In the ’80s, a handful of Australian survivors rediscovered the overgrown Hellfire Pass section of the Death Railway and lobbied to turn it into a memorial. They then contributed to the creation of one of the most sobering and evocative sites on earth for travelers interested in the appalling events of World War II.
The Hellfire Pass got its name from the sight, ghastly reminiscent of scenes from hell, of the emaciated prisoners working overnight under torchlight. You can walk through its tight twenty-six meters deep trench in the Tenasserim Hills along its five hundred meters track. The steep rock walls of Hellfire Pass epitomized the captivity, deprivation, torture, and deaths of thousands of POWs and Asian civilians laborers constrained to build the infamous Death Railway to help the Japanese army in their effort to invade Burma (nowadays Myanmar) during World War II.
The Hellfire Pass Museum is co-sponsored by the Royal Thai Armed Forces Development Command and the Australian government. The top-rated air-conditioned museum has videos, photographs, drawings, tools, and testimony in plenty. Courtesy of the portable audio headset provided, visitors can share the misery and memories of those years and hear directly from survivors who describe the inhumanity they had to endure.
From the museum, a walking trail of a few hundred yards leads you to the Hellfire Pass, also known as the Konyu Cutting. You can also keep on walking down the abandoned railway line for about a five kilometers round trip. That route leads you to a stunning valley, other rock “cutting” railway passes and a couple of trestle bridges.
Although most travelers visit the River Kwai Bridge and the Don Rak War Cemetery in Kanchanaburi, many feel more powerful and intense emotions at the Hellfire Pass.