River Kwai Bridge Week Festival 2023

Explore an annual event of "River Kwai Bridge Week Festival" in Kanchanaburi Province that commemorates lives lost during World War II.
Kanchanaburi, Thailand
08 December 2023

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The River Kwai Bridge Week Festival is held in Kanchanaburi province from late November to early December as a tribute to the thousands of lives lost in World War II due to its construction by Allied prisoners of war (POWs) and Southeast Asian civilians. This year’s River Kwai Bridge Week Festival will take place from December 8th to 17th, 2023.

This annual event takes you back in time to the building of the Bridge Over the River Kwai through a spectacular sound-and-light show that commemorates those who died and offers a glimpse into the past through battle scenes with simulated effects.

The Bridge of the River Kwai festival, Kanchanaburi Province, Thailand
Source: Southtownboy Studio / Shutterstock.com

In addition to the multimedia show, visitors can enjoy historical displays and exhibitions, cultural performances, local products, and food stalls. Traditionally, the Thai Red Cross Society will also co-organize the festival and hold a Red Cross Fair, with part of the proceeds going to their charitable activities.

Although the bridge itself is still in operation, the State Railway of Thailand has given permission for visitors to walk across the bridge.

The River Kwai Bridge

The River Kwai Bridge is an iron bridge that runs across the upper part of the Mae Klong River, which joins with the Khwae Noi tributary. Due to popular misassociation with the Khwae Noi, that section of the Mae Klong was subsequently renamed Khwae Yai. The bridge was part of the Thai-Burma Railway that ran from Ban Pong, Thailand to Thanbyuzayat, Myanmar. The railway, most of which had been dismantled after World War II, had served as a military supply route for Imperial Japanese troops.

The railway was built by over 60,000 Australian, British, American, and Dutch POWs, as well as between 180,000 and 250,000 Chinese and Southeast Asian civilians subjected to forced labor. Due to a combination of malnutrition, physical abuse, and tropical diseases, as many as 90,000 civilians and 12,000 Allied prisoners died in its construction. Consequently, the Siam-Burma Railway became known as the Death Railway.

The River Kwai Bridge has been popularized due to the 1957 war movie, “The Bridge on the River Kwai,” directed by David Lean, which is based on the 1952 novel, “The Bridge over the River Kwai (Le Pont de la rivière Kwaï)” by French author Pierre Boulle.

Visiting Kanchanaburi

River Kwai Bridge with active train running in Kanchanaburi province, Thailand
Source: Nattayanee Boontongkham / Shutterstock.com

Kanchanaburi is in Thailand’s west, approximately 135 kilometers from Bangkok. Traveling there by train is popular among both local and foreign tourists, and admission to the River Kwai Bridge Week is free of charge.

Modern-day Kanchanaburi has much to offer visitors, including the JEATH War Museum, Hell Fire Pass Memorial Museum, Kanchanaburi War Cemetery, Art Gallery and War Museum, Elephant Haven, and national parks. Due to the significant number of WWII memorials, Kanchanaburi province often hosts a number of ANZAC Day activities, which commemorate veterans of the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps on April 25th every year.