Bridge over the river Kwai
Thursday, July 13, 2006 8:56:22 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
I have to confess that I’ve not knowingly watched the film, I knew a little about the history behind the bridge but beyond the fact that the Yanks tried to blow it up a fair few times I didn’t know a great more.
I’m glad we went on the trip, we had planned to stay in an authentic “old-skool” riverside hotel but there weren’t enough people for the trip so we did the one-day trip instead. Firstly we went to the JEATH war museum which documented the historical side of the war and included numerous photos, article cuttings and memories of the POW camps. It was pretty shocking but also fascinating.
One of the old POW’s had painted several of his memories of his time at the camp including the tortures they were subjected to, meeting the locals and a variety of sicknesses they had. It’s difficult to know what to say/think when you’re looking around a place like that, it was a truly terrible time and one can only hope it never happens again. On a lighter note though, the spelling of some of the captions were just comical I had to try very hard not to laugh. Some had been updated but they still had things like “A lot of men diwed when making the wailway” –they really do write how they speak. Sadly you’re not allowed to photograph inside the museum otherwise I would have got some examples.
After looking around the JEATH museum we were jetted up the river on another long tailed boat, this is our second longtailed boat so we knew it was going to be fun. Arriving very windswept, you disembark the boat just below the bridge itself. The one that’s standing now is a replacement bridge, the original bridge is about 100m below and is now only an opening on either side of the river. Original or not, it didn’t stop Stacey and I wandering across it. When a train comes, you simply have to dive out of the way as it makes its way across the bridge1.
The river is a good 20m below you2 but it feels a lot further away when you’re in the middle. For those of you who haven’t been in the middle of a river before (on or off a bridge) it acts like a funnel and the wind rockets down so 20m above the water with the wind trying to push you off is fun…
After visiting the bridge we went to the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery where around 8,000 soldiers are commemorated3, it’s an odd place with a lot of small headstones along the ground, each the same small and plain. We didn’t manage to get around even half of the British section but we saw a large number of names we recognised, whether they’re relations to our friends or not we’re yet to find out. Unbelievably, and bearing in mind it’s a cemetery people still insisted on stepping over the headstones!
After the cemetery we went on the railway which still runs! The train4 winds around the Cliffside on a precarious wooden structure and along the riverside, it’s most impressive to think that it was built so long ago and is still a vital part of the local community –sometimes good things can come from such horror. One thing I loved about the train was the fact you could jump off pretty much wherever you liked, no automated doors etc dangerous yes but so much more thrilling5.