DEATH RAILWAY AND A MASSAGE
After a quick stop in Bangkok I took the local transport for Kanchanaburi and I was the only foreigner around. Even at the bus station I was getting a lot of looks, something I didn’t expect in Bangkok being the most visited city in the world. But I suppose most people opt for the private tour option. The bus was interesting, we made a stop around half way and about 10monks got on ranging in age from around 10 to 60 and without trying to be disrespectful didn’t fill the bus with the greatest aroma.
Arrived in what I thought was going to be a tiny village but was more bordering on a city, I couldn’t believe the size of Kanchanaburi. Had trouble looking for my hostel, no. 25 hostel it’s called but my tuk tuk driver left me off at a place called 25 massage. Not sure what he thought I would be doing visiting a massage parlour with my suitcases. I came in to ask but the girls couldn’t speak a word of English and just thought I wanted a massage. They brought me in took my bags, gave me a cup of tea and showed me around the place. I just played along until they gave me a chance to talk.
THE BRIDGE OVER THE RIVER KWAI
Anyway they managed to call the hostel and arrange a pick up and were super nice even when they realised I didn’t intend to have a massage. Finally got to the hostel at around 4 and went to the museum, cemetery and bridge to leave me less to do tomorrow and a better chance of getting to Bangkok the same day. The cemetery is well looked after but the bridge was fascinating. The Bridge Over The River Kwai is one of my Dad’s favourite films so was good to be here and I was surprised at the amount of tourists keen on taking in a bit of proper history! It’s quite an iconic place here with Americans and Japanese due to their connection with World War 2.
Had a look at hellfire pass on the map as I had it down on my itinerary. The place is a further 2hours away so wasn’t sure if I should go or not but got chatting to a girl from England who has persuaded me since I have made it this far. She was probably right as I have regrettably rushed the last 2 locations and can afford the time.
WHERE IS HELLFIRE PASS / DEATH RAILWAY
Hellfire Pass is a section of the Burma Railway appropriately called Death Railway due to the amount of casualties caused during its construction. Some of the labour force was made up of allied POWs who were forced to work 18 hour days under gruelling conditions. 69 soldiers were beaten to death by Japanese guards and many more lost their lives to malnutrition, starvation and many other diseases. This was nothing compared to the amount of deaths to asians who were enticed by the Japanese to come help build the railway line with false promises of money and good jobs. These people were treated as poorly as the POWs.
This section of the railway had to be cut by hand through the rock
Took the local bus again. Unfortunately there are no set bus stops so you just wave them down. Unlike at home where the numbers of the buses are on the front, in Thailand they are on the side so the bus has all but passed you by the time you’ve had a chance to read the number. I had to sit at the side of the road and flag every bus down until I could see the number. The drivers must’ve thought I wasn’t right in the head.
Another paradise for photographers
PRISONERS OF WAR
The site which was famed by the movie “The Bridge over the River Kwai” was the region where prisoners of war were used as slave labour to construct the Burma railway cutting through mountainous and generally unsuitable terrain from Thailand to Burma. Of the 300,000 labourers, 100,000 died and of that number 12,000 were allied prisoners of war. The 415km mile long track from Bangkok to Yangon was pushed by the Japanese forces and was created to help support its forces in Burma for their continued drive for dominance in Asia during WW2.
The trip was fascinating and as it was an audio self guided tour you could move at your own pace. There was an abundance of information to listen to, I stayed for most of the day and still felt rushed. You could probably do the entire route in around 3 hours. If you do ever decide to go bring plenty of water. I found it hard as I only brought 1 small bottle and had to ration it, couldn’t imagine what it was like in their conditions.
An early 3hr train ride the following morning to Bangkok. Could barely site down as it was so uncomfortable but then I reminded myself where I’d just come from and what happened in this very spot 70years ago. Heading down to the islands in a few days to meet up with Dusty and Mike for some scuba diving, cannot wait to see these islands I have heard so much! Click here to read the next of the series where I get scammed in Bangkok.
SAFE TRAVELS, DS x
This post is part of The South East Asia Series, for the next article click here.