River Kwai- Kanchanaburi
Before we made our way to Koh Phangnan we decided to explore a historical area in a small town north of Bangkok called Kanchanaburi.This is the location of the Bridge on the River Kwai.Some may recall an award winning movie starring William Holden and Alec Guiness filmed about WWII and the famous bridge. We took the train from Bangkok for a three hour ride to Kanchanaburi.We saw the countryside along the way looking out of our wood paned, open windows.It was sunny and cool, and a pleasant ride.Then, Sam decided to run down the aisle to the bathroom on the moving train and fell.It didn't seem like anything more than a bonked head until, as I was holding him, noticed blood coming out of his head.In a flash a Thai women was on the scene doctoring his wound with iodine and gauze bandages.Sam claims that the old man in the seat behind him tripped him and made him fall.Some of that may be true because this man kept wanting to play with Sam and I think he put his hand out when Sam ran by.But, I don't think Sam will ever run carelessly on a moving train again.
We found a hotel called the River Kwai hotel online that must have been built in the 70's.The carpets have never been replaced and needed to truly just be ripped out off the floors.They were actually trying to shampoo them while we were there and it seemed pointless.The rooms were dirty but we were there for only one night so it didn't matter much.We rented scooters again and travelled around the area a bit.
Thailand-Burma Railway Centre There are several things to do while visiting Kanchanaburi and they all revolve around WWII which is why people travel to this town in the first place.Located near the railway station is the Thailand-Burma Railway Centre also known as the Death Railway Museum.It is a well designed museum and worth the trip to learn a little history of the war and the railway construction.The Railway ran 415 km from Ban Pong in Thailand to Thanbuyuzayat in Burma, and was built by the Imperial Japanese Army during WWII using Allied prisoners of war and impressed Asian laborers.The purpose of the railway was to get weapons and goods from Thailand to Burma as Thailand had formed an alliance with Japan at the time. In one of the exhibits, columns of railroad ties were nailed to the wall.Each tie represented a country whose POW's worked on the railway.Nails were hammered into the ties and each nail represented 500 men killed while building the railway.The Asian laborers had the greatest losses totalling about 90K and most of those were Burmese men.Emma was amazed as she counted how many people had been killed.It was a visual that she could grasp.The museum had a life size sculpture inspired from an actual scene either from a photo or remembered by one of the POW'S, I don't remember.The sculpture showed three men walking arm and arm. The two on the end with cholera, holding the man in the middle, who could barely walk, pants fallen around his ankles from weight loss due to dysentery.A mock hospital was set up in the museum and was replicated from a photo taken at the POW hospital.It showed how the hospital lacked many of the necessary equipment and medicines found in most facilities.I.V.'s were constructed out of beer bottles held up by sticks tied together in a tee pee formation and crude pulley systems fashioned out of any material that could be found to hold up broken legs.It was very educational and emotional.This trip definitely piqued our interest in the War and we realized how little we really know about that time in our history.
Kanchanaburi Allied War Cemetry
Kanchanaburi Allied War Cemetery contains the graves of 7,000 predominantly British and Australian prisoners who died during the construction of the railway. The site is supported by the Commonwealth War Graves commission and as a result it is exquisitely kept with wonderful green lawns and colourful flowers. This is a very moving place - whatever nationality you are its likely to have a very emotional impact on you.
Bridge on the River Kwai is not the original bridge but reconstructed from the remains.You can actually see bullet holes in the cement pillars that hold the railway.The railway is still in operation today for short, tourist rides.You can actually walk across the bridge which is pretty nice as well.There are plenty of souvenir shops all around this area and nice places to dine.The bridge was an awesome sight and one could imagine the scene there over 60 years ago.Men being starved, tortured and worked to death - just a fraction of the atrocities that happened during that war.
We did not go to the Australian Memorial Museum at Hell Fire Pass about 80 km north of Kanchanaburi, but would recommend it if time permits.