The Province of Kanchanaburi is the third largest in area (behind Korat and Chiang Mai) but it has a low population density with almost the entire population (about 900K) concentrated in the eastern third of the area. It is a major contributed to the sugar cane and rice production of the country.
Modern development has the main route through the province (Rte #323) providing a solid line of businesses from Ban Pong to the city of Kanchanaburi. West of there, the population thins rapidly. Just a few kilometers west of the famous bridge is the largest RTArmy base, the H of the 9th INF DIV at Lat Ya.
Two major rivers — currently named the Kwae Yai and Kwae Noi (literally meaning large (yai) and small (noi) tributaries — flow in parallel across the entire length of the province. At the point of the old walled city, they converge into the Mae Klong with then flows on the the Gulf of Siam. Surprisingly, these rivers are not major avenues of commerce. Perhaps the two major upstream dams just keep the water level too low for such activity. There is also almost no recreational boating except as described in Section 19b.
The restored portion of the TBR from Nong Pladuk to Nam Tok is of little commercial value with only one freight transfer station near Tha Muang.
The province is best known for the day-trip opportunities for the Bangkok city dwellers to enjoy a few hours in natural and cultural surroundings. There are a myriad of temples and other culturally related sites within easy drive of the capitol. Some of these day-trippers are interested in the historical events that put KAN on the world map with the TBR, but most are not. It is the foreign tourist on whom the vendors and tour operators stake their fortunes. One very popular event for Thais and tourists alike is the annual ‘light and sound’ show at the bridge. This purports to tell a sanitized version of the events of 1942-43 and culminated with a fireworks show in which virtual bombers destroy the bridge. As fun time is had by all; except the POWs and Asian workers who were enslaved there. None the less, without commercialization, the history of this era would likely not continue to be preserved.
Daily a Thai Railway Authority train runs from Bangkok over the TBR route mainly carrying day-trippers. It is indeed one way to continue to keep the legacy of the TBR alive.
The Bridge is visited by tens of thousands each year who spend liberally in the nearby markets and restaurants. But one such tourist was different. Takashi Nagase was an IJA soldier on the TBR in WW2. In the mid-1980s, he returned with a mission of peace and reconciliation. He funded a ‘Peace Memorial” not far from the Bridge. His story is told here:
It also seems that too few stop at the US VFW memorial next to the bridge.