THE PROVINCE OF KANCHANABURI
Located just 130 km west of Bangkok, Kanchanaburi has become a leader in Thai eco-tourism;
Kanchanaburi is the 3rd largest province in Thailand after Nakhon Ratchasima in the East, and Chiang Mai in the North. It features 7 national parks which are some of the best to be found in Asia.
The total area of the province is 19.500 km2 (approximately half the size of Switzerland), and the total population is just 750.000.
Kanchanaburi shares a long border with Myanmar (Burma) on the West and North-Western part of the province. It also has regional borders with the Thai provinces of Tak in the North, Suphanburi and Nakhon Pathom in the East, and Ratchaburi in the South.
The city of Kanchanaburi (called Muang in Thai) is the capital of the province. It has a total population of approximately 55.000 inhabitants.
The geography of Kanchanaburi city is similar to Lyon in France. Both cities feature two rivers flowing from the North which join to form a larger river flowing away to the South.
In France, the river Saone meets the Rhone in Lyon city center, and the main Rhone river flows South to the Mediterranean sea.
In Kanchanaburi, the Kwai Yai
and Kwai Noi
join to form the Mae Klong which flows away passing West of Bangkok out to the Gulf of Thailand.
The history of Kanchanaburi during World War 2
Kanchanaburi's bridge over the River Kwai and associated "Death Railway" was an important strategic location during the second World War, made famous in the French writer Pierre Boulle's novel and the subsequent film by American producer David Lean.
Unfortunately, the story of the Bridge and the railway was not a fiction, but a sad and tragic part of Asian war history which involved the death of over a hundred thousand workers.
After the fall of Singapore in 1942, the Japanese invaders decided to reach further into Burma and India by crossing Thailand. In order to do so, they decided a 145 km railway was necessary for transporting troops and supplies through the mountainous jungle of Kanchanaburi.
Asian laborers were used (the majority of whom were Thai) as well as Allied prisoners of war originating from the UK, Holland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the US.
As a result of constant over-work, disease and inhumane living conditions, the making of the railway cost the lives of 100.000 Asians and 16.000 Allied prisoners.
In order to prevent the use of the railway and disrupt the Japanese forces, the Allies bombed the bridges built across the river Kwai, and in April 1945 the famous Bridge 277 in Kanchanaburi city was destroyed by bombers of the American Air Force.
After the war, the bridge was repaired using replacement sections manufactured in Japan and donated to Thailand.
Bridge over the River Kwai