This 11 day programme has been carefully assembled to provide an interesting and fulfilling tour focussed on the Japanese driven war time forced labour construction of the Thailand – Burma (Death) Railway during the Second World War.
Our programme goes beyond the superficial as we travel the length of the Thailand portion of the Railway’s route out to the Thailand/Myanmar (Burma) Border with experienced expert staff to guide, explain and factually commentate from Bangkok to the remote border post at Three Pagodas Pass.
We travel with a mix of river water craft, air conditioned coaches and some cross country walking, which enables us to visit Railway relative sites and sights. We include some of the ordinary tourist attractions, but also, unique away-in-the jungle hidden rail construction and operations areas, prisoner of war camp locations where we visit and, and on one night, even stay in a modern luxury safari setting within a PW camp site.
As a relative of those who endured, a person who wants to know the real story, and all those who seek a full, factual programme, with detail, respect and experiential exposure, we deliver.
Thurs 12 March to Sun 22 March 2015
Burma/Myanmar Sector: Sun 22 March to Thurs 26 March
The tour has been planned to use vehicle transport to travel the main road from Bangkok to the remote border area of Burma and Thailand at Three Pagodas Pass over 5 days, stopping along the way at various sites of interest – including walking into jungle overgrown and abandoned railway features – with accommodation in comfort at night in good standard Resorts, Hotels and Guest Houses as selected. War time rail is also used for a short part.
Two full leisure days (one in Bangkok and one in Kanchanaburi) are included in the programme to allow personal exploration time. Two organised half day tours are provided in Bangkok to introduce visitors to the city.
Some Random Facts of the Thailand – Burma Railway
Japanese Engineers stated that the completion of the railway involved the building of 4,000,000 cubic metres of earthwork, shifting 3,000,000 cubic metres of rock, and the construction of 14 kilometres of bridgework in a period of ten months “after hastening of 6 or 7 months” – all by absurdly primitive means.
Altogether 330,000 workers including 61,000 prisoners of war were employed on the railway.
The Allied War Graves Registration units decided that in 1946 the number of dead among the prisoners of war amounted to 12,399, including 6,318 British, 2646 Australians, 2,490 Dutch and 589 unknown prisoners. The bodies of the American dead were repatriated early in 1946. The total of deaths among the 270,000 labourers drawn principally from Burma, Malaya and Thailand was far higher. Some authorities place it at 72,000, but this figure may under estimate the dead by as much as 20,000….
The Thailand – Burma Railway commenced at Nong Pladuk in Thailand and ended 414.92 kms later at Thanbyuzayat in Burma. From Nong Pladuk to Three Pagodas Pass (Thailand – Burma Border) is a railway route distance of 300 kms. Full access is not possible at this time to the Burma (Myanmar) sector of the Railway at the Thailand/Burma border area due to instability within the Burma border region.
Please Note: We have successfully negotiated a 20 kms excursion along the original rail route from the Burma/Myanmar Northern end, requiring a journey to Yangon/Rangoon, then a day’s road travel to Moulmein and Thyanbyuzayat. A fascinating journey though somewhat arduous vehicle travel. This extension – additional cost – is available at the time of writing.
The itinerary attached outlines the activity programme. There is a mixture of conventional “tourist’ features – such as museums and cultural attractions – along with off the beaten track destinations such as long abandoned sections of the Rail, bridging remnants and cuttings only accessed by these groups, requiring walks cross country through jungle to see and hear about these lonely, silent sites.
The in country logistical support and indigenous information is provided by Oriental Voyage Company of Huang Kwang, Bangkok and the Thai Burma Railway Centre of Kanchanaburi – who both are highly recommended in their service and our previous experience.
We travel from Bangkok with stops at significant sites in the Rail story: from where the rail transported prisoners from Singapore’s Changi Prison gratefully left their overcrowded railcars – and their first dead – and started their long journey out along the planned route of the line; to the last accessible section at the border with Burma.
We will include (using the remaining existing war time rail line from Kanchanaburi to Namtok) travel by passenger train, a distance of some 80 kms. The rail line from Nam Tok to Burma was torn up shortly after the end of the war, but the rail “road works” remain.
We will see museums, the “Bridge over the River Kwai” and two War Cemeteries, immaculately kept, one in and the other adjacent, to the city of Kanchanaburi. A feature of this area (Kanchanaburi) we will find to be the new Thailand – Burma Railway Centre, alongside the War Cemetery. An impressive number of informative displays will pass on information to group members, supported with a lifetime’s collection of rail relative artefacts gathered by the Managing Director and Curator of the Centre. Did you know the Second World War Allies had “smart bombs” and used them on the Thailand – Burma Railway? This is the place, the displays, and the staff, to learn a myriad of facts from with their commitment to “real history”.
We utilise the expert knowledge and skills of the Centre’s Managing Director, Rod Beattie, for the next few days of the tour as he accompanies the group to the Burma Border and Three Pagodas Pass, to share his knowledge and feeling for the Rail. His years of commitment to research and exploration benefit our groups in the depth of knowledge made available, plus his excellent raconteur skills in bringing events to life. Over the next three days we will travel from Kanchanaburi out to the remote Three Pagodas Pass on the border with Burma, and back. Both as we travel and at stops at places of significance or attraction, expert commentary will be provided on historical and other matters of interest.
As well as the significance of the localities travelled through to the Thai – Burma Rail, there is much to be taken in as we travel into some of the most scenic road systems in Thailand through mountainous country off the general tourist routes. Markets out near the border are worth the visits we include in our timetabling for unique handcrafted items – including textiles, tapestries, wood work, gemstones and precious metals. Our tour also visits an ancient Khymer city in remarkable condition – an unexpected and spectacular contrast.
On our return to Kanchanaburi we have a leisure day for folk to wander about this rural Thai city and perhaps check again into the wealth of information at the Thailand – Burma Railway Centre, or walk to the shop site of a local Thai man who risked everything to help prisoners obtain medicine and other life saving items.
Bangkok the next day gives the group on opportunity to have a more relaxing tour about the city’s environs and waterways, followed by opportunities to explore (and may be shop) in a city that has literally everything.
Next morning our airport transfer from the hotel accommodation is included in the tour package. Our tour ends at the Bangkok International Airport.
We programme to bring you the real railway history, local life and culture, and an opportunity to see both remote rural and city Thailand along with a natural environment far from the tourist centres. We hope you will take these memories and images home with you.