The Bridge on the River Kwai

The Bridge on the River Kwai , No doubt the Bridge on the River Kwai is the most famous tourist attraction of Kanchanaburi province. The bridge became famous in 1957, after the British movie came out. The movie was directed by David Lean, based on the noble by the French writer, Pierre Boulle. As the movie was widely praised the bridge became very well known.

The movie is generally a work of fiction, however, it is based on the historical construction of the Burma Railway by the Japanese during World War II. The railways connected Burma and Thailand. The Japanese used prisoners of war as construction workers in such a way that cost many of them their life.

Some bridge history: as I previously wrote, The Bridge on the River Kwai is part of “The Death Train” which was constructed by the Japanese in order to connect Burma and Thailand so they can transfer food and ammunition to their soldiers in Burma.

In real life, there were actually 2 bridges on the Mae Klong River – one was a temporarily built from wood. Its construction was finished on February 1943, and the other, which was finished on June 1943 was made of steel and concrete. The bridge arcs have been brought all the way from Java and they can still be seen today. The straight parts seen in the picture, in the middle of the bridge, are a more recent addition – they were used to rebuild the bridge after the war has ended.

Both bridges, the wooden and the concrete and steel have been bombed by the Allies a few times during the war. They were destroyed and rebuilt by prisoners of war. The bridges were bombed on February, April and June 1945. The railway could not be used after the last bombing till the end of the war.

Both bridges were used by the Japanese for two years. The wooden bridge has been completely destroyed and the other bridge, which can be seen in the picture, has been rebuilt after World War II and is still being used.

As I wrote, both bridges have been built on a river called Mae Klong… so how did we arrive at The Bridge on the Kwai River? This is an interesting story of how reality and imagination can be successfully combined – I will elaborate about it on the next paragraph.

Combining reality and imagination: as I wrote above, the Japanese built 2 bridges on the Mae Klong River, so how did we arrive at The Bridge on the River Kwai? After the movie about The Bridge on the River Kwai came out, many people came to the town of Kanchanaburi to see the famous bridge with their own eyes. However, they were in for a disappointment – they saw the bridge and the river – but the bridge is on the River Mae Klong!!

The French writer, Pierre Boulle, has never really been to Kanchanaburi and as the railways goes through Khwae noi valley, he mistakenly assumed that this is the river’s name, although the actual bridge was built on the Mae Klong River.

The Thai government, which did not want to disappoint the crowds of tourists coming to see the Bridge on the River Kwai found a special solution to the situation – in 1960 it changed the name of part of the river where the bridge is located to Kwai Yai River.

From that moment on, the tourists could see the bridge they were looking for on the Kwai River.

Important Note: The Bridge on the River Kwai and its surrounding area are included in TipTop-Travel best quality Kanchanaburi tour program.

As always, here is a short video I prepared for you about the bridge – Enjoy!!

 

About Author

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Dr.David
My name is Dr. David (a former dentist and university lecturer). I’ve been living in Bangkok for the last 9 years. This has allowed me to practice the unusual combination of guiding Thai dentists in advanced courses while becoming thoroughly and pleasantly acquainted with Thailand – the spectacular landscapes, friendly people, colorful culture, delicious food and many other aspects of this wonderful country.