River Kwai Bridge Festival

River Kwai Bridge Festival

Paying tribute to those who died

More on Kanchanaburi

In typical Thai style, the River Khwae Bridge Festival serves up a sombre slice of history alongside a large dose of sanuk (fun).

Travelfish says:

The annual event tells the story of the construction of the Death Railway, of which the River Khwae Bridge was a part, and pays tribute to those who lost their lives.

Fire and lights! : Stuart McDonald.
Fire and lights! Photo: Stuart McDonald

The focus of the festival is, of course, the River Khwae Bridge built by Allied POWs and Asian conscripted labourers under the watch of the Japanese Imperial Army in the early 1940s. Every year for about a week in November or December, Kanchanaburi’s locals join travellers to honour and celebrate the lives of more than 100,000 people who died during the construction of the railway.

The highlight is a spectacular nightly sound-and-light show featuring a replica POW camp on the opposite bank of the river along with searchlights, fireworks and an old-fashioned train steaming across the bridge in a blaze of colour.

Expect various exhibitions and displays about the prisoners and history of the railway, and tribute is paid to those who died and survived the ordeal. A fun-fair, perhaps somewhat incongruously, rounds out the attractions—it is a festival, we suppose, after all.

Reviewed by

Stuart McDonald co-founded Travelfish.org with Samantha Brown in 2004. He has lived in Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia, where he worked as an under-paid, under-skilled language teacher, an embassy staffer, a newspaper web-site developer, freelancing and various other stuff. His favourite read is The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton.

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