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The Bridge Over the River Khlong and The Death Railway

Posted by TravellingStrom on January 20, 2013

I bet that got your attention, read on πŸ™‚

Today was another late start πŸ™‚ In fact it was so late I never got really active until after lunch. But, the destination today was just up the road a short way and is called the Death Railway Museum, or as it is officially know:

Thailand-Burma Railway Centre N14.03220 E99.52489

It is right next to one of 3 official war cemeteries.

Kanchanaburi War Cemetery(Don Rak) N14.03194 E99.52583

I was just entering the museum when Shonny and Fintan turned up, so once again we arranged a beer time for later πŸ™‚ There are two museums in town, the one near the bridge and this one, I had been told by many people not to bother with the one up near the bridge, so I would check this one out instead. There is an entry fee of 120Baht which includes a free coffee upstairs. No photos are allowed apparently inside but I did not find that out until a bit later, selective hearing and blindness πŸ˜‰

20 men to a boxcar, with supplies, these were what transported the men from Singapore to Thailand.

The promises, or lies

Probably the first ever ready mix cement, cement, sand and gravel mixed together then transported in barrels ready to add water, this was the inside of a barrel that had become wet.

This is a model of one of the trestle bridges, on it is a truck which used a dolly instead of front wheels but could be used on normal roads with a changeover to a front axle and wheels.

A photo showing the numbers of men(POW) involved from different nationalities and the corresponding number of deaths. 😦

This stylised depiction of the number of deaths equates to 500 deaths per railway spike. Australia is represented 2nd from right.

Self explanatory

A lot of personal effects were dug up from the 144 camp sites along the railway, also from grave sites as the bodies were exhumed and brought for re-interment at one of the three official war cemeteries. This is a two up game.

The prisoners were so malnourished, after the war when they were interviewed, they looked like walking skeletons 😦

It was about here I was caught and told NO PHOTOS, so I put the camera away. It seems a shame really, if no flash is used, no harm is done surely? I continued around all the displays and watched the movie. The movie itself was bullshit, propaganda put out by the Japanese and one of the film makers who saw some of the footage presented admitted so and thought it was all destroyed. Needless to say it was a very interesting collection of war memorabilia and artefacts either donated by family members or found by the owner.

After this I went across to the War Cemetery but as I had forgotten my hat, I did not stay too long in the sun.

The last chap there was only 19!

I headed away after this to check out some of the old locomotives, the first one near the railway station and the others down near the bridge.

Near the bridge.

Then it was down to the bridge itself. Now this is not my first time here, I was here on day one and two but did not write about it, I thought I would leave it until today. Now, for a fact, this bridge does not cross the River Kwai, that’s correct, this is an excerpt from a website:

The Bridge on the River Kwai…

Or is it? There is a slight technical problem with the Bridge on the River Kwai: It crosses a river all right, but not the River Kwai. Pierre Boulle, who wrote the original book, had never been there. He knew that the ‘death railway’ ran parallel to the River Kwae for many miles, and assumed that it was the Kwae which it crossed just North of Kanchanaburi. He was wrong – It actually crosses the Mae Khlung. When David Lean’s blockbuster came out, this gave the Thais something of a problem. Thousands of tourists flocked to see the Bridge on the River Kwai, and they hadn’t got one, all they had was a bridge over the Mae Khlung. So, with admirable lateral thinking, they renamed the river. Since 1960, the Mae Khlung has been known as the Kwae Yai (‘Big Kwae’) north of the confluence with the Kwae Noi (‘Little Kwae’), including the bit under the infamous Bridge.

Interesting fact eh πŸ™‚ And why not change the rivers name, all for the tourist dollar, and around the bridge it is packed with stalls and shops and all types of sellers.

But, that was fine as the snacks they sell, like kebab chook or corn on the cob are nice to chew on while taking in the sights. So, I was here before sunset and was in good time to cross the bridge and get some nice pictures.

The original bridge had curved spans all the way across, but was repaired after the war with two square sections.

Me on a bridge πŸ™‚

As mentioned the whole area around here is a tourist area, with floating restaurants and high powered tourist boats with no exhausts to speak of.

One thing I noticed from reading Ron’s trip report is the coloured lights on the bridge at night, and I also agree they should be less gimmicky and more sombre as befitting the occasion.

But, that is what they do here. after this it was off to the Aussie Rules Bar again for beer and a chat, this time Shonny and Fintan made it across the river from where they were staying. They gave me a few tips for Cambodia which I will most likely use, one of the sad things will be Angkor Wat, the attraction I really wanted to see. Apparently they are doing major reconstruction so there is scaffold everywhere spoiling the photo opportunities, but the temple itself can still be seen from a specific vantage point. I will decide later whether to waste my money 😦

But, we had a good chat, they are heading south to Malaysia and looking at cleaning the car and shipping it to Oz, so I may bump into them again down there somewhere, some when πŸ™‚ Another late evening for me, that is three beyond midnights on the trot, this has to stop πŸ™‚ Tomorrow I will see about getting a tyre, but I will be staying another day, to catch up on the blog entries for the past 5 days.

Cheers from Kanchanaburi

2 Responses to “The Bridge Over the River Khlong and The Death Railway”

  1. Ron2wheels said

    ” Shonny and Fintan turned up .. ”
    Thought the tigers got them!

    Well documented Richard
    Some of the graves actually hold the remains of Aussies younger than 18!
    The Museum Curator told me that their plaques don’t specify an age, just to make everything ‘acceptable’.

    I also discovered that the subhuman treatment handed out to the POWs was mainly done by Korean officers under the instructions of the Japs.
    Of course, the Koreans became prisoners during the Japanese push through the Asia-Pacific.


    • Yeah, it was a top to bottom bashing and lower than the Koreans were the POWs, so the saying shit flows downhill sure applies here. It was still no excuse for the poor rations nor living conditions

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