Kwai River Bridge
The Death Train in Kanchanaburi

 A film that has marked a generation...

Le Pont de la Rivière Kwai à Kanchanaburi

For people of my generation, it is clear that when we talk about "The Kwai River Bridge" we immediately think of the 1957 film directed by David Lean, but also of the music of the film which was regularly whistling by many people on the street....

For a long time, this title only referred to the hit film that everyone knows and nothing else. Even today, we still make the connection with the film and it is inevitable.
Unfortunately, this story of a prison camp lost somewhere in the depths of Asia, without anyone knowing exactly where, was very real.

Even today, many people still do not know where this famous bridge on the Kwai River is located and are often surprised to learn that it is located in Thailand, three hours' drive west of Bangkok...

Colonel Nicholsson (Alec Guiness) probably never existed, the bamboo bridge maybe either, who knows....

The film of course distorted reality, it's normal... classic technique: we use a frame and a story and we arrange all this in a Hollywood style.

At the time, Asia was so far away... it took several days to get there and it was a long and tiring battle course. Very few people went to these regions to do tourism, which only increased the imagination of the film.

The French writer, Pierre Boulle, was far from thinking that his novel would be such a success in American cinema. It was not the only success he experienced, since a few years later, he wrote the novel "La Planète des Singes" which has since made its way.

Since the release of this film, the title "The Kwai River Bridge" has always been a dream and still is. I read these days on an English website that even today, this destination remains one of the priorities for many tourists arriving in Thailand for the first time.
Just look at the number of tourists walking on the bridge in Kanchanaburi, having their picture taken and contemplating the metal structure, which has nothing to do with the film itself, which was made of bamboo...

The few pictures I propose today will show you the bridge itself, but also and especially the railway built on a long and impressive viaduct leaning against the cliffs overlooking the Kwai River.

 Kwai River Bridge in Kanchanaburi

The small station, "Kwai River Station", is located about 100 metres before the bridge.

It is rare that the Kwai River Bridge is deserted as in this photo.
Most of the time, dozens of onlookers walk on this metal framework
to have their picture taken (I did it too...)

Old vintage locomotives... exposed a few meters from the bridge

On the opposite bank, a memorial dedicated to Chinese soldiers

 Kanchanaburi: The Death Train

Heading north from Kanchanaburi, about 45km away, we find a very impressive place
at Thamkrasae Bridge with a view of the wooden viaduct and its sturdy pillars.
Following the vertiginous side of the cliff along the Kwai River,
the route must have been conquered by hand on the jungle by the prisoners.

I must admit that the visit to this place, in a superb surrounding, is quite moving.

La portion thaïlandaise mesure environ 300 km. La construction a demandé un an, d’octobre 1942 à octobre 1943.
Une partie de la ligne a été démantelée. Une autre partie a été submergée lors de la construction du barrage de Khao Laem. 

Les paysages, le long de la ligne de chemin de fer sont magnifiques, en particulier au niveau de la grotte de Tham Krasae où elle longe les parois rocheuses d’un côté, la rivière Kwaï Noi de l’autre.

Aujourd’hui cette ligne a son terminus à Ban Tha Sao à la gare de Namtok. Elle a une longueur de 77 km. Les Chemins de fer thaïlandais exploitent la ligne quotidiennement . 
Il existe un train supplémentaire Bangkok – Namtok tous les samedis, dimanche et jours fériés.
Moving and quite poignant: the magnificently maintained military cemetery with its 6982 plaques engraved in memory of all those prisoners (English, Australian, Danish, Dutch) who died by exhaustion, illness or accident during the construction work. 

About the Film



Pierre Boulle



The Train of Death



On this site:

You can consult this article