The River Kwai and its deadly railroad

I missed a day with the blog. Friday was a total wash-out. I must have eaten something at Thursday’s dinner. We all said good bye to Linda and Deb and Nina and Dave after supper on Thursday. I was feeling fine then. I even told Nina that the trip had been especially great because we all got along and no one got sick. She told me that I would jinx the rest of the trip. I jinxed myself cuz as soon as I got to the room I knew things weren’t quite right. It went downhill from there. By morning I was emptied out. I told the others to go on without me. They were going to see the reclining Buddha and then check out a park.

I stayed in bed just drinking lots of water. I tried to join them for lunch when they got back but couldn’t eat anything. I was much better by the evening but still not up to going out.

Woke up with a bit more spring in my step this morning. We had an early pick-up to go outside the city to see the Death Railway by the River Kwai. A couple of movies have been made about the Japanese occupation of Thailand during WWII but the more accurate one is The Railwayman. The music from the Bridge on the River Kwai is really good though. Over 60,000 British, Dutch, American and Australian POWs along with over 200,000 locals were forced to build a railway for the Japanese to support their Burma campaign in 1943. It stretched for 415 km and took the lives of more that 12,000 POWs and 90,000 civilians. The Japanese were brutal, feeding the workers twice a day with mainly rice – no protein at all – and next to no medical facilities, and only basic tools like shovels and hammers. Despite that, the railway and its 600 bridges was built in just over a year. As the workers died they were buried along the tracks. Some bones have been recovered but most remain lost.

We stopped first at Kanchanaburi cemetery where the bones of 6,982 POWs have been interred. It was a beautifully kept cemetery and there was evidence of people visiting some of the graves. There is supposed to be 8 Canadians buried there but we did not find them.

Next stop was the JEATH Museum which depicted a typical POW hut with a long bamboo cot along one side where each prisoner was allotted a space about 2.5 ft wide. Another bamboo structure held pictures taken during the railway construction and paintings done by prisoners after the war. The conditions were horrendous and anyone who survived was just skin and bones.

Nearby was the railway bridge that was bombed by the Americans at the end of the war. From here we caught a train that took us up to Hellfire Pass – the section where the labourers were forced to cut sheer rock with next to no tools working day and night.

There is a large cave near the pass which currently is used as a Buddhist temple but during the war would shelter people from the American bombs.

Next stop was lunch at a lovely roadside stop but I was still not able to eat much other than some rice. Then a 2.5 hr ride back to Bangkok. I forgot to mention that they drive on the left in Thailand (unlike Vietnam and Cambodia) so it took a bit of getting used to.

So now I am back in my hotel room putting off packing. The others went out for supper but I am still not on top of my game so decided to call it a night. Up tomorrow for a 4:30 am departure.

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