Kanchanaburi - Take the jungle tour to the bridge over the Kwai

Kanchanaburi is most famous for the Bridge on the Kwai and the World War II Death Railway. Certainly, much evidence of the War still remains in Kan. Row upon row of war graves, the remains of the railway whose construction cost untold lives and suffering, and of course, the infamous bridge itself, immortalized in several novels and movies.

But despite its dark past, Kanchanaburi is without doubt one of the most exotically beautiful places on earth. Fast-flowing rivers carve their way through tooth-shaped mountains and dense jungles, where tigers still roam. The province’s natural wonders make Kanchanaburi a prime destination for ecotourists and adventurers. Five national parks and some of the world’s finest remaining wildlife sanctuaries make Kanchanaburi ideal for jungle hikes, rafting and camping out. Kan also has some of the world’s most spectacular waterfalls and fascinating caves for spelunkering enthusiasts.

Trekking and Rafting in Kanchanaburi's National Parks

Kanchanaburi has some of the richest natural environment in the whole of Thailand. With five national parks and the country's biggest wildlife sanctuaries, the province is a must-see for the ecotourist.

Most of the province's national parks are well organized with a park head office, accommodations and camping facilities with running water and toilet facilities, and sometimes food is available.

The most popular destinations are the Erawan, Sai Yok and Chalerm Rattanakosin National Parks, which have well-defined trails to waterfalls, caves and the outstanding points of each park. At Thong Pha Phum and Sangkhla Buri in the northwest of the province, one-day elephant trekking and rafting tours are available.

More information is available at the TAT office on Saeng Chuto Road in Kanchanaburi Tel (034) 511-200 or 511-500. Rafting trips are available from the provincial town and from several resorts in Kanchanaburi. Rafts leave from the River Khwae Bridge or from the waterfront area on Song Kwai Road. The cost depends on the destination and the duration. A standard trip may take between 7 and 10 hours roundtrip or may entail an overnight stay for longer destinations far upstream. Trips are available up both tributaries of the Khwae River. More details are available at the Kanchanaburi tourist office.

The Bridge Over the River Khwae

The infamous Bridge over the Khwae has been popularized by books and screenplays but is of little interest in itself. Spanning the Khwae Yai River, about 3 km north of Kanchanaburi town center, the iron bridge is part of the 'Death Railway', built by the Japanese during World War II as a supply route linking Thailand and Burma.

Allied prisoners of war and Asian slave laborers built the railway through dense mosquito-infested forests and mountainous terrain. An estimated 16,000 prisoners of war and 100,000 Asian coolies perished as a result of brutal treatment, starvation, disease and exhaustion during the 16 months it took to complete the 415-km railway. Allied bombs destroyed the original bridge in 1945.

The black iron structure that stands today was built after the war and is still in use. A small train museum in front of the bridge has some of the original war-time engines on display.

In the first week of December, Kanchanaburi holds a night-time light and sound show to celebrate the final bombing and destruction of the bridge. The spectacular pyrotechnic show attracts thousands of tourists for the week, and it may be difficult finding a place to stay. The Bridge over the Khwae is easily reached by songthaew from the town center or by train from Kanchanaburi station.

Three Pagodas Pass (Phra Chedi Sam Ong)

The three diminutive white-washed chedis (pagodas) of the Three Pagodas Pass are rather an anti-climax after the long and arduous journey it takes to get to the site.

Located 23 km northwest of Sangkhla Buri District, and about 18 km from Thong Pha Phum District, the sacred stupas were built in remembrance of those who died building the Death Railway during World War II. The railway passed through this spot on its way to Burma and the invasion route to British India. The pass is about 300 m (985 ft) above sea level.

For centuries, the Three Pagodas Pass has acted as a trading point for Thais and Burmese. Visitors to the area are usually permitted to cross the border on a one-day visa (depending on the current political situation) to the Burmese town of Pyathonzu. For longer stays, a four-week tourist visa for Myanmar can be obtained from the Myanmar Embassy in Bangkok.

The journey to the Pass takes in some of Thailand's most spectacular scenery with tooth-shaped karst mountains and dense forests. The trip takes about a day and requires a stopover for the night in Sangkhla Buri, 200 km northwest of Kanchanaburi town. From Sangkhla Buri, frequent songthaews travel the route to the Pass. Because of the treacherous roads in the area, this trip is not recommended during the rainy season.

Article Source: http://www.discoverythailand.com

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