I Love Thailand: River Kwai
Thailand Slide Show, Part 5

©1997-2001 Martin Kraemer
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River Kwai and Death Railway

Actually, it's not pronouned Kwai at all. This river is the /kwAA-/ river (pronounced somewhat like square without the leading 's' and the trailing 'r'...). It it a peaceful calm surrounding with some small hills and green rice fields around. Unfortunately it got a very sad fame after the Japanese erected a POW (prisoner of war) camp here in the '40s where captured soldiers had to build a railway through the jungle all the way to burma. Thousands of soldiers died from tropical diseases. Those who survived told terrible stories about the camps. They called it the Death Railway. The famous River Kwai Bridge was part of this railway track from Thailand to Burma, and because it was so important for providing the japanese invadors with supplies, the Allies bombarded it to cut off the supply line.

Today, in Kanjanaburi, you can still visit the "Jeath Museum" and learn about the facts. Or take a ride on the first kilometers of the old track and have a breathtaking experience when the train passes the old wooden plank construction, seemingly ready to fall down into the river any instant.

On the station, one stop before the wooden "death railway", time passes slowly as the conductor has a little chat before the train continues.

Here we are: The famous Death Railway -- doesn't it look dangerous? It is, as there is almost no steel involved in this "railway bridge".

Take a day off and make a trip down the river with one of the rafts. A great dinner is included, with freshly prepared thai food and fruit. Enjoy watching the cook prepare the dinner: You'll get hungry just from watching (Fingerlickin' Good)!

When you make the raft trip down the river you'll probably stop and watch this beautiful chinese/thai temple complex. A gigantic Buddha statue can be seen from miles away. Watch the incredibly green rice fields (background) from the chinese tower.

At "Loi Krathong", a popular thai holiday celebrated each year in november, it is an old thai custom to put small "banana boats" with incense, a candle and some money on the surface of Mother Water to thank her for providing us with food and plants. These school kids are carefully floating their Krathongs, making a secret wish as they do so. Will Mother Water accept their plea?

In the evening of "Loi Krathong", all the people everywhere in Thailand are out in the streets, celebrating the event and electing "Miss Nopamas" (maybe next year's "Miss Thailand"?).
(Thanks to Puifai for explaining: By the way, River Kwai and Death Railway page, about "Loy Kratong" festival, we (Thais) don't call "Miss Loy Kratong". We call her "Miss Nopamas" (), named after a woman who began "Loy Kratong" tradition in Sukhotai Era.

If you follow the small road east from River Kwai, you'll finally reach Sankhlaburii, a small town close to the burmese border. The clocks seem to run slower here, and in the peaceful countryside you sometimes still see carts like this one, pulled by a buffalo or two.

A monk travels along a dusty country road, close to the Three Pagoda Pass, the border checkpoint between Kanjanaburi and Burma. Buddhist Monks cannot have personal property, except for their clothing, the alm bowl for collecting food in the morning, an umbrella (against sun, not rain, of course), and few other things.

Close to the Burmese border, there is a Mon camp (the Mon are the original population of the area that is today Burma. They were declared "political enemies" by the Burmese military government and had to flee to Thailand in order to survive). This little Mon girl has just fetched water. See how she flies!

©1997-2001 Martin Kraemer
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Please feel free to sign the guest book! Thanks!

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EMail:Martin Kraemer

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