Kanchanaburi, Thailand
14° 1' N 99° 31' E
Apr 04, 2006 09:00
Distance 111km

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Text written in: English

Walking the Bridge Over the River Kwai

We had a couple of days in Kanchanaburi, several hours by bus to the NorthWest of Bangkok.  Stayed down on the river in a wee bungalow with lots of colourful birds flitting all over the place.  This is the nearest town to the infamous Thailand Burma Railway the so-called Death Railway made famous by the film "The Bridge over the Rver Kwai".  I must admit that I always thought that this was in Burma prior to coming to Thailand.  Interestingly after the huge success of the film the Thais had to rename the river, because there wasn't a bridge over the River Kwai, it only used to become the River Kwai a few miles downstream of where the bridge is located, so someone had the good idea of renaming the river upstream for a few miles to the River Kwai to include the famous bridge!

The countryside around here is beautiful, more of the same Karst limestone landscape covered in lush jungle which we've become used to travelling through in Laos.  One day we rode the train over the famous bridge and out as far as the Death Railway goes these days to Nam Tok.  The line north of here has been lifted so we got a local bus to drop us off 15km north of here where the infamous "Hellfire Pass" is located.  This was the section of the railway where the most deaths occurred and where the most horrible cruelty was acted out upon the POWs and the Asian endentured workers.  The pass itself is about 500m long and has been blasted through solid rock and dug out by the prisoners, this was at the stage of build when the Japanese forced the prisoners to work longer and longer hours as the railway was falling behind schedule.  It also coincided with the wet season which brings disease, coupled with exhaustion through overwork were the main reasons that the death toll increased heavily here.  The Austalian government have set up an excellent museum here which gives lots of information about the railway, all extremely horrific, including a lot of the survivors tales.

The next day we visited the bridge itself where you can walk across it, not many trains these days!  Hamish also got some good footage of classic vortex shedding occurring off the bridge pillars, reminded him of work!  We then visited the even better new Railway Museum in Kanchanaburi town which again tells the whole gruesome story of the railway construction with modern exhibits.  Across from this museum is the beautifully kept POW war cemetery.

The hardest thing about relating to all these past horrors is that they occurred in such an absolutely beautiful setting.