Learn About Thailand’s Death Railway
The first place we visited in Kanchanaburi after the famous Kwai River Bridge was the WWI & Jeath War Museum. This interesting museum is located within a few minutes walk of the bridge. It was also almost opposite our hotel so doubly convenient for us to visit. If you’re staying in the main town area of Kanchanaburi rather than near the bridge then it is easily visited at the same time.
There are actually two museums in this area which call themselves the Jeath War Museum so make sure you are visiting the right one. This one is right near the bridge and is also called the WWII Museum and Art Gallery. I didn’t visit the other one so I can’t comment on that but this one is well worth visiting.
Firstly, in case you’re wondering, JEATH stands for of Japan, England, Australia, Thailand and Holland. These are the nations that the men involved in the construction of the Thai-Burma railway came from.
As you walk into the entrance you see this huge train engine which dominates the area. Of course, a lot of the exhibits within the Jeath War Museum relate to the death railway so it makes sense to have a train at the entrance. However, the museum is about more than just the death railway. Moreover, it showcases far more than just the history of the Second World War. Inside, you’ll find exhibits which chronicle the area’s rich history.
Exploring the museum
One of the downsides of this museum is the lack of information. So this is more of a visual guide. There are some boards with information and some exhibits have labelling too. Otherwise, it is a case of wandering around the museum and soaking up the atmosphere. I still think it’s worth visiting though as there is so much to see here.
As you enter the museum you will see this large ornate building on your right. It’s pretty stunning from the outside with ornate carvings and statues. So take a minute to admire it from the outside before heading in. The statue near the entrance is King Naray the Great.
Inside the ornate building
Once inside, you’ll find the building is surprisingly full of exhibits. It’s a rather eclectic mix too with ceramics, artworks, statues and murals. Again, there is very little explanation so it really is a visual journey.
There are many murals like this throughout the building. I’m guessing that they represent scenes from Thai history. Despite the lack of information, I found them quite fascinating. Well, they say a picture is worth a thousand words!
A View from the Roof
The building is something of a maze and we spent quite some time climbing the different staircases and exploring the rooms. If you make it all the way to the top then you’re rewarded with some great views across the river.
You get a good view of this plane and helicopter from the roof although you can get a closer view from ground level also.
The Death Railway
After you exit the ornate building you walk across to another area opposite which is more focused on the Second World War and the Death Railway. Here you’ll find exhibits like this hut showing the living conditions during the railway construction.
On one side is this model of two Japanese soldiers in their car.
Other exhibits show the plight of the Allied prisoners.
And also show the construction of the railway. In the photos, you’ll notice how many photographs and small exhibits are scattered around the museum. It’s not just about the larger exhibits but if you look more closely you’ll find a lot of small details here.
Jeath War Museum & Art Gallery – In Summary
Before we visited this museum, I read some quite mixed reviews. Some people love it but then others don’t think much of it at all. I really enjoyed my visit but I love just looking at things and absorbing the atmosphere. If you’re looking for something more structured and possibly more organised then this may not be for you I guess.
Some of the reviews suggested it wasn’t very good value for money. Well, we paid approximately £1 each to enter the museum so I don’t think you can argue that it’s expensive. For that small sum, I’d say it was certainly pretty good value for money. We spent several hours exploring here and could have spent longer really. Overall, I definitely suggest taking a chance and visiting this museum. Go with an open mind and I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Whether you pay your £1 and go inside or not, it’s still worth a short detour if you’re visiting the Kwai River Bridge. You can see the impressive train at the entrance without buying a ticket. I recommend going inside also though.