Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Bridge On The River Kwai and The Railroad

I love history , but I am not a history expert.Living here in Wang Pho and on the River Kawi, home of the famous Bridge On The River Kwai, I have learned a lot of WWll history,as it concerns our village of Wang Pho. Here ,in our little village we are in the center of everything famous relating to the building of the bridge, and railroad in our area, built by the Japaneese Army ,using British pow's and Asians. as forced laborers to get the job done.
Twenty five miles south of us is the city of Kanchanaburi and home to the famous Bridge. Closer to our village is the famous viaduct,built out of timbers from trees in the local forest, the base for the viaduct is carved out of solid rock from the face of the mountain. the viaduct is still being used today and is the highlight of the tourist riding the train from Bangkok for a day trip,or an overnight stay in one of the resorts that Sai Yok is famous for ,all located right on the river and many with a view of the railroad also. The train slows to five miles and hour which gives you lots of time to take pictures and take in the sights while crossing , you are a arms reach of the rock wall on one side and 150 feet from the bank of the river on the other side. I'm sure if the train were to go any faster the thing would surely come falling down , as some of the timbers are the original ones from WWll . Every time we take the train I say a little prayer before we cross.
A few miles past our village is the end of the line for the railroad , it ends in the city of Nom Tok. About halfway between Wang Pho and Nom Tok is what historians call HELL FIRE PASS .Hundreds of POW'S died here along with thousands of Asians, they were forced to work 24 hours a day ,using only hand picks and hoes and shovels for tools, they also had to carry all the rock bolders and chips in small buckets to build the railroad bed. The pass was cut thru a solid rock mountain. When they worked at night they used lanterns , these gave of a erie glow with rock wall on both sides of the men , so it got the name HELL FIRE PASS . It is said by some that survived that to them it look like a scene HELL.
Located in the city of Kanchanaburi is a WW ll cementery where the British soldiers are buried,and I must say it is a most beautiful place . Many tourist that have relatives that died in the building of the bridge and railroad come here year round to mourn their lost loved ones, and to pay their respect, so that they never forget.
On one visit there I ask one of the cemetery grounds keepers , what country do the most visitors to the cemetery come from and to my surprise he said "they come from Japan".
Being courious , I have ask lots of folk "where is the cemetery and monuments for the forced Asian labours that died during the construction, and as always the answer is "there is none" ,sad , but that is history.
Most of the pictures posted are my own , tho all the old ones and some of the bridge, I gleamed from the net , a special thanks to whom ever took them and posted them, none were copyrighted to my knowledge. Hope you enjoy the pictures.
Also I wanted to mention that the water tower is one of a few still standing from the war , and as a note a few years ago students from our local high school climbed up and there were still some live fish swimming around in the tank. Malcolm


The Frogblogger said...

Am I right in recalling that considerably more Asians died than Westerners in the building of the railroad... I seem to remember that from visiting the little museum near the Bridge. I too found the cemetery impeccably looked after. A moving place to visit, with its simple plaques on each grave, and short, poignant messages from loved ones.

Hoo Don said...

I am also not a history man. I am very surprised to read that the highest percentage of visitors come from Japan, perhaps similar to the criminal returning to the scene of their crime. As Pete the Frogblogger points out many more Asians died constructing the railroad, my research came up with the figure of around 80000 Asian deaths, very sad.
The Death Railroad is on my list of must visit sites in Thailand and one I will see one day.
Talen at Land of Smiles needs your url.

Jon said...

Sorry to jump the thread but, Hoo Don when you get the time there is an interesting read about the Japanese and their history books.
Japanese history textbook controversies in Wikipedia. Makes me wonder if the Japanese that were visiting even knew the part their country played.

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