My unplanned escape from Sri Lanka left me with a few unexpected days in Thailand. Having travelled in that beautiful country three times already, I looked for a place I had never been to and settled for Kanchanaburi, a historically important city two hours from Bangkok. And since I didn’t do all that much during this brief stopover in Thailand, I also threw in a few pictures from my 2004 and 2010 trips there.
Hellfire Pass; one of the most difficult challenges in the construction of the Thailand – Burma railroad. As the workers were made to work long into the night, the site was light by torches, which lead to the name. Using primitive tools and dealing with terrible living conditions, prisoners of war (POW) and labourers “recruited” by the Japanese Imperial Army built the 415 km line in only one year. The project was a high priority for the Japanese authorities, as their forces in Burma needed better logistical support to fight back the British and possibly even invade India.
Of the 60,000 Australian, British, Dutch and American POWs who worked on the construction, 12,399 died. The Asian workers fared much worse: of the 250,000 employed, it is believed 70,000 – 90,000 perished during the construction.
To say that communication with the outside world was limited for the POWs is a bit of an understatement.
From tunnelling to bridging, this was not the easiest terrain on which to build a railroad in wartime conditions. The rail is still in use, but for short distance tourist runs (it was a bit scary on the bridges).
And for those old enough to remember “The Bridge Over the River Kwai” (or who watch old movies), this is it. Although to be precise, there is more than one such bridge. Continue reading