Day 20, Kanchanaburi to River Kwai

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We began the day with a somber visit to learn about how the 255 mile long Thai-Burma railroad was built during WW II. First we quietly walked through the Kachanaburi War Cemetery which holds the graves of 7,000 Allied soldiers, primarily from England, Australia and the Netherlands.

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While we were there, a group from the Netherlands was holding their annual commemoration of the lives lost.

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This museum next to the cemetery does an excellent job of telling the painful story of Allied Prisoners of War and conscripted Asians who were forced to build the railroad in harsh conditions and with little food.

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The railway was a priority of the Japanese Army, so the Army could get goods across land rather than by sea where Allied forces could more easily bomb them. The Japanese army converted these trucks to go by rail or by the road. They built little huts on the back to camouflage them so they looked like Thai houses.

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Japanese train engine and cars.

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Twenty eight workers and their belongings would be crammed into these cars for the five day ride to the railroad construction site.  They were fed little, had no or few breaks, and had to stand all the way.

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The Japanese Army wanted the track built in a hurry.  It was started in April 1942 and was completed the following year. It was all done by hand. Here are a variety of spikes used.

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One soldier pushing a huge cart of gravel.

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The famous “bridge over the River Kwai.” The first bridge built by the POWs was wooden, then the Japanese Army abandoned that bridge to build an iron one. Allied forces repeatedly bombed the iron bridge.

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This is the bomb invented by the Americans that could be guided. After 1,100 unsuccessful attempts, four of these bombs accurately destroyed the steel bridge.

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Today the steel bridge over the river has been reconstructed as part of Japanese war reparations.  Tourists can walk out on the bridge in between train trips leaving the nearby station.

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We boarded this train for a ride on the Death Railway, as it is called today.

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It was hot and sunny! Gregory improvised with a bandana to protect his head.

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Views from the train ride along the river.

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Spectacular views of mountains, farms and homes.

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The train slowed so we could look back to see the wooden trestles supporting the track.

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We all disembarked for a closer look.

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Here are the wooden trestles noted earlier.

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There was a cave along the track with a Buddha in it. Tourists milled about and Buddhists payed homage.

The restaurant staff were preparing an International Buffet. The most international item we noticed was spaghetti with pasta Bolognese!

MJ and this young entrepreneur recognize each other at the restaurant! She took photos of every couple on the train, then made laminated “train tickets” with the photo, some scenic shots and a train ticket. Barb and MJ both supported her clever work by purchasing the meaningful souvenir.

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Nature-inspired urinals greeted the men at the restaurant bathrooms!

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We then rode our bikes to our Royal River Kwai Resort. Three riders defected from all or part of the day’s ride. It gets super hot in the afternoon, and the last big chunk of the ride was up hill.

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There was a nice pool, but we got in late so few were able to enjoy it.

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Our rooms were gorgeous!

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