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WWII influenced every part of the world whether directly or indirectly. Most people know the conflicts and battles among European countries and America. It's something we've all learned in history class. What we haven't always learned are all the details of events which occurred in Asia at the same time. One of those places in particular is Kanchanaburi, Thailand.
If you're a history buff, love nature, and are intrigued by WWII, Kanchanaburi is the place to visit for a weekend getaway. Here are the must see sights on your next vacation.
1. Explore the weird JEATH War Museum.
Located near the Bridge on the River Kwai, the JEATH War Museum is a hodgepodge of eclectic items from military history to pageants. The place is easy to get to and is easily recognized by the train displayed at the front.
There are two sides and numerous layers to this museum. On the left hand side, you will see a collection of WWII items, rocks and minerals, and pageant items. On the lower level in the middle of the museum, you will find historical and cultural items. Make sure to peak into the little cave for a glimpse back in time to the prehistoric period. The right side of the museum highlights the history of Thailand and its rulers. Included among the artwork and text is the story of the Bang Rachan heroes (from the Singburi Province).
2. Visit the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery.
The Kanchanaburi War Cemetery is dedicated to the prisoners of war (POWs) who died during WWII when imprisoned by Japanese forces. They were forced to construct a railway through Thailand to Burma in an attempt to move supplies, forces, and prisoners.
Included in the cemetery is a memorial for prisoners along with individual plaques. In the cemetery, you'll find people from the Netherlands, Holland, Britain, and much more.
3. Discover the history of WWII in the Death Railway Museum and Research Centre.
Journey into the into the depths of the Death Railway Museum and Research Centre to discover the reality of Japanese influence in Thailand during WWII. People can discover the horror and atrocities which occurred to British, Malays, Chinese, and Americans. Surprisingly, the British were among the highest casualties. They were imprisoned and forced to work on the Death Railway in order to complete the project in a year.
This museum will enlighten you as to the number of prisoners, living and working conditions, and lives of some individuals. Medical professionals were seen as gods and men received letters from children back home. It was a time when even a morsel of bread was seen as a dessert.
After viewing the museum, you can go to the second level for a free coffee, some sweets, and a good view of the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery.
4. Photo Opportunity at the Bridge on the River Kwai
Part of the Death Railway, this bridge became famous after the movie "Bridge on the River Kwai" came out. It wasn't the original name of the bridge, but since it became so popular tourists and locals now call it the Bridge on the River Kwai.
(In Thai, the word "kwai" means "buffalo" and is seen as a major insult.)
The bridge is a great place for photos and includes a small market at one end.
5. Take a Ride on the Death Railway
The Death Railway (also known as the Thai-Burma Death Railway) runs from Bangkok to Nom Tok. Visitors and locals alike ride the train each day. You will often see students using it to this day to commute to school in rural areas.
The name originated from the number of deaths which occurred during the construction of the railway. Prisoners of war, a majority British, died during the process. They were infuriated with the Japanese (their captors) and would sabotage parts of the railway. Some methods included loosely securing joints or putting termite beds into wood crevices.
6. Hike to Hellfire Pass
In the early 1940s, POWs worked day and night to finish the death railway. At the time, the dense jungle, tropical diseases, malnutrition, and long hours caused numerous deaths. Out of 200,000 POWs, only a few survived the completion of the railway.
Hellfire Pass is a significant section of the Death Railway. At the time, POWs would hammer holes into the thick mountain, bomb sections, and carry away the rubble by hand. They worked 16 hour days ceaselessly moving heavy rock work.
(The name Hellfire Pass comes from the torches placed in the area to light it up during the night.)