Most Australians, British and Dutch folk know that during the Second World War an infamous railway was built to connect Burma and Thailand by prisoners of war and forced asian labour under harsh and primitive conditions to further the Japanese war effort. The film "Bridge over the River Kwai" has popularised to legend status a script writer’s fictionalised vision of some events in the setting of the war time Thailand - Burma Railway, but above all, brought that Railway to the public consciousness.
Generations of visitors to Thailand have travelled to Kanchanaburi to see the "Bridge over the River Kwai" , and, in some cases, be taken to the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery to pay respects to those buried there. Fewer still travel the 80 kms North of Kanchanaburi to visit "Hellfire Pass" and the newly constructed Australian Memorial alongside a deep and long prisoner excavated railway cutting. For many people, this is as much of the historical localities as they are able to see. Most tour programmes are designed for a short exposure to the Thailand - Burma Railway, kept in a geographically small area, with varying depths, details and accuracy of the historical truths of the events, characters and places that make the real story.
For some the "standard" tour is sufficient. Our tour is not for them, it is for those with an interest in the deeper history of those times and the role their countrymen played in the events, or perhaps they have a connection through a relative or family friend who worked or died on the line. To see where these things happened, to hear researched and accurate renditions of events, access detailed historical records of the people caught up in the tragedy that accompanied the engineering achievements, and visit geographically accurate sites of POW Camps and cemeteries, railway stations, sidings, bridges, engineering works and features; this is what we provide to members of our tour groups.
Additional to the tragic war history, the programme is designed to allow time to experience cultural and commercial features of the cities, with the contrast of remote border country, villages and townships, plus everywhere the hospitality magic that is Thailand.
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.
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 a local tour operator company who are highly recommended in their service and 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 to 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 in and around the city of Kanchanaburi. A feature of this area (Kanchanaburi) we will find to be the very 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 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 see 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.
All transfers - airports and rail
All road tour transport
All entry fees
Two half day tours in Bangkok
One full, one half leisure day in Bangkok
One day optional activity in Kanchanaburi
Six days touring and exploring the Thailand - Burma POW Rail localities with expert commentary and guiding.