Tham Kra Sae Bridge Kanchanaburi – Historic Death Railway

Tham kra sae bridge kanchanaburi itinerary - lolapan travels

Tham Kra Sae Bridge is a historic railway located in Kanchanaburi, and is also commonly known as Death Railway. The bridge was built by war prisoners of WWII. It received the name Death Railway due to the large amount of prisoners that died during the construction of the bridge. Now many people visit the bridge to learn about the history as well as view the incredible structure which is built into the side of a cliff, right next to the powerful Kwai Noi River.

How to get to Kanchanaburi

Kanchanaburi is a small rural area in western Thailand. There are a few different ways you can get from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi. The easiest and most convenient option would be to book a day tour with a travel agent in the city. There are different tours available with some just stopping at the bridge and others including a ride on the train over the bridge.  Alternatively, you can take a train directly from Bangkok all the way to Kanchanaburi and enjoy the freedom of exploring on your own. The train from Bangkok passes through Kanchanaburi and continues along to Tham Kra Sae, so you can actually ride the train over the bridge and get off there.

By Train

The trains from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi leave twice a day from Thonburi Station. The Bangkok to Kanchanaburi Train only costs 100 baht ($5 AUD) so it’s a super affordable. There’s no need to pre purchase tickets online. You can just buy your ticket when you arrive at the train station. The train leaves Thonburi Station at 7:50 am and 1:55 pm. The train will take you through the scenic Thai countryside, passing plenty of rice fields and fruit farms. Once you pass Kanchanaburi Station, the train will slow down as it passes over the river and winds around the cliffs.

When do the trains pass?

The train passes over the bridge a few times a day. If you manage to get there at the right time, you’ll be able to experience the train go right past you as you stand on the side of the tracks. The trains will pass through Tham Kra Sae at roughly 5:46 am, 7:38 am, 11:41 am, 1:15 pm, 3:58 pm and 5:51 pm. The times can sometimes vary due to the occasional delay of the train.

The History

Tham Kra Sae Bridge Kanchanaburi has lots of history. It’s a fascinating place to visit and learn about the construction of the bridge. The Bridge earned the nickname Death Railway after thousands of war prisoners died during the construction of the bridge in WWII during 1942-1943. An estimated 90,000 labourers and 12,000 prisoners died.

During this time, the Japanese Army took over South East Asia and gathered thousands of prisoners of war, who were then used to built the bridge. Once completed, it was a 415 kilometre railway between Ban Pong, Thailand, and Thanbyuzayat, Burma. The bridge was there to support the Japanese in their campaign against Burma and to aid in their invasion of India.

The Intense heat and monsoons were especially hard for the prisoners and labourers. The lack of hygiene, medical supplies, and beatings from Japanese guards meant that many died from exhaustion, infection, and malnutrition. The railway is quite an extraordinary accomplishment also considering that the workers had hardly any tools besides hammers and spades.

The railway was officially closed in 1947, although the Nam Tok section of the bridge was reopened in 1957. Much of the bridge was removed between Thailand and Burma to stop any raids or invasions.

Tham Kra Sae bridge Kanchanaburi - lolapan travels

What to expect

Not only is the history of  Tham Kra Sae Bridge Kanchanaburi very interesting, but it’s also amazing to see in person. You can actually walk across the full length of the bridge which is directly above the Kwai Noi River. If you’re scared of heights or known to have bad balance, then we don’t suggest walking along the bridge. The bridge has no hand rails and also has lots of gaps and bumps for you to trip over.

We only walked a few meters over the bridge to the observation area. From here you can stand a safe distance away from the train as it passes right by you.  It’s crazy to see such an old bridge still in use with full carriages of passengers all hanging out the window as they take photos. You’ll be able to hear the train horn from miles away, so you’ll know when it’s approaching. There is also a small cave across from the observation area which you can go and explore.

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Tham Kra Sae station has no shortage of drink and clothing stalls. Once you finish exploring the railway, you can pop into one of the stores to grab a nice cold drink or do some souvenir shopping. You’ll be able to find everything from hats, jewellery, clothes and small souvenirs.

Where To Stay

Kanchanaburi is a rural area in western Thailand, just outside of Bangkok. It’s a great place to stay if your looking to learn about the history or to see the beautiful Thai countryside. Many of the accommodation options are along the river with plenty of options for budget travellers as well as families.

Blue Sky Raft – Luxury: Blue Sky Raft is the most unique accommodation option around and if you have the budget, you definitely need to check it out. This hotel is actually on the water and has different villas. Each villa has their own patio and spa bath on the river. You’ll be able to wake up every morning to the view overlooking the river. If you’re looking for an unforgettable place to stay, then this is the hotel for you.

Away Kanchanaburi Dheva Mantra Resort – Midrange: Away Kanchanaburi is an ideal luxury getaway in a great location. This hotel is located right along the river with insane views and also has a pool and pool bar. The rooms are large, clean and surrounded by tropical greenery. It’s the ideal place to stay if you’re after a getaway in the countryside.

TOPAE Hostel – Budget: This hostel is in a prime location and is the perfect place to base yourself when visiting Kanchanaburi. It’s close to the train and bus station as well as night markets and plenty of good restaurants. The owners are also super kind and friendly. TOPAE Hostel is very clean with comfy beds and good wifi. A bonus is that they also provide breakfast in the morning which is perfect if you’re looking to save some money.

↠ Check availability: Kanchanaburi accommodation.

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