One of the things I really wanted to do in Bangkok this time was take a day trip to Kanchanaburi to see what provided the backbone to a story which is part of movie folklore and widely considered to be one of the greatest films ever.
Now I don’t have too strong an interest in a lot of history but I was very intrigued to learn more about this fascinating bridge which featured so memorably in ‘The Bridge On The River Kwai‘ (1957). Believe it or not I only watched this classic film for the first time last year and of course I knew before our visit that the bridge seen on the movie screen was actually a far more aesthetically pleasing one shot in Kitulgala in Sri Lanka. Furthermore, despite the title there wasn’t even a bridge over the River Kwai until they changed the name of another river nearby which did have a bridge crossing it.
As the film has been around through seven decades I don’t really need to explain too much of the plot but basically it stars Obi Wan Kenobi who says he’ll pay someone or another 2000 credits in advance and a further 15000 credits on completion of the bridge….or am I mixing up my movie plot lines a bit?!!
The day started at 6:30am when we were picked up at our hotel and we then had to endure the tedious nature of picking up other passengers and getting out of Bangkok which took over two hours to do! The first stop was a brief 15 minute one at the Allied War Cemetery; the final resting place for the POW’s who died building the railway.
Our next destination proved to be the main one but you wouldn’t have thought so given our allocation of time there! I couldn’t believe it when they said we only had 40 minutes at the place which was the focal point of the trip! History should have taught me this as back in 2008 our “James Bond Tour” actually only included thirty minutes on the island so maybe we were doing quite well to get forty! However, this time there was the JEATH museum, picture displays, a market and of the course the bridge itself which could’ve merited the whole time.
As a result, I had to skip the museum and pretty much photo-bomb (quite apt, possibly inappropriate, to use that word maybe given what happened to the bridge back in 1944!!) the bridge. I rushed around getting my shots and as I was lining up one shot and waiting for the timer to take my own picture the lens on my cheap glasses fell out and typically dropped through the gap in the bridge.
Just before boarding the bus I saw the chance to get a shot of me with a Leopard. It was 100 THB ($3.5) which is a little expensive by Thai standards but with not much time and very little chance of such an opportunity coming up anytime soon I splashed the cash and gave the young cat its food and drink in return for a photo or three!
Typically the bus didn’t move on to the next destination for about ten minutes so I guess I could have used that time more productively but its never a good idea to miss deadlines on these tours. The next stop was some very local railway station where we boarded a train to take us along the Death Railway.
The real highlight of the train journey has to be at Wampo Viaduct (Wang Po) where the train passes through some wonderful scenery. With the majority of the passengers onboard leaning out of the windows snapping away or at least standing over that side of the carriages you have to worry about the stability of the train as it slows down a bit and carefully crosses the creaking viaduct.
We had lunch on a boat once we disembarked from the train and even that seemed quite rushed! Sai Yok Noi Waterfall was the final stop and we had about 30 minutes there which was nice enough but fairly unnecessary in the scheme of things. It’s not as if it was even a place with loads of souvenir shops or whatever which tourist buses are often dragged to!
I would’ve much rather had a bit longer at the bridge and if I’m ever in Bangkok again I’ll certainly consider just taking a train to the station near the bridge. I would’ve done that beforehand but fear of the unknown stopped me from doing that!