The 1950's world box-office hit movie "The Bridge on the River Kwai" put Kanchanaburi, a hitherto sleepy town 150 km west of Bangkok, on the world map. Half a century ago, the bridge was a link in the infamous 415 km Death Railway joining Thailand with Burma, built by the Imperial Japanese Army in WWII, employing Allied prisoners of war and forced-labor Asian coolies. Over 80,000 laborers and 13,000 Allied POW's and thousands of Japanese soldiers lost their lives in the odyssey.
The bridge was publicized worldwide in the film starring moviedom's great names, ironically from the nationalities involved in the saga: American William Holden, British Sir Alec Guinness and Japanese Sessue Hayakawa. After the film hit the screens around the world, tourists started their exodus to Kanchanaburi to see the bridge.
Now, Kanchanaburi is a prosperous province with endless sugar cane plantations covering her vast plain and rich mines in the bills. The rugged countryside, the wild jungles and mountain rivers are still there. However, a road system has succeeded in making most areas accessible, which gives rise to a growing number of jungle resorts for nature-lovers.
Kanchanaburi City is 150 km west of Bangkok on an excellent, scenic highway. The way to Kanchanaburi also leads pass the historic town of Nakorn Pathom with the world's highest Buddhist monument. Kanchanaburi city, itself a popular resort town, is on the bank of the picturesque Mae Klong River at the meeting point of its two tributaries - Kwai Noi and Kwai Yai rivers. The city also serves, as overnight base for tourists to visit the province's many attractions, beside that bridge on the River Kwai.
There are spectacular waterfalls, river cruises and jungle tours for the nature lovers. For the foot-loose travelers, there is the thrilling 200 km drive through newly opened jungle areas to the Thai Myanmar border to visit ethnic Mon and Karen settlements. For the sporting types, Kanchanaburi provides the best freshwater fishing grounds in remote jungle backwater and streams. For the outdoor type, rafting in the wild river. And, for the golfers, more than a score of 18-hole world standard courses in pastoral countryside.
The jungle, the rugged terrain, and wild rivers now combine to make Kanchanaburi the most rewarding tourist destination for nature lovers and sportsmen. A large jungle area of the province has been declared national wildlife sanctuary, called Thungyai National Park, which remains the most pristine area in the whole country. The sanctuary was recently listed as a world natural heritage by the United Nations. If one chooses to stay overnight out in the wild, there are the float bungalows on rafts moored off the River Kwai bank in remote jungle areas. A night on a float hotel is an unforgettable experience. By nightfall, hushed stillness settles over the jungle, with only occasional night bird calls.
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