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Tel Aviv, Tel Aviv, Israel
January 1, 2007
From journal Day Trips from Bangkok
October 18, 2004
Next we visited the Chong Kai War cemetery. You cannot remain unmoved by this, especially if you examine the headstones, note the ages of the "victims," and recall the quote from the Jeath Museum, "If you work hard, you will be treated well, but if you do not work hard, you will be punished." The cemetery is kept immaculate, the grass freshly mowed, the dead flowers all de-headed and the headstones neatly cleaned and polished (whilst we were there, workers were conscientiously maintaining the plot).
And then onto Kanchanaburi , the start of our rail journey on "Death Railway." We had a little time in the town to sightsee. There are some old engines here and the obligatory souvenir shop, but mostly people take the time to walk the length of the bridge. You’ll need to carefully pick your way over the sleepers; it would be fairly easy to fall between. Passing other tourists sometimes needed great agility! Over the other side of the river, there’s a small market just asking to be visited. Nothing special, but worth a look.
We then waited for the train to make our journey. We had reserved seats, but our guide indicated, after numerous clandestine discussions with Railway Officials, that she would have to refund the booking fee because the train we were expecting had been delayed. Indeed, two trains had not left the terminus yet, and the next one into Kanchanaburi may or may not have spaces for us. Luckily, the train arrived before we wilted under the heat, and hard wooden seats in crammed, hot carriages beckoned us. We balanced precariously on the seats and crossed over the bridge that previously we had walked, and then a slight acceleration of the train and a total collapse of our seat. It really is hard to retain dignity as you slide onto the floor!
The journey along the route was stuffed with scenery. Views of the Kwai Yai River, the Three Pagodas Pass, small market towns, fields of industrious workers and, in the middle of nowhere, a gigantic reclining gold Buddha (keep your eyes open on the righthand side of the train!). I spent a bit of time standing at the back of the train. What an experience - but remember to hang on, as the ride’s somewhat bumpy. The journey over the part of the track supported by giant wooden "trestles" feels incredibly precarious, but what a view and what a sensation.
You will be left with the questions why and how. I just don’t have the answer!
From journal Bantering in Bangkok
Mont Albert North, undefined, Australia
September 13, 2003
From journal A Taste of Thai Hospitality
December 20, 2002
The World War II based film, "The Bridge Over the River Kwai", which depicted war prisoners buiding a railroad the Japanese could use to invade Burma, wasn’t entirely Hollywood fiction. There WAS such a bridge ... it WAS built by a combination of Allied prisoners of war and civilian conscripts ... and an estimated 60,000 of them died building "The Railway of Death."
Come ride it with me.
Allied bombers destroyed the original bridge in 1945, but it was rebuilt with some of the original steelwork. The barges that once housed equipment or prisoners are now pricey floating resort camps, easily photographed from the train or while crossing the bridge. The train will stop at the site of at least one of the huge P.O.W. camps as it winds through narrow rights-of-way carved out of the jungle and over WW II-era wooden trestles. At Nam Tok, 210 km northwest of Bangkok, you can get off and stretch while the locomotive is switched for the return trip. And, watch the hordes of tourists who boarded at the bridge return to their waiting buses and let you and a few locals have the train to yourselves again.
If you’re willing to take a bus back to Bangkok, you can leave the train at Kanchanaburi (The Kwai Bridge Station, not downtown), walk across the bridge as often as your like, and visit the five-nation military cemetery and museum nearby. Be warned that there are two bus terminals, one for air-conditioned "executive" buses and the other for locals. They are 3-4 km from the bridge and you may have trouble finding a ride. (Mine was an elderly Thai gentleman who gestured me onto the back of his motor scooter but took me to the wrong bus station.)
There are two River Kwai trains. The first is an air-conditioned tourist special, using "Sprinter Express" equipment designed for intercity service and leaving from Hua Lumphong Station at 0630. It allows time for visiting the bridge and cemetery as well as Nam Tok, saving you the bus ride. The second is a 3rd-class local from Bangkok Noi, about a 1-km walk from the river taxi pier at Thon Buri, on the west bank of the Chao Phraya. It leaves at the more civilized hour of 0735, from a station more conveniently reached from riverfront hotels --- IF you’re agile enough to ride the boats. The equipment is somewhat more modern that it was when I photographed it in 1993, but still has open windows and those antique metal sun louvers. I much preferred it to the sealed windows of the tourist special.
This trip can be one of your more memorable days in Southeast Asia --- especially if you saw the movie.
From journal The Train Over the River Kwai ... Riding Thailand's Railway of Death
December 4, 2002
If you visit independently stay for a couple of days and hire a taxi to visit local sights as the scenery is quite spectacular.
From journal My Visit to Thailand
July 2, 2002
From journal You can feel - you are the king!
May 16, 2002
A Japanese War Memorial can be found just south of the bridge.
Bus, rail, and tour vans connect to Kanchanaburi daily from Bangkok. A guided tour including transportation in a van cost about 750 baht (less than $20US). Rail trips can be taken over the remaining stretch of the "Death Railway". The track crosses a wooden viaduct over the river which clings precariously to a steep, cave-ridden cliff. The trip makes clear the difficulties experienced when constructing the tracks.
Each year in late November or early December River Kwai Bridge Week gives people a chance to visit historical displays, ride the vintage trains, watch a nightly sound and light show and take part in a carnival complete with sideshows, folk entertainment and rides.
People walk over the bridge between train times. There are small platforms on either side of the tracks so you can step aside if your timing is off.
From journal No elephants please!
March 13, 2002
From journal Bewildered in Bangkok
February 25, 2001
From journal Bustling Bangkok
Utrecht, Utrecht, Netherlands
October 3, 2000
From journal Bangkok, city of gold, temples and sex