We started our day trip to the River Kwai Bridge and the Death Railway, also known as the Burma-Siam-Railway at a cemetery in the Province of Kanchanaburi. We hopped off the car to see the Chungkai War Cemetery. It was like stepping in a different world as it was quiet and there was a devout mood in the air. We walked through the rows of graves with the fallen soldiers from the Netherlands and Great Britain. The cemetery was mounted like a Park and you could see it was looked after very well. It always leaves me with a deliberate spirit when I see monuments of the World War II. I must admit that I’m more than greatful that I’m to young to know this horrible scenes, which my grandparents went through.
Our next stop was the JEATH Museum, which is one of two Museums about the Death Railway built from 1942 to 1943 from the Japanese. The Museum itself is on the ground of a temple, where the Khwae Yai and the Khwae Noi merge into the Maeklong River. We saw photographs of the prisoners who had to build the Death Railway and items such as drawings, weapons and maps.
We jumped on a longtailboat and drove along the Maeklong River.
The Captain speeded with us over the Meaklong River. Enjoying the breeze and having a little time for us after the long car drive and the depressed atmosphere from the Chungkai War Cemetery and the JEATH Museum.
From afar we could see the Bridge over the River Kwai. To be honest I imagined it to be bigger. Maybe because of the movie The Bridge over the River Kwai. Funny how you are influenced by movies, I experienced the same with the London Eye. You have a certain imagination how something has to look like and when you get so see it in real it’s often not that imposing.
The Bridge was bombed back in 1945 and rebuilt by the POW’s. It took the Japanese with the prisoners of war (British, Australians, Dutch and Americans) as workers from 1943 to 1947 to build the Death Railway. About 240.000 Asian civilian labourers and Allied prisoners of war were forced to worked on the railway. 105.000 of them died during construction because of malnutrition, sickness and starvation. Also the were knocked down by the Japanese and Korean guards.
Sure, we did walk over the bridge. That was quiet stressful for me because I’m more than afraid of heights. You could see through the planks down to the Maeklong River and they didn’t seem very solid to me. The engineer enjoyed the architecture and the view, I was fighting with my self-control not to panic in the middle the bridge. Finally we were back on the safe ground and I relaxed my hands from holding onto my umbrella.
We strolled to the train station River Kwai Bridge where also the Orient Express has his route.
While we waited for the train we walked around the market stalls to find a lot of souvenirs for tourists, which is not my style. The train ride took about 90 minutes. It was the perfect time to enjoy the view of the passing scenery with the fields where they locals harvest rice, the dazzling mountains and the streams running between the rubber plantations.
After we passed Thakilen it took another 20 minutes until the landscape changed. The train reduced the speed to walking pace and all the passengers popped their heads out of the windows. The view offered huge lodges on a big brown river with amazing gardens and the mountains in the back. It looked absolutely fantastic. This is one of the views you wish you have everyday in the mornings when you wake up.
Crackling slowly to our station the tourists took photos of the scenery and all you could hear were aaah’s and oooh’s before we got off the train. We, actually the engineer, took photos of the bridge we just passed. I only walked till a little temple where I had solid ground under my feet. He was brave enough to go the tracks to get the amazing shots of the bridge. When he came back , we found a little bench and savored the impressive view of the terrain.