Kanchanaburi (Thai: กาญจนบุรี) is the largest of the central provinces (changwat) of Thailand. Neighboring provinces are (from north clockwise) Tak, Uthai Thani, Suphan Buri, Nakhon Pathom and Ratchaburi. In the west it borders Kayin State, Mon State and Tanintharyi Division of Myanmar.
A province in the Central Plains, Kanchanaburi is frequented by tourists who have been attracted by its long history and ancient civilizations, a location of the Bridge over the River Khwae – ‘Kwai’ as it is known internationally and scene of the historic World War II. Producers of the movie the Bridge Over the River Kwae are guilty of giving the river and bridge both the wrong spelling and mis-pronunciaton. It is pronounced ‘Kwae’ as in the English word ‘Hay’. The province is also famous for its natural attractions such as forests, mountains, caves and waterfalls.
The province is located in the west of Thailand, and is situated 129 km from Bangkok and covers a total area of approximately 19,483 km² being the country’s third largest province after Nakhon Ratchasima and Chiang Mai. Topographically, it is covered with timber and evergreen forests. The district covers the source valleys of the rivers Kwae Yai and Kwae Noi ("River Kwai"), which merge at the city Kanchanaburi and form the Mae Klong River there.
Several National Parks are located in the forests of the mountain area of the province - the Erawan, Sai Yok, Khao Laem, Khaoen Sri Nakarin and Chaloem Rattanakosin National Parks are located in the province. The Thungyai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary in this province is also listed in the UNESCO world heritage list.
Archaeology found in Kanchanaburi dates back to the 4th century which proves of trade with surrounding countries even in that time. Very little is also historically known about the actual Khmer influence in Kanchanaburi but there is evidence of their occupation with Prasat Muang Singh – one of the country’s most well-known Khmer sites.
Not much was historically recorded about Kanchanaburi province before the reign of King Rama I, but some historians believe that the province played much strategical importance during the Ayutthaya period. In 1982 the Fine Arts Department found many human and elephant skeletons and swords in Phanom Thuan District. Thus, this site might even have been the location of the famous battle of King Naresuan against the Burmese crown-prince, most commonly assigned to the Don Chedi district in Suphanburi province nearby.
With the rise of the Chakri Dynasty and General Chakri (who would later become King Rama I) Kanchanaburi certainly played a distinctive strategical point as defense against the invading Burmese.
For foreigners however, it is only Kanchanaburi’s recent history which really stands out with the name ‘The Death Railway’. During the Japanese occupation of Thailand in 1942 POWs both allies and Asian laborers were ordered by the Japanese to build a Thailand-Burma railway. Eventually, an unprecedented more than 100,000 POWs (16,000 allies and 90,000 local Asian laborers) died from horrific working conditions.
The seal of the province shows the three pagodas, located on the Bantadthong Mountain. They gave the name to the mountain pass to Myanmar, called "Three Pagodas Pass". The provincial flower is the Night-flowering Jasmine (Nyctanthes arbortristis), and the provincial tree is the Moulmein lancewood (Homalium tomentosum).
The provincial slogan is A province of ancient community, three pagodas pass, precious stones, River Kwae Bridge, Minerals and waterfall resources.
Kanchanaburi is subdivided into 13 districts (amphoe). The districts are further subdivided into 98 communes (tambon) and 887 villages (muban).
7.Thong Pha Phum
8. Sangkhla Buri
11.Dan Makham Tia
The province is most famous for The Bridge Over the River Kwai, which was built next to the town of Kanchanaburi crossing the Mae Klong river. The Death Railway ran all the way from the Kwae river valley up to the Three Pagodas Pass. Today only the lowest part of the railway to Nam Tok is still in use. In Kanchanaburi city, there is a war museum and a large cemetery of prisoners of war who died during construction of the Death Railway.
Nine Army War History national park (Uttayan Haeng Chart Songkram Kao Tab) located at Ladya field, Tambon Chongsadao. It’s around 40 kilometers from Kanchanaburi downtown. This place has provided historical evidence of the nine army war. The nine army war was the war between King Rama I of Thailand and King Padung of Burma. The war ended as a victorious one for Thailand.
In the Sai Yok district, there is a Buddhist Tiger Temple where tame tigers roam freely once a day. Also in Sai Yok is the Mueang Sing historical park, ruins of a Khmer town and temple, as well as the Sai Yok National Park with the two Sai Yok waterfalls.
Wat Pa Luangta Bua Yanasampanno (วัดป่าหลวงตาบัว ญาณสัมปันโน) or commonly referred to as the Tiger Temple is quite a controversial tiger conservation area where various kinds of wild as well as domestic animals live together freely in the nature and are friendly to the monks and visitors.
Erawan National Park (อุทยานแห่งชาติเอราวัณ) Formerly called Khao Salop National Park (อุทยานแห่งชาติเขาสลอบ), it was proclaimed a national park on 19 June, 1975, with an area of 373,735 rai (597,976,000 square metres). Later, its name was changed to Erawan National Park as the highest level of the waterfall, Namtok Erawan, looks like Elephant Erawan’s head.
Kanchanaburi War Cemetery (Don Rak) (สุสานทหารสัมพันธมิตรดอนรัก) The immaculately maintained cemetery contains the remains of 6,982 Allied POWs who perished during the construction of the ‘Death Railway’. Its settings remind visitors of the war and its after-effects.
Death Railway (ทางรถไฟสายมรณะ), the strategic railway tracks began from Nong Pla Duk Station in Amphoe Ban Pong, Ratchaburi, and ran via Kanchanaburi across the Khwae Yai River, westbound to the Three Pagodas Pass, to end at Thanbuyuzayat in Burma. The total distance within the Thai territory was 300 km., taking only one year to complete from October 1942 – October 1943. After the war, some part of the tracks was demolished and some submerged under the lake of Khao Laem Dam.
Mueang Sing Historical Park (อุทยานประวัติศาสตร์เมืองสิงห์) is better known as Prasat Mueang Sing (ปราสาทเมืองสิงห์), The laterite sanctuary was constructed in the late Lop Buri Period ca. 11th – 13th century A.D. Influenced by ancient Khmer culture, its principal tower is encircled by a laterite wall, moat and earthen mound and was built in a mixture of the folk school of art and Bayon style of King Jayavarman VII’s period in Cambodia.
Hell Fire Pass Memorial Museum (ช่องเขาขาดพิพิธภัณฑสถานแห่งความทรงจำ), located within the Division of Agriculture and Cooperatives, Office of Development, Armed Forces Development Command. Established by the Australian Government, it houses a mini-theatre and collection of data, photographs, equipment and utensils used during the construction of the Death Railway.
Sai Yok National Park (อุทยานแห่งชาติไทรโยค), a park since 1980, most of the area is limestone mountains with mixed deciduous forest. It is a former location of a Japanese camp during WWII as evident from traces of stoves.The park is also home to the world’s smallest species of bat.
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