The Burma Railway, also known as the Death Railway, consisted in 415 kilometres of railway between Bangkok, Thailand, and Rangoon, Burma, and it was built by Japan during World War II, to support its forces in the region.
The railway was built using forced labour. About 180,000 Asian labourers and 60,000 Allied prisoners of war worked on it. Of these, around 90,000 Asians and 16,000 Allied POWs (mostly British, Australian and Dutch) died as a direct result of the project.
The bridge was made famous after the book from Pierre Boulle and the film based on it, The Bridge on the River Kwai. One thing to note is that Boulle actually got the name of the river wrong (Kwai was originally a different river, nearby). Later, Thai authorities actually renamed the rivers in order to match the events in the film. You can’t say Thais don’t have a keen eye for business.
The nearest city, Kanchanaburi, has a WWII cemetery (very similar to the one in Katherine – see previous post) and a museum (inside a replica of one of the huts where the prisoners lived) depicting the horrible conditions the prisoners faced.
The bridge was bombed (twice) by Allied forces, but it was reconstructed after the war, reusing original sections. Nowadays, it’s a cultural attraction, and it’s still in use by the Thai Railways. I’ve actually seen the train stopping for some minutes, for allowing the people to clear off the bridge. After a short trip by car, I boarded the same train, allowing me to travel on this historical railway.