This is one of the places we really wanted to visit when we first knew we were coming to Thailand and three years on we finally made it.
My Dad's uncle was taken prisoner when his ship docked in Singapore during the Second World War and , after being held in Changaie prison by them, was one of the 100,000 prisoners who were forced to work under the most brutal of conditions by the Japanese to build their rail link across their new empire in South East Asia.
We started at the cemetery in Kanchanaburi. As always, the Commonwealth Graves commission does a fantastic job of keeping these war graves perfectly. Whenever I go to these sites its the simplicity of the messages on the tombstones that touches one, along with the pride that families express in these simple messages: That this was something you had to do and this is price that is paid. I'm fairly sure that is not something we really understand any more.
From there we went to another cemetery, this time adjacent to the camp at Chungkai camp. The men from here pushed the railway north. The graves here had to be moved and reburied as, when the rains came, the ground that was originally the camp's grave flooded and the bodies rose to the surface. This graveyard is a little further from the river. I found this particularly important. I have just finished reading Bamboo Bridge and Bamboo Heart, which are set in and around this camp and recount how this echoed down the ages for those it touched.
From here, it was a short journey back into Kanchanburi to catch the train that would take us over the famous bridge over the river Kwai.
Interestingly, the bridge was never over the river Kwai but the Thai's changed the name of the river when lots of tourists started to come following the release of the film. Two rivers merge near here. One of them the Kwai and one of them not (The Maekluang). Guess which one the bridge is actually over.
The original bridge was destroyed in a series of bombing raids by the RAF towards the end of the war.
Top Tip: When we got there the train was about to leave and the bridge was very busy. Come back at a time when no train is expected for a more peaceful , reflective experience.
As I alluded to above, we then caught the train up to Wang Pho cutting. Most people seemed to just be content and sit back and enjoy the train ride. With a little imagination you could feel how brutal it must have been working to build it in the first place: 12 hours a day on starvation rations with nothing but spikes, picks and your body to do the work. You go through endless cuttings that were literally that: cut from the rock to allow the track to pass through.
The other thing was the heat. We were there on the first really hot day of the year. Let me tell you it was hot! But we had water, were well fed and had no hard labour to do. None-the-less it was exhausting. God knows how anyone survived building the thing!
The train eventually made it Wang Pho, which is just beautiful. Once off the train, one walks back down the tracks and over the 'bridge' that supports the railway above the valley. This is still the original from 70 plus years ago.
Below: remnants of the railway with a knitted poppy
The picture below gives you some idea of what was achieved in building this pass. All of the rock was removed by hand down to the level of the track. One person would hold the spike while his mate, using a sledgehammer, would drive it into the rock. Once the hole was big enough, dynamite would be stuffed in to blow the rock away. Other workers would then have to shift the rubble.
The central scare in the rock, pictured below, is from one of those spikes being driven into the rock
This will be a blog about my latest shots and what I liked or was trying to do with them
I am a teacher of Economics and have worked in various schools in Europe & Asia. One of the things I love doing is getting out and about with my camera.