December 27, 2013

Kanchanaburi- Reminiscences of World War II...!!


Kanchanaburi is soaked in history with its prominence in world war II. The attack of the Japanese during the war has left deep marks on the city. Also disheartening are the stories of American soldiers who were tortured to death here. More than seven hundred American servicemen were moved to Thailand and Burma, as prisoners of war of the Japanese during world war II. They were interned in prison camps and were forced to work on the Thailand- Burma railway project. The conditions were so inhuman that many perished to malnutrition, physical abuse and various illnesses. Over a period of time, the bridge known as death railway bridge over River Kwai has turned into one of the most sought after tourist destinations in Thailand.


Rail bridge over river Kwai
It was late afternoon as we rode into the town of Kanchanaburi. River Kwai is the cynosure around which the whole of Kanchanaburi revolves. The bridge attracts numerous tourists, both locals and foreigners alike, and many take the toy train that runs over it for a short distance through the day. The break in between the train ride allows people to walk over the bridge and enjoy the beautiful vistas of the flowing Kwai. Though the views and the rail bridge looked quite attractive, what ran through my mind as I walked on it was the sufferings of the prisoners of war. The bridge gets lit up in the evening and the surrounding area turns quite active with road side vendors. The numerous floating restaurants under the bridge also turn brighter as the sun sets. The view of the rising and the setting sun over the river is a delight for the photographers as the sky gets painted in a palate of colours. One can also spot a couple of long boats making its way on the serene waters of Kwai. There is a daily show on the bridge at seven in the evening, enacting the tragedy that happened during the world war II. The show is a must see and attracts numerous visitors for its magnificent portrayal of the hard times with fireworks, sounds and colours.


Toy train
Death rail bridge
River Kwai
Lit up Kanchanaburi
The evening show over the bridge
Fireworks over the bridge
Not very far from the bridge, is a monument erected by the Japanese army during the war, in memory of the personnel of the allied forces who died during the construction of the Thailand- Burma railway. Every year in march, a memorial ceremony for those who died is held by voluntary members of the Japanese community. Another must visit place in Kanchanaburi is the war cemetery. In the cemetery rests three hundred soldiers, who suffered and died during the world war. The cemetery has the names of each soldier with details inscribed on their respective stones. Set amidst a green bed of grass with flowers adjacent to each stone grave, the cemetery has been quite well maintained. Across the road from the cemetery is the Death railway museum and research centre. This museum depicts in detail the happenings of the world war II in Kanchanaburi and the sufferings of the soldiers through videos, audios, writings and much more.


Monument erected by Japanese community
War cemetery

The road that leads to the bridge from the town turns into a colourful, vibrant and glittering market, selling a plethora of things from puppies to electronics to food. I was stunned by the action filled market with exciting displays and thronging crowd as I strolled through the inviting stalls.


The colourful market of Kanchanaburi

Thirty two kilometers from Kanchanaburi lies the famed Tiger temple. It was well known for a long time as a tiger sanctuary, where the stripped cats were taken care by buddhist monks. However, currently they have a voluntary organization that take care of the tigers. People from all over the globe join this organization and do voluntary service. Monks can be seen in the sanctuary, with a couple of them either playing with the tigers or feeding them. We waited for a while as the tigers were led into the park. They looked majestic, gracious and beautiful as they walked down the mud path to the arena where visitors are allowed to be photographed with them. A long list of instructions were laid out to us, before we could get closer to the tigers. This is to make sure that the visitors do not act in any way which might instigate the tigers to charge and injure themselves. The tigers are chained and lie on the ground as they get photographed with people. The few cubs seemed more playful than the relaxed older ones. It is definitely an adrenalin rushing experience as you touch the lovely beast. There are more options like 'walk with the tiger' and 'play with the cub in the waters' for the adventurous ones. There are other animals too like bear, deer and a few birds within the premises along with a buddhist temple.


Tiger temple

The gracious cats
Kanchanaburi is definitely a must visit destination in Thailand with loads of history and an exciting tiger temple. It is not very far from Bangkok and a full day trip would be ideal to do justice to the place.

Signing Note- A scroll back into world war II...!!

Distance- Bangkok to Kanchanaburi (130 Kms) (Route 323)

You may read my co-rider, Shrinidhi's article on Kwai bridge here- http://www.enidhi.net/2014/01/river-kwai-bridge-festival-sound-light.html

P.S.- I was riding across northern Thailand with Ride Thailand on an invite from Tourism Authority of Thailand.

35 comments:

  1. Thanks for this lovely post. Firstly the name Kanchanaburi sounds more a name from East India like Jalpaiguri or something. Thanks for sharing amazing information and incredible pics of River Kwai, the bridge on it, the illuminations at night & finally the temple tigers. I remember seeing the movie "Bridge on the River Kwai" when I was in school(early 1960's). The tigers appear totally domesticated and completely friendly like dogs.

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    Replies
    1. Glad you liked it. They have quite a few places with similar names. Suphanburi is another. The movie is quite a famous one. :)

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  2. nice to see your work, hope it will get more here is my blog for visitors
    http://www.photobagh.blogspot.com
    see for amazing pictures with detail of picture,

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  3. Beautiful clicks , very informative blog. Really enjoyed reading it

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  4. Amazing pictures and the city looks beautiful during the day as well as night.I missed this place on my last visit ...have to add it to my list :)

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    Replies
    1. Glad you liked it. Head there next time you are in Thailand.

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  5. Very nice post there...
    Wonderful photographs :)

    http://cerebralrendezvous.blogspot.in/2013/12/parenting-desires-5-special-gifts-for.html

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  6. Wonderful set of unique images.

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  7. Replies
    1. Yeah, quite a few things to do at this lovely quaint town.

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  8. Brilliant Capture Niranjan, keeping more such travelogue Good Luck !

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  9. Good write up. This was the most interesting place in our trip. I am planning multiple posts around it

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    1. Thank you, Shrinidhi. Yeah, definitely an interesting place. Looking forward to your write ups.

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  10. Lovely Niranjan! Nice to learn about this.
    Had heard of 'Kwai'! Now saw the pics! :)

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  11. Great! Petting a tiger is nice experience huh?

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    1. It definitely is an exciting experience. :)

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  12. Surely a must visit though sad to see the tigers leashed :)

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  13. Wish you and yours a brilliant 2014!!

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    Replies
    1. Thank you and wish you the same. Tigers are leashed only as a precautionary measure.

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  14. Nice one Niranjan. There are too many sentiments attached to this place, right? War, death, sacrifice, torture....Must have been an emotional journey for you too. I always get emotional when I visit war cemeteries seeing all those young men laid to rest in a foreign country.

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    1. Thank you, Malini. Yeah, the place has a lot of sentiments attached to it. It takes you back to those torrid times of war.

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  15. Wow! that's a beautiful looking place and there's so much History attached to it. Those tigers in the sanctuary look gorgeous.
    Love those waterfront houses!

    Nice reading. :)

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    Replies
    1. Glad you liked it, Divya. It is a beautiful town laced with history.

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  16. Excellent Photography,Visual Delight, Article is certainly Heart Touching for the readers on Travel and Tourism.

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