Death Railway is a heritage rail route in Thailand, journeying from Bangkok to northern Nam Tok via the famous Bridge on the River Kwai. The railway gets its name for the tragic circumstances in which it was built, constructed by the Empire of Japan during WWII using allied prisoners of war and other slave labourers. Today the railway uses just 130 kilometres of the original 415 kilometre track from Thailand’s capital of Bangkok to Nam Tok.
It’s a must-see for lovers of history and engineering, departing from Bangkok and stopping at Kanchanaburi before heading onwards to Nam Tok in the north. Trains still pass the poignant Bridge on the River Kwai, but instead over a new bridge out of respect to the thousands who perished. The entire journey takes around 4 hours, 30 minutes.
Prices from: 100 Baht
Departing from: Bangkok, Thailand
Journey length: 4 hours, 30 minutes
Bangkok to Nam Tok route
The modern Death Railway route runs from Bangkok all the way to Nam Tok, passing by Kanchanaburi and the Bridge on the River Kwai. The journey takes around 4 hours, 30 minutes and travels 200 km, travelling past deep forests, rivers and the beautiful Thai countryside. Unlike the original route, which ran over the Bridge on the River Kwai, the modern line passes over the river on a newly built bridge – out of respect to those killed during its construction.
While many passengers choose just to travel from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi for the famous bridge, it’s worth continuing on the Death Railway over the dramatic Wampo Viaduct until Nam Tok. In Nam Tok spend a couple of nights exploring the nearby Hellfire Pass, Weary Dunlop Museum and many waterfalls and hikes. Along with daily passenger trains, there is also a special tourist train that runs on weekends and holidays, offering a return daytrip to Nam Tok via Kanchanaburi from Bangkok.
The Death Railway train
The trains travelling the Death Railway are all 3rd class only, but unlike many 3rd classes in Southeast Asia these carriages are clean, comfortable and not overcrowded. Windows open, allowing for unobstructed views and fresh air, and snacks, fresh fruit and drinks can be purchased on board the train. The weekend tourist train is slightly more comfortable, as its now 3rd class carriage was originally used as 2nd class.
What we love
The unique history of this route, along with the stunning scenery. While it has a dark and tragic history and many parts of the journey are moving, such as the bridge and the museums nearby, it’s still breathtakingly beautiful – filled with peaceful shady jungle.