 40-42 degrees celsius when I was there. So, better keep a bottle of water with to keep you hydrated.

This province is mostly known for the Death Railway, a World War II railway between Burma (now Myanmar) and Siam (now Thailand) which was built during Japanese occupation by Asian forced workers and Allied Forces prisoners of war. This railway includes the infamous Bridge on River Kwai, which will be the topic of my next post. There are several historic World War II-related sites in this province including a couple of museums and memorials. One of the most visited sites in the area is the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery.

A brief history of Kanchanaburi during World War II
One of thousands of tombstones in the cemetery

Kanchanaburi War Cemetery is located at the main road of Kanchanaburi municipality. The cemetery is maintained by Commonwealth War Graves Commission. There are thousands of prisoners of war who were laid to rest there, mostly soldiers from the Netherlands and the Commonwealth. On the tombstones we can see each of the name of the fallen soldiers who were forced to work in the Burma-Siam railway project in the area. Overall, the cemetery complex is very well maintained.

The entire cemetery is very clean and well-maintained
A giant cross can be seen at the heart of the cemetery

Behind the cemetery complex, there is a catholic church, Beata Mundi Regina. Meanwhile just next to the cemetery, there is the Thailand-Burma Railway Museum. Inside this museum we will get in-depth information on the events that occur in the area during the Japanese occupation. There is a documentary on the history of the railway construction project as well as old pictures and stories which portrays the condition of prisoners at that time. There is also a diagram made of actual steel spikes from the railway which illustrates the number of casualties caused by the project. It is sad to see how the number is so staggeringly high. Hundreds of thousand lives were lost, those including Allied prisoner of wars and forced workers from the region like Burma, Malaya, Siam, China and Java.

This catholic church is located behind the cemetery complex
“Peace” is written in various languages in the museum’s mosaic

Both of these places are not common tourist sites that most people would visit. However these sites offers a glimpse of the history which had happened in Thailand, especially during the Japanese occupation. Here we can easily imagine all the pain and sufferings which was caused by the World War II. So if you are also like to visit museums and historic places just like myself, Kanchanaburi can be an alternative for your visit to Thailand.


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