I can’t remember how many times I have seen the film The Bridge on the River Kwai but it wasn’t until today that I had a real understanding of the Death Railway.
The plan was simple; take 30 minute taxi to catch the 7:50 train from Bangkok to Kanchanburi/Namtok (about 2 hours train ride). Walk over the Bridge on the River Kwai whistling the theme song from the movie. Try and see as much as possible before the 2:30 return train. Be back in the city for an early dinner, a massage and bed.
Let’s start by saying Bangkok’s traffic and transportation systems sucks! What should have been a 30 minute taxi ride to the train station was over an hour. I arrived at the station 15 minutes after the scheduled departure time. My taxi driver kept saying “no problem – no problem, Thailand train always late…” turned out he was correct. I made my train and then sat for another 30 minutes before we started moving. We managed to lose another hour along the way, but I would not have traded my 3rd class, open air, hard bench, $3 ticket experience for any other mode of transportation – Going to see the bridge over the river Kwai and the death railway that 13,000 allied prisoners and some 80,000 Asian laborers died building by car or bus is just wrong. Although, I might have traded it for the Eastern & Oriental Express train we passed along the way!
I arrived at the Bridge, around 12:30 and no one could tell me when the return train would be? So with no time restrictions I grab some fried bananas at one of the cafe’s (AKA an old lady on the side of the street) hired a pickup truck with two benches and a roof in the back for the hour drive to Hellfire Pass (Konyu Cutting) after walking the bridge over the river Kwai and yes whistling.
After a nap in the back of the pickup I walked a stretch of the 7km track bed through the Hellfire Pass a very moving and highly recommended experience!
Interesting fact for you Jake: The Bridge over the River Kwai actually crosses the Mae Khlung River not the river Kwai as portrayed in the movie. After the release of the movie the Thais renamed the section of the river under the now infamous Bridge to help all the tourists. You have to love Hollywood?
Small problem – I missed the only train back – No problem I boarded a bus for the 2 hour trip back to the city. The bus was air-conditioned and had a movie and only $3 – I was all set. Well the movie was some guy singing in Thai that played through shitty speakers for the whole ride and the air condition leaked water on the seat next to me. I was in the second to last row and was bounced around like a James Bond martini. Eventually I faded off to sleep and woke 2.5 hours into the 2 hour bus ride and had no idea where I was. Final I was told to get off the bus (after 3 hours) at some place NOT in the city of Bangkok? Eventually I found a taxi that drove me to Bangkok’s China Town; it was now 11:00. I did have a great dinner of large grilled blue-tinted shrimp one very large beer before finally making it back to my hotel.