Bridge over the river Kwai

Kanchanaburi Travel Blog

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So, after Ayutthaya we got a minibus to Kanchanaburi.

The journey wasnt too bad, a bit bumpy and took 3 hours but we didnt get kicked off in the middle of nowhere at stupid o'clock in the morning. We arrived in Kanchanaburi around midday, it was hot as blazes but we didnt have far to go.

We booked into a guesthouse called Sugar cane, which was situated on the edge of the river Kwai. Our room turned out to be ON the river! A nice little room floating on the river, thankfully it didnt move too much and set Rachel's sea sickness off! The only downside was we had choosen a room with a fan and not A/C, as we found out later the room has a tin roof which turns our room into an oven, it was actually cooler outside!

The first place we visited was the POW cemetery. The cemetery is the final resting place for over 6 thousand British, American, Canadian, Polish & Dutch soldiers that worked & died building the bridge over the river Kwai. We spent some time walking along the rows of headstones, reading the names and ages. The next place we went was the Death railway museum (cheery title). The museum was laid out in a timeline style account of how the bridge was built, and why it was built.

There were photos of POW's, details of the standard of living in the camps (very poor) and records of how many men died. It was pretty grim stuff, but also facinating. A lesser known fact (We didnt find this out at the museum) is that the man that wrote the film 'Bridge over the river Kwai' never actually came to Thailand, he mearly looked at maps and assumed the bridge was over the Kwai when in fact it was built over a different river. When the film came out lots of people started visiting the bridge so the Thai government decided to change the name of the river to Kwai!!

We also visited the Jeath War museum. The building it is in is a recreation of the wooden huts prisoners had to live and sleep in, basic bamboo structures that were as hot as hell and full of creepy crawlies. There were rows of newspaper cuttings about the bridge, about the POW's that survived and told their stories.

There were also many paintings, showing what daily life in the camp was like. It gave us a better understanding of what happened to the men that built the bridge. We always like to know the history of a momument before we visit it, it makes it more real to us and not just the tourist trap they so often become.

The map in our guidebook, trusty old Lonely Planet, indicated that the bridge wasnt too far from where we were staying so we decided to walk to it. Unfortunately the scale seemed to be a tad off as we ended up walking 3kms before getting to it (I should write a strongly worded letter to the folk at LP)! When we did finally get there we found that it was crowded with tourists, but were lucky enough to arrive just in time to see a train go across it (there are only three a day). After the train passed across we were allowed to walk over the bridge. There are no handrails, no safety guards and no platform, you literally just walk across the tracks and try not to overbalance and fall off!

Afterwards we decided to get a drink at a restaurant nearby and sat watching as the sun set, which was pretty cool. We didnt fancy walking the 3km back to our guesthouse so took a bike taxi back.

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photo by: wbboy29