Kanchanaburi and the Death Railway,
Waking up in a sleepy Bangkok around 5.30 am is something I should do more often; because the best pictures with the best light are usually at sunrise and sunset. The rhythm of a sleepy city in the morning is just as fascinating as the sunsets excitement of a night to come…
The taxi ride to Thonburi train station or as previously called Bangkok Noi, was without the hassle of the general traffic situation here in Bangkok. Upon our arrival at the station we got our tickets, 100 Baht per person…. which is the cost of a cappuccino in town! we got some refreshments waiting for the train to leave, it was a beautiful morning and I was happy!
The trip was about to take 4 and 1/2 hours, so settling in to the 3rd class wagon with open windows and some ceiling fans, you get a bit dirty from the diesel but I prefer that to the Siberia cold -25° Celsius in a first class!
I love the voyage itself, everything isn’t about the destination, just enjoying the time going somewhere is equally important and travelling by train makes transportation heavenly next to a car or a bus.
The train between Thonburi and Nam Tok makes 36 stops, some quick one’s ans some longer. Along this trip there are two essential things you want to see, after Kanchanaburi town you will arrive at the bridge over the River Kwai, to remember the history of the making of this railway by the Japanese during WWII, also infamously called the death railway.
The Burma Railway, also known as the Death Railway, the Burma–Siam Railway, the Thailand–Burma Railway and similar names, was a 415-kilometre railway between Ban Pong, Thailand, and Thanbyuzayat, Burma, built by the Empire of Japan in 1943 to support its forces in the Burma Campaign of World War II. This railway completed the rail link between Bangkok, Thailand and Rangoon, Burma (now Yangon). The line was closed in 1947, but the section between Nong Pla Duk and Nam Tok was reopened ten years later in 1957.
Between 180,000 and 250,000 South-east Asian civilian labourers (rōmusha) and about 61,000 Allied Prisoners of War (POW) were subjected to forced labour during its construction. About 90,000 civilian labourers and more than 12,000 Allied prisoners died.
The Burma railway was an impressive accomplishment. As an American engineer said after viewing the project, “What makes this an engineering feat is the totality of it, the accumulation of factors. The total length of miles, the total number of bridges — over 600, including six to eight long-span bridges — the total number of people who were involved (one-quarter of a million), the very short time in which they managed to accomplish it, and the extreme conditions they accomplished it under. They had very little transportation to get stuff to and from the workers, they had almost no medication, they couldn’t get food let alone materials, they had no tools to work with except for basic things like spades and hammers, and they worked in extremely difficult conditions — in the jungle with its heat and humidity. All of that makes this railway an extraordinary accomplishment.”
The total freight carried during the war was 500,000 tonnes by two Japanese Army divisions.
The Viaduc Wang Pho, is magnificent! a scenic view along the river and it was very difficult to photograph it, to get the right angles of this impressive construction. My pictures aren’t true to the beauty, unfortunately!
Our visit to the Kanchanaburi region was mostly filled with historical activities, like visiting the Hellfire Pass, The War cemetery and the Death railway Museum, which is so well documented that you will spend quite some time there. There’s also a new Museum at the Hellfire Pass which you can also visit, but the one next to the War Cemetery is the “real” deal!.
The rest of the time we needed to reflect on the history of all these people, in a calm and peaceful surrounding, by relaxing at the River Kwai Jungle Rafts on the River Kwae Noi, absolutely enchanting. Beautiful in the most simple form, rooms made entirely of bamboo, no electricity, so a fully functional non-electricity, ecological resort. You had to bring your own batteries to charge your phone! a total detox which was beneficial for the whole family.
This was a trip I wanted to make since a very long time, so finally I’ve done it! I felt it was important to visit this part of Thailand because of the historical impact it had. It’s a marvellous region as well, with extraordinary flora and fauna. A must visit when you’re in Thailand!