Holiday 2015 – Day 5 – Kanchanaburi, Thailand

June 2nd, 2015 by Francis Yates Leave a reply »

Sawatdee (Hello in Thai!) from HinTok River Camp, part of the Hellfire Pass.

This morning (way to early!) we left Bangkok for part 2 of the vacation, which is a 4 day / 3 night organized tour of the Kanchanaburi Province, in the west of Thailand. We found the tour via Google and checked out its reviews with TripAdvisor and it came highly recommended!

Our guide, Kiki was waiting for us at the hotel this morning, and then had the the van pick us up. This van is seriously styling with lazy boy type seats in the back for guests and incredibly comfortable. We started the 2 hour drive out of Bangkok and into Kanchanaburi.

Today was a day of historical reflection, visiting places all related to World War 2. Thailand was neutral during World War 2, that was until December 1941 when Japan invaded Thailand. During World War 2, Japan had invaded Burma and seized control of the British Colony.

They now needed to supply the troops in Burma, and used sea to do this. However at sea, the supply boats where vulnerable to the allied fleet and they needed another way of supplying the troops, and in 1942 they decided to build a railway between Thailand and Burma, stretching 415km

Forced labour was used in its construction and more than 180,000 Asian civilian laborers and 60,000 prisoners of war worked on the railway. Of these, estimates of Asian deaths are little more than guesses, but probably about 90,000 died. A further 12,621 Allied prisoners of war died during the construction of the railway, known as Death Railway

Our first stop this morning was to visit the Chungkai war Cemetery, which contains 1,426 Commonwealth and 313 Dutch burials of the Second World War in this cemetery. After this visit we made our way to the Kanchanaburi war cemetery, which is the resting place of 6,982 former prisoners of war, mostly Australian, British and Dutch.

Kanchanaburi, Thailand – Chungkai War Cemetery

Kanchanaburi, Thailand – Chungkai War Cemetery

After this we made our way to what is most properly the most famous of the bridges on the Death Railway, the Bridge on the River Kwaai. This would be the starting place of our 1.5 hour train ride. The bridge on the River Kwaai was made famous by the movie in 1957, the film however is a work of fiction! After a quick walk along the bridge, we hopped onto the train and made the journey along the death railway!

Kanchanaburi, Thailand – Bridge on the River Kwaai

Kanchanaburi, Thailand – View from the Train

Kanchanaburi, Thailand – Portion of the Death Railway

Kanchanaburi, Thailand – Buddha in Cave Along Death Railway

After the train ride was over, we made our way to lunch, and then onto Hellfire pass. Hellfire pass is the name of a railway cutting on the former Death Railway in which was built using forced labour during the war, in part by the allied prisoners of war. The pass is known for the harsh conditions and heavy loss of life suffered by its labourers during construction. Hellfire Pass is so called because the sight of prisoners working away at night by fires, was said to resemble a scene from hell.

The Australian, British, Dutch and other allied Prisoners of War were required by the Japanese to work 18 hours a day to complete the cutting. They where fed two meals a day, which was 2 scoops of rice, barely enough for a man to survive, let alone do hard labour!

Sixty nine men were beaten to death by Japanese guards in the six weeks it took to build the cutting, and many more died from illness. However, the majority of deaths occurred amongst labourers whom the Japanese enticed to come to help build the line with false promises of good jobs. These labourers, mostly Asian, suffered mostly the same as the prisoners of war at the hands of the Japanese. The Japanese kept no records of these deaths.

Walking through the hellfire pass was a humbling experience. Just walking it myself was incredibly hard work, and these allied troops did this each and every day, for hours and hours on end, usually carrying heavy equipment or supplies. Most of them had no shoes, as they had either worn out or had rotted from the harsh monsoon weather conditions.

Kanchanaburi, Thailand – View from Hellfire Pass Museum

Kanchanaburi, Thailand – Inside the Hellfire Museum

Kanchanaburi, Thailand – Hellfire Pass remains

Kanchanaburi, Thailand – Hammer used to POW’s to cut the rock

Kanchanaburi, Thailand – Hellfire Pass

Kanchanaburi, Thailand – Broken Drill Bit still stuck

Kanchanaburi, Thailand – Hellfire Pass Memorial

Kanchanaburi, Thailand – Hellfire Pass Memorial

Kanchanaburi, Thailand – Hellfire Pass Remains

Tonight we are staying in the beautiful Hintok River camp, which is a luxury tent hotel, on the site of a former prisoner of war camp location. The hotel is beautiful and so peaceful, with no televisions / radios or any sounds. However they have really fast internet (I am not sure how?) which means I could post my blog post.. tomorrow I might not be so lucky, so if there is no update, it means that tomorrows hotel does not have wifi 🙂
Tomorrow is the fun day, with Longtail boat ride to underwater temple, Elephant rides / playing with elephants and bamboo rafting paddle down the river

Kanchanaburi, Thailand – Hintok River Camp

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