Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Bridge Over Troubled Water

Day 314
I was up early and grabbed a cab to the bus station. I was in luck and the next bus to Kanchanaburi left in just 15 minutes. None of the writing on the buses was in English and a nice woman waiting for her bus helped me find the one that I needed.

Unlike the bus to Bangkok I was the only tourist. This was more like it. When I got to the bus station in Kanchaniburi a pedi-cab driver offered me a good price but then lied about how far away the town center was. This was pretty annoying and I got him to lower the price when I pointed out that I had a map and I knew just how far it was. If he hadn't lied I wouldn't have even bothered bargaining.

At the hotel I wanted to stay at all the super cheap rooms were full but I went ahead and took one of the slightly more expensive rooms when I found out that I would have more own bathroom.

Kanchanburi probably wouldn't even be on the tourist map if it wasn't for some sad history. This is where you can visit the river Kwai bridge. My first stop was the Railway to Burma Museum.

In 1941 Japan invaded Thailand, shortly after Thailand was forced to declare war on the US. The Japanese needed a way to quickly move supplies and men from Thailand to Burma. To build a railroad 60,000 POW's from all over the Japanese controlled areas were brought in along with 200,000 Asian workers.

Conditions were appalling, most of the men were packed into cattle cars and were not fed for days. When the railway ran out they were transfered to trucks they were forced to march miles through dense jungle. Often there wasn't enough food and what was there was rotten. The men were beaten and worked to exhaustion. One of the rules of war is that detailed information on POW's must be kept. The Japanese did a very good job of this. A privilege that the POW's had was to hold funerals. They would bury their own records with the bodies. This allowed for almost all of the bodies to be identified and found.

After the museum I headed across the street to the cemetery. All of the scattered camp cemeteries were moved here. There are mostly English and Australian soldiers here. Just over 600 Americans also died, but all the bodies were shipped home. I wandered the rows a bit, but I didn't stay long. It's quite hard to read just how young everyone was.

I decided to carry on with the museums and went to the WWII museum. This was more a collection of random things. There was even a pile of old tv's in one room and an ancient history museum. It was very strange. There was a wall of famous people that included Einstein, Hitler, and Truman. I was a getting a bit bored of museums at this point and gave up after a bit. There is a really good view of the Kwai Bridge, so I climbed up to the view point before leaving.

On my way back to the hotel I checked my email and explored the small town a bit more. After reading a bit I went to see the nightly movie at my hotel. I couldn't hear well and gave up after a bit. I ended up in my room and reading for the evening.

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