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Kanchanaburi

Country:
Thailand
Dates:
Saturday September 11th, 1999 to Sunday September 12th, 1999
Author:
noah

Kanchanaburi is a small town a couple of hours west of Bangkok, unique only in that it happens to be home to the infamous bridge on the River Kwai, and the base from which much of the Death Railway was constructed. Since there were 3 of us, including Hannah's father's mother's pastor's daughter, we rented a car for the trip.

The Death Railway was built during WWII by Allied Prisoners of War (mainly Australian, American, British, and Dutch) under Japanese command. The plan was to create a supply route to Burma in order to facilitate the Japanese conquest of western Asia. According to the Lonely Planet, Japanese engineers estimated that it would take 5 years to link Thailand and Myanmar by rail, but the Japanese army forced the POWs to complete the 415km railway in 16 months. In all, 16 000 POWs are thought to have died of starvation, disease, and exhaustion during the construction of the railway, in addition to an estimated 90 000–100 000 Asian workers.

We walked across the bridge and had a look at the commemorative plaques that have been placed there by various governments, but otherwise there's not a lot to do at the site of the bridge itself. A few kilometres outside of town, however, is another famous section of the Death Railway, known in Australia as Hellfire Pass.

Hellfire Pass is basically just an enormous rock cutting, through which the railway ran. At the entrance to the pass, the Australian government has just completed a fairly extensive museum detailing the history of the Death Railway. Aside from the interesting content, we found the museum to be somewhat comforting in that it was the most "western" space we'd been in in a long time. Designed and built by Australians, it was a lot more like a Canadian building than anything we'd visited in a while.

After having spent some time in the museum and walked through Hellfire Pass, we headed up north of Kanchanaburi to Erawan National Park, which is apparently the most visited National Park in Thailand, and with good reason. The main attraction of the park is a 7 step waterfall spread out over about 2km. The water is such a bright turquoise that it's hard to believe that there isn't someone at the top pouring food colouring into the stream. We were able to walk behind some of the falls, climb up beside some, and even actually climb the face of a couple of them (and, in one briefly stressful episode, accidentally slide down the front of one).

On our way back down we went for a swim in one of pools at the bottom of one of the falls; unfortunately, we had to vacate the pool fairly quickly, as there were a number of very large fish biting our feet. It didn't really hurt, but there's something a little disconcerting about swimming with your feet literally swarming with hungry fish.

Afterwards, we continued down to the bottom of the falls, and headed for home, which, after about 2hrs of trying to get our bearings in a remote corner of Bangkok, we eventually found.

More information about Thailand is available on the About Thailand page; you might want to have a look at it if you haven't already.

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