A September 1998 trip
to Bangkok by actonsteve
Quote: A small tropical town in western Thailand with the river Kwai meandering through, handy for trekking, elephant riding and Erawan National Park. It also has a dark side, the start of the infamous 'Death Railway'. A must for any traveller visiting Siam.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on December 14, 2000
Jolly Frog Guesthouse
Maenam Kwai Road
Attraction | "The JEATH museum"
The best of these and the most moving is the JEATH museum. This is a little way out of town, to the south, along the Pak Praek Road. It can be easily walked or cycled and opposite is the gaudy Wat Chakkadan, a fully fledged Buddhist monastery. The abbot of Wat Chakkadan opened the museum twenty years ago to remind future generations of what happened in the war. Following the fall of Singapore in 1942, 60,000 POWs were marched north to the River Kwai (including my grandfather's brother). The Japanese wanted to build a railway for quick access for the troops to reach Burma. Their experts told them 3 years, but the Japanese were going to use slave labour to do it in 16 months. Over 50,000 POW's died of malnutrition, disease and abuse in the most terrible conditions.
The museum itself is on the banks of the river Kwai, consisting of a war memorial based around a bodhi tree and a replica of one of the huts. Inside were photos harking back to that era, and really brought the horrors home to you. There were pictures of Japanese soldiers standing beside the bridge, newspaper cuttings of those who were liberated, and a map showing the forty or more camps that were strung along the River Kwai.
More harrowing were the portraits: the British prisoner, Jack Walker, managed to make etchings on pieces of smuggled paper of what he had witnessed. These were elaborated when he was released and hung in the museum. They were not for the faint of heart. There were pictures of cadaverous men with skin afflictions and diseases being herded through the thick jungle, hollow eyed prisoners being beaten, and those in the cholera tent being laid out to die. But the worse were the tortures inflicted by the Japanese guards including crucifixions with barbed wire. This was very shocking stuff and I emerged from the museum very thoughtful and looking at Katchanaburi in a different light.
In town there is the Chukei war cemetery so if you want to pay your respects you may do so. But I believe that every visitor who comes to Katchanaburi must visit the JEATH museum, they will come away a different person.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on January 9, 2001
JEATH War Museum
Attraction | "A touch of paradise - Erawan National Park"
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on December 21, 2000
Erawan National Park
It is quite a walk from the centre of Katachanburi, so taking a tuk-tuk or hiring a bicycle as we did is a good option. It is west of town along the Manaem Kwai road and it is a long walk in the humidity. On the far bank is jungle and on the east bank is a terraced plaza crowded with trinket sellars and restaurants. But the view of the Kwai river below is beautiful.
You can walk across the black girders to an even better vantage point, where the sandbanks where the POW's toiled are visible. The railway bridge is still used and while we were there, the Orient Express crossed the bridge trapping us on the other side.
But watching the activity on the bridge while sipping an ice-cold coke from a restaurant is one of the pleasures of South-East Asia.
London, United Kingdom