Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Backpacker's Note : River Kwai Bridge - Kanchanaburi

“It brought back the people I knew who didn’t make it,” he says. “At the back of my mind I have this guilty feeling: I survived, but others didn’t.” 

- Sir Harold Atcherly, Prisoner Of Japan : a Personal Diary 

 You might have heard the movie, The Bridge on The River Kwai based on the book by Pierre Boulle. It was a very famous movie with true historical stories about Prisoner of Wars on Thailand Burma Railway as the background, although the story was fiction. 

The Movie (Photo Credit : Google)

The Book (Photo Credit : Google)

Another movie based on the book by Eric Lomax is Railway Man. The casts are Nicole Kidman as Patti and Colin Firth and Jeremy Irvine as Eric Lomax. This book and movie based on Eric Lomax true story during his time as Japanese PoWs. He was an officer and engineer, so only a glimpse of the work condition for the railway hard labor was showned. Most engineers and officers are not working on the railway but usually on their camp, fixed the mechanical or pounded rices (based on Reg Twigg : Survivor on The River Kwai). Eric Lomax books is from the Engineer / officers experience on the river Kwai. He was captured by Kempeitai (the military police arm of the Imperial Japanese Army from 1881 to 1945. It was not a conventional military police, but more of a secret police like Nazi Germany's Gestapo). Eric Lomax was captured and brought to the kempeitai base because the Japanese found radios and the map that he used to draw the railway. He was tortured by kempeitai, one of them was the founder of River Kwai Foundation, Takashi Nagase who claimed to be the translator. Later on, Takashi Nagase and Eric Lomax reconciled and Eric Lomax gave Nagase a total forgiveness for what he had done to him in the past. 

The Railway Man book with Movie Cover (Photo Credit : Pingkan C)
One of the book that captured the PoW condition on River Kwai, especially the soldier's condition is Survivor on River Kwai by Reg Twigg. Their condition was really bad, and the work mostly are  hard labour such as destroy the rocks with Picks, and carried the wooden sleeper by hands. The book explained in details so you can portray it on your mind. But to see with your own eyes, the places of the scene, it was more rough and tough than what your mind portrays. 

The PoWs put the wooden sleeper, as you can see they went barefoot

The first day when I arrived in Kanchanaburi, I went straight to River Kwai Bridge. It was located near the Guest House I stayed for 5 days. The owner was really nice, and he took me to the bridge free of charge by motorbike. It was only 5 minutes trip. 

I could never explained how I felt that day. I finally see the place with my own eyes. I felt happy but mostly sad, since I read a lot how they were tortured and forced to worked in such conditions. People with Beri-beri, malaria and tropical ulcers were counted as fitted for work. They were so skinny, and still they would be beaten by the guards if they stopped working or being slow. 

The original bridge was made by woods, made by the prisoners and locals. The allied bombed the bridge near the time of Japanese defeat. 

The Bridge at the construction time

River Kwai Bridge Nowadays (Photo Credit : Pingkan C)

River Kwai Bridge (Photo Credit : Pingkan C)
The View From River Kwai Bridge (Photo Credit : Pingkan C)
From River Kwai Bridge, I went back to the guest house by foot, only 10-15 minutes walk. I found a good book store River Kwai Book Shop, the owner was Australian. He was very friendly and would gladly assist you to search what book you're looking for. The price is also affordable.

The Bridge is a must go place if you're interested in historical places. It wouldn't be complete if you miss this one :)

“My whole ethos on the Death Railway was survival. When I went to sleep – after working an 18-hour day, sun-up to sundown, in 120-degree temperatures, starving, sometimes having been beaten just because a guard felt like it – I would tell myself that today was history. They hadn’t killed me. The one thing I had to do was make sure I woke up tomorrow.

- Fergus Anckorn 

 Sources : http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/10563753/Death-Railway-survivors-remember-their-experiences.html


Note : To get to the river kwai bridge and Jeath Museum, you can rent a motorbike, or take a taxi (an open Taxi like tuk tuk) because there's no bus or other public transportation to the area. 

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