Kanchanaburi, Thailand – The Death Railway

I have watched the movie, Bridge on the River Kwai, many times.  It is a story of leadership and perseverance in the harshest of conditions.  The late Sir Alec Guinness is one of my favourite actors whether in leadership role as Lt Col Nicholson for this movie, as Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars, as Prince Faisal in Lawrence of Arabia, or as the infamous Jock Sinclair in Tunes of Glory.

The problem is the movie was fiction based on an author who knew very little about the true incidents that occurred to build the Death Railway although he did suffer forced labour at the hands of the Japanese for two years as a POW.  I now have a greater appreciation of the true story and the hardship endured.

The Bridge on the River Kwai

Kanchanaburi

Taxi to the Hotel

 

A selfie in the back of a Pick-up Truck converted into a taxi rom the train station to our resort hotel (the Sabi@kan). Dark Cloud does not allow smiling.
First glimpse of Kanchanaburi the town
Feel like I am about to go on a patrol

Our Favourite Eating Place

Dinner at the Kan-Buri restaurant grill – One of our favourite spots
Enjoying the atmosphere and the beer!
Emma gets dessert
Ben and Hannah split this monstrosity

Sabi@kan Hotel

We stayed at a resort hotel with a small pool called the Sabi@kan.  It was a chic little boutique hotel that provided breakfast in the morning and was only a 1km  away from the Bridge on the River Kwai and more importantly next door to a little place that served cold beer and rented scooters.  We didn’t rent the scooters but we certainly drank the beer.  Peter, who is Danish, owns the little bar and scooter rental with his wife.  He provided some good advice on what to see locally and the beer was only 59baht ($2.24) as takeaway for a 620ml bottle.  We ended up hiring him to drive us to the Bangkok airport for 2200baht ($85.00CAD).

The garden area with the path leading to the pool
The patio overlooking the garden
The restaurant area – the umbrella marks our table and the open patio doors are a coy-fish pond
One of our rooms – the girls had there own
In the river, picking flowers?
Lady Buddha

The Bridge on the River Kwai

The novel, written in French, by Pierre Boulle was based on his experience as a Prisoner of War for two years after being captured as a spy with the Free French in Singapore.  He extrapolated his experiences and created the fictional account of the Bridge on the River Kwai.  The funny thing was the river was actually the Mae Klong. By 1960, three years after the movie was released, the Government of Thailand renamed the river, to satisfy tourists, to the Khwae Yai (River Kwai).  As a side note, he wrote a second novel, also in French, called the Planet of the Apes which became a major movie in 1968 with Charlton Heston.

Pierre Boulle received criticism from the survivors of the Death railway as he implied that the Lt Col in charge colluded with the Japanese which was not the case.  The real Lt Col Philip Toosey led the POWs through arduous times maintaining morale of the troops as they were forced to build two railways – one of wood, which was destroyed, and another made of concrete and steel which survives today.

The runway of Kanchanburi
Ben on the Bridge
Foster Family Rocks!
Colleen on the Bridge on the River Kwai

 

Rob on the Bridge on the River Kwai
We”re still not sure what this person is doing?
Hannah sees the train coming!
The train is coming!
It’s almost here!
Finally, the train arrives
There it goes!
Just outside the River Kwai Train Station
Warning Sign!
The River Kwai Bridge Train Station
An original engine that is now a relic

Rain washes away all the grime

Just escaped the rain
Well, at least it is cooler
Yep, it is still raining

The Kanchanaburi War Cemetery

We went for a walk south of the Bridge and eventually found the War Cemetery.  It has six thousand six hundred and five graves of soldiers from Britain, Australia and the Netherlands.  It also includes another nations including 7 Canadians. The cemetery is maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and is in very good repair.  It does not include the estimated 200,000 asian workers who also died building the railroad.

The River Kwai (Khwae Yai)
Kanchanaburi War Cemetery

I walked the grounds with Colleen and Hannah.  We all noticed the young ages of those that did not survive.  Hannah asked why I was stopping and taking photos.  Many of the names were familiar as they were the same names of people I have worked with like Mills and Day.  I have included a photo of three of the nine Foster‘s buried at the cemetery (no relation that I am aware) although they are likely distant cousins.

One of 9 Foster’s buried at Kanchanaburi
Another of the British Foster’s
An Australian Foster

Riding the Death Railway to Nam Tok

We chose to spend the day taking the train to Nam Tok which is as far as it goes and then taxi to Hellfire Pass Monument and Museum.  The train was crowded with tourists and locals.

Taking the train from Kanchanaburi to Nam Tok (2.5hr ride)

Following the River Kwai to Nam Tok from Kanchanaburi
Train official checking for tickets
Getting comfortable

Papayas growing wild along the train tracks
The train was full until Wang Pho train station where the bulk of the tourists got out and drove the rest of the way

 

A ride in a pick-up truck taxi to Hellfire Pass – another 22km to go!

Hellfire Pass Memorial and Museum

The museum is a small room that encompasses photos and a series of wall boards that tell the story of the building of the Death Railway.  It also includes a video and some artefacts.  The real adventure begins with the walk down the hill towards Hellfire Pass.

Walking down the Hill was easy
Sign board Hellfire Pass
Plaque from Hellfire Pass
Original Rails and sleepers from Konyu Cutting, known by the Allied POWs as Hellfire Pass, laid in 1989 by members of C Coy, 3rd Bn, Royal Australian Army

 

Hannah walking through Hellfire Pass
Looking up at the walls of Hellfire Pass in disbelief that these were cut out by hand
Plaque commemorating the heroism of the Doctors
Plaque commemorating those who suffered and those who died building the Bangkok to Rangoon Railway
Ben leads the way along the bed that was once a rail line
The bamboo has grown back but most of the hard woods have not
One of tougher days for walking both mentally and physically – Just imagine making this walk as a POW on a daily basis
Bamboo was treacherous to cut as it would often break into shards that would slice fingers, hands and legs
Looking out to the Hills and Burma (Myanmar) beyond
Japanese Supply Camp was in the valley below
Burma (Myanmar) in the distance
Close up of the Bamboo and thick brush

Kanchanaburi is a wonderful little town to visit and the story of the Death Railway is not to be missed.  It speaks to harsh conditions and the perseverance of the human condition to overcome terrible obstacles.  As  we move closer to the 11th of November it is important to never forget those soldiers who fell in conflict….We will Remember them!

 

2 Replies to “Kanchanaburi, Thailand – The Death Railway”

  1. Very interesting. Can’t imagine what is was like for those people. It must have been humbling walking the pass. I know the movie was fictitious but it did capture the awful conditions the POW’s must have faced.

    Liked the food shots and the beer! You are indeed a Foster! Keep the videos comming. Loved the pics of you and your family.

    What was that lady doing in the water?

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