Sassy Girl Hani visits Kanchanaburi in Thailand
I’m a history freak, and for decades I’ve kept a somewhat gruesome and ghastly image about the Death Railway. So when I was bound for Bangkok for a holiday, my husband and I decided to take a day trip to Kanchanaburi to see the Death Railway and River Kwai for ourselves.
My travel agent (in Bangkok), Travel Hub Thailand Tours put together a day-trip itinerary for us and on my third day in Bangkok, we set off for the land of Kanchanaburi.
24 years since the first time I’ve heard the term ‘Death Railway’, I finally paid it a visit. There is really nothing gruesome about the place now, just overwhelming desolation topped with sporadic whiffs of anger. We visited the war cemetery and the Death Railway War Museum and Research Centre. They both exude an overwhelming solemn aura, which is not surprising, considering the sordid past the area witnessed. It was really eye-opening to see items used in the war collected and displayed in the museums from weapons to medical equipment to personal belongings like toothbrush, fork, cups, etc. These are dated more than 70 years back!
However, what disappointed me was how, in my opinion, these places emphasised the sacrifices of the British, Dutch, Australia POWs/Soldiers and underplayed the lives of our Asian/Malayan POWs lost during the building of this Railway. Hundreds of thousands of lives were lost during the Japanese Occupation’s building of this Thai-Burma Railway. Approximately close to 88,000 Malays, Chinese (mainly from Singapore) and Javanese worked on the Death Railway and more than half (about 45,000) died but little information such as pictures and materials are available in the museum. It’s as if they were forgotten.
We also ‘sailed’ through River Kwai in a cute traditional boat before boarding a train that looks right out of the 1950s! Despite the heat, the trip really blasted us to the past. The train’s structure, wooden seat, netted luggage compartment with the occasional snack sellers walking up and down the alley – you could not help but feel you were travelling in the golden age of that era. I will gladly repeat this trip anytime!
Some words of advice: There are countless travel agencies that provide land and day trips out of Bangkok. Please pick one that will cater to your needs and what you want to see. There are many that claim to have ‘everything all in packages’ – from Kanchanaburi, to night markets, tiger temple and red light district. Be careful to think through your itinerary! You do not want to end up rushing through the attractions or having to pay too much.
I have to compliment Travel Hub Thailand Tours for the memorable trip – no fuss, no muss and they’re totally reliable. They not only provided us with a good English-speaking guide and a comfortable ride, but upon knowing that we are Muslims, they offered to drive us to a Halal restaurant in Kanchanaburi for lunch. Lunch is actually included in our package but this is non-halal, so Travel Hub Thailand Tours changed our lunch to a halal one and deducted the lunch fee off our package (as we paid the restaurant directly).
Another point to note when choosing your agents for land trips, please find one that provides GOOD English speaking guides. Having travelled to many ASEAN countries, I have to say the level of understanding and usage of the English language is not as great so it’s important to pick a travel agency that is able to provide good English speaking guides. While at Kanchanaburi, I witnessed an old Caucasian couple struggle to decipher what their guide was saying – hilarious to me but not as much to the couple, so do take note!
For more information on day trips to Kanchanaburi, visit www.travelhubthailandtours.com