River Kwai Bridge Festival
The River Kwai Bridge Festival runs for a week every year, either in late November or early-to-mid December.
In 2016 it took place from December 2nd – 11th. The 2017 edition is scheduled in for November 24th – December 3rd. Like many Thai festivals, however, there’s a possibility the dates will change closer to the time.
This week-long festival aims to mark the somber events that led to the building of the Death Railway in World War II (more on that later). Despite the tragic nature of the history, the festival is still recognizably Thai in its approach, meaning that it’s both entertaining and spectacular.
On each night of the festival, after darkness falls, comes the main attraction of the festival: the sound and light show. A replica of a POW camp is created, and through a combination of impressive and brilliantly choreographed light effects and sounds, the events which befell the bridge are reenacted. In recent years, gun fights and even a boat chase have been included. It’s like watching a Hollywood war movie unfold before your eyes. The whole thing runs for approximately 90 minutes, making it a truly epic spectacle.
Throughout the week of the River Kwai Bridge Festival there are also a number of displays and informative exhibits dotted around the area. To fully comprehend the history of the bridge, and the railway as a whole, checking these out is highly recommended.
During WWII, Japanese soldiers used allied prisoners of war and Asian laborers to build a vast railway.
The conditions under which the men worked were incredibly harsh, and the number of workers who died is staggering; over 100,000 perished from 1942-43. You can easily see why it’s become known as the ‘Death Railway’.
This particular bridge has become iconic of the Death Railway’s construction, mostly due to its portrayal in the movie ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai’. It attracts visitors all year round, but the best time to visit is undoubtedly as the River Kwai Bridge Festival is taking place.
The River Kwai Bridge Festival takes place in Kanchanaburi province, near to the Burmese border to the west. The bridge itself is around 5km east of the town center of Kanchanaburi.
Kanchanaburi is only around a 2-hour drive from Bangkok, making it easily accessible by bus or taxi. Public buses leave regularly from the Southern Bus Terminal or, if you’re based in the old town, you can catch a minibus from the Khao San Road area. Alternatively, several trains leave from the capital each day, bound for Kanchanaburi.