This is the River Kwai, in Kanchanaburi, western Thailand. We arrive here after another overnight train to Bangkok from Chiang Mai, a taxi across town to the Thonburi trains station, and a few more hours by rail.
Below is the bridge on the river Kwai, as it appears today. In fact, it’s not a teakwood behemoth as built by Alec Guinness in the eponymous movie. (Mention of which elicits blank stares and a background sound of crickets chirping when speaking to anyone under oh, say, age 45).
It’s a smallish steel bridge, destroyed several times during the war, the last and final time in 1945 by a 24-year-old Canadian pilot.
The movie plot is entirely fictional, but Kanchanburi was near kilometre zero on the Thai side for the Burmese Railway, a Japanese project to facilitate the invasion of Burma and beyond into southern China. Built by slave labour, 100,000 people (80% of which were fellow Asians) died during its construction from disease, starvation , beating, and neglect as Japan pursued its
insane butchery of tens of millions of souls Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.
A better movie about goings-on in the area at that time is the Railway Man, with Colin Firth, which is based on a true story.
The zone around the bridge today is a zoo. Acre upon acre of market stalls selling crap, food stalls, parking lots. When I was here decades ago, none of this existed. That’s progress.
Just kidding, it’s a shameful freak show. Thank God the Commonwealth War Graves in the middle of town are as immaculately kept as all the other CWGs in the world. 7,000 men are interred here, mostly transferred from graves along the track.
Besides the bridge and its lore, Kanchanaburi is a pleasant riverside town.
We have a wonderful lunch by the river at the Blue Rice Café.
On a blue theme, we stay at the Blue Star guest house, also by the river.
Among other attractions, we have alligator-sized monitor lizards on our property. You can’t see the scale in the photo – no pun intended – but this bad boy is about 5 feet long. The green stuff is some kind of pond growth..
You can see someone else’s giant Kanchanaburi lizard video here.
Sight or Insight of the Day – Kanchanaburi
Well, not quite Kanchanaburi. I forgot to mention when we touched down at Don Muang Airport in Bangkok, flying from Phnom Penh: it has a golf course in-between the runways. I’ve never seen anything like it.