Bridge on the river Kwai

Trip Start Sep 05, 2005
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Trip End Ongoing


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Wednesday, January 4, 2006

I had been contemplating going on one of the tours to see the local sights but when I saw how close the bridge was I thought, screw it I can save money and walk. Didn't particularly feel like seeing a waterfall anyway, especially as it cost 200 baht!

So I treated myself to an unusual lie in until midday before hitting the streets and walking again for a change. Kanchanaburi sits on the river Kwai so naturally I was off to see the bridge, but I first wanted to get a bit of background knowledge so went to find the Thailand-Burna railway centre. I knew it was somewhere near the cemetery so headed in that direction and had a quick look around. The cemetery is for all the allied forces who died constructing the bridge and a hell of a lot were British. Spent about 10 minutes wandering around reading the plaques before I spotted the museum across the road.

This museum was fantastic. It was by far the most interesting and informative museum since the Atomic Bomb centre in Hiroshima and I spent a good 2 hours walking around absorbing everything. The Thailand-Burma railway link was built during WWII when the Japanese were flexing their muscles in Asia. They needed a way of transporting their equipment from Thailand to Rangoon as the original method by sea was becoming too difficult. They ended up using the hundreds of thousands POW's at their disposal to build the link. It was predicted to take 5 years but they forced the prisoners to work day and night and it was completed in only 16 months.

It became known as the death railway because of the number of fatalities (more the 100,000) it claimed during construction. Shortly after the war the British decided to shut down the railway, after only 20 months in service, which seems like a tragic waste to me.

Nice and depressed I made my way to the bridge, which actually turned out to be far further than I thought, but it was a pleasant day so I took my time. The bridge was packed and more than a little dangerous. No one would get out the way so I had to balance on a thin strip of wood and walk along slowly, taking care not to plunge into the river below. If you saw the bridge without any background knowledge you would say it's just a normal bridge as it really is nothing special so I was glad I went to the museum first.

Strolled back to the hotel and nipped into a local restaurant for some cheap fried rice for lunch. After I finished I proceeded to be chatted up by the waitress who wanted to set me up with her sister! Cleared the depression from earlier and put a smile on my face for the rest of the day.
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