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Published: February 17th 2017
I left the dizzying madness of Bangkok behind via (surprise, surprise) a public bus - $110b - bound for Western Thailand near the Burmese border. My destination was Kanchanaburi - a town with a storied, albeit dark, history. Here in town snakes the River Kwai. In the second World War the Japanese needed a safer route to transport military goods into Burma to supply their troops who were fighting the British. The ultimate goal was to push into India. A railway linking the lines in Siam to the ones in Burma needed to be constructed. The 415km line was to start in Kanchanaburi, crossing the River Kwai, and moving North to Burma.
After a three hour bus ride from Bangkok I showed up into town and found a place to stay. I ended up in an odd tree-house type bungalow for $200b. It was nice enough for me and I don't really spend much time in the room anyways. So after I was sorted I rented a bicycle to explore the different sites around town. My first stop was the Death Railway Museum that would provide me some background into this chapter of the war I knew little about. Essentially
the Japanese Army forced 60,000 POWs and around 175,000 Asian laborers to undertake and impossible project of building the railroad under brutal conditions. Some 13,000 POWs, mostly British, Dutch, Australian, and two hundred or so Americans and 80,000 laborers died from disease such as malaria, cholera, and dysentery. Many starved or were simply worked to death. The museum was really informative and very well presented. I then moved onto the war cemetery containing the graves of over 6,000 Commonwealth Soldiers. A very somber walk amongst the grounds reminding me of the consequences and senselessness of war.
My last stop of the day was riding my bike and whistling the tune from "The Bridge On The River Kwai" to the bridge that has been immortalized in the film. As I came upon the bridge the unmistakable iconic image was before me. I walked across to the other side of the river and peered down the start of the infamous death railway. Watching the sunset over the River Kwai I made the decision to stay another day and ride the train over the River Kwai north towards Burma and retrace the footsteps of history.
Up early the next morning I
bought a ticket with all the other tourists for $100b to ride the train for three hours to the northern outpost of Nam Sok. Riding the train was a thrill. I tried to imagine the harsh conditions that the POWs were forced to work under. It must have been hell. The river snaking through the jungle next to the tracks and the mountain ranges to the West - over which lay the mysterious Burma were my companions for the journey. Arriving in Nam Sok I had a nice lunch then hopped back onto the train for the journey back to Kanchanaburi. This was a really fun side trip that was never planned or on my radar. I'm glad I had the opportunity to come here and it was really nice to be "traveling" again rather than just island hopping.
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