We took our first local train journey in Thailand from Thonburi station in Bangkok to Kanchanaburi, the site of the famous Bridge.
Arrived in Kanchanaburi late morning and had a long hot (34C) walk with backpacks to our guest house. It was a wrench to walk back out into the blazing heat, but later we marched off to the Death Railway Museum and War Cemetery. We seem to have developed a bit of a World War II theme for parts our Asian travels.
As previously, we found our introduction to the events on the Death Railway moving and interesting. Apparently the famous 1958, David Lean film about the bridge was not all that realistic and life and death during the building of the railway was unremittingly awful – definitely no singing or whistling!
Later that afternoon we got a tuk-tuk out to the Kwae Yai (River Kwai) Bridge in time to watch a train coming over. We were surprised by how touristy the area round the Bridge was, with many food and souvenir stalls and people of all nationalities walking along the tracks taking pictures.
Next morning we jumped on an early local bus from Kanchanaburi, out past the village of Nam Tok to the Hellfire Pass Interpretive Centre, only 45 miles from the Myanmar (Burma) border. Here we had an opportunity to walk along the most tortuous part of the Death Railway where thousands of British, Australian and Dutch Prisoners of War, along with tens of thousands of South East Asian conscripts lost their lives. In this section the prisoners had to hack cuttings out of solid rock using only hammers, spikes and shovels. In other areas they needed to build up to the level of the track using wood cut from the forest. We learned that they received very little food and often worked 20 hours a day. Diseases such as malaria, beri-beri and cholera were rife, and in their malnourished and weakened state the men had little resistance. As a tiny tribute to their suffering, we walked the whole 5km of the memorial route in the fierce, middle of the day sunshine.
The next day we took the train back to Bangkok and met another great travelling companion – Akeem was in Thailand to attend a friend’s wedding but had decided to take a few days out to visit the National Parks in the west of the country. We enjoyed his company so much, the 6 hour journey went by quickly. We missed the opportunity to get a picture, but if we are lucky our paths may cross again in Penang!
We had a couple of spare hours in Bangkok to grab a meal before catching a plane out to the beaches and islands of southern Thailand.