Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Bridge on the River Kwai

I can't remember if I wrote about our trip to Hellfire Pass and The Bridge on the River Kwai. It was a week ago!  We drove to Kanchanaburi province and had a lovely lunch along the Kwae River (the Thais spell it "Kwae", unlike Hollywood), then visited the Hellfire Pass museum where the Japanese who occupied Thailand in World War II forced American, British, and Australian prisoners of war to carve a pass out of solid rock in their quest to link Thailand to Burma by rail.  The museum documents the horrible suffering of the POWs - many of whom died from starvation, malaria, or beatings - and the cruelty of their captors.
 Our peaceful lunch spot
Life on the Kwae River

Australians made up the majority of the thousands of POWs who died building the "Death Railway" from Thailand to Burma for their Japanese captors
This is the pass carved out by forced labor.  You can see the remnants of the railway.

The memorial

There are small memorials like this along the pass - erected by family members, the Australian government, or others who want to pay tribute to our troops who suffered here


On the way back to Bangkok we stopped at the Bridge on the River Kwai of movie fame.  It is quite a tourist spot now, but the younger members of our group who had never seen (or heard of) the movie weren't impressed.  At Hellfire pass, as I walked down the cut that Allied soldiers had made in such agonizing conditions, I could sense the spirit of the place and its meaning.  At the River Kwai bridge, it was more of a photo op - I'm glad I could say I've been there but the large groups, noisy vendors, and billboards did not do justice to its heartbreaking history. 
On The Bridge Over the River Kwai (in Thailand it's "Kwae")

A party barge being hauled down the river.  We could hear the karaoke cranking!

Yes, those of us who could, whistled

This is dragon fruit being sold by a vendor near the bridge.  We bought some for a snack on the bus.