The Bridge over the River Kwai is located in Kanchanaburi. It was built to aid the Japanese in transporting supplies quickly and effectively towards India. The bridge was actually built by the Allied Prisoners of war (POW) and Asian slave labourers under unimaginably awful conditions and as a result 90,000 labourer’s and 16,000 POW died… but this is starting to sound like a history lesson.
Were going to break this blog up in to two sections/perspectives… His and Hers.
I was quite excited about visiting the bridge, I’d seen the movie a few times and I’m quite into the history of WWII. This however was perhaps my downfall… expectation played it’s part I admit but the local authorities and museum could have done better, a whole lot better.
40 Baht is not a lot of cash. Fact. But when you get such a large number of tourists every year, that 40 Baht times the X amount of tourists they receive annually turns into a lot of revenue.
You walk into the lower section of the museum that was barely lit to be greeted by a rock that asks you a question…
This wasn’t the best start to the museum especially after seeing that they were charging to use their toilets as well. So just to put things into perspective, I just paid to get into the museum, fair enough, was then accosted by a scrounging rock that may as well of asked me to “spare some change” and was then asked to pay to use the toilet.
Walking around the museum I immediately imagined that the curators pulled the whole thing together in the space of an hour or so.
“Right! typewriters with the typewriters, over in this room, rifles with the other guns in that room and the bomb shells can be lined up outside this room with the fridge?!”
Perhaps the fridge was also filled with explosives and dropped alongside the shells, I like the thought that the fridge was filled with some beer for those that were still working as the Allied troops bombed the bridge. The fridge may not actually have been involved with the bomb shells at all but there was no sign, label or placard so feel free to make up your own bit of history at this point of the tour.
There was another building that took you through the history of the wars and battles between Thailand and Myanmar (Burma) over the many, many years which displayed the “exhibitional” prowess of the War Museum (but was for all the effort worth a look around) and an art gallery.
The bridge to quote more than a few men we met on our travels “was a little disappointing”. These men were older and far more mature and thought it was important to share what others had said in discussion rather than ramming my own opinion down your throats (that’s for other blogs).
To twist the metaphorical knife I also realised that the “Bridge over the River Kwai” isn’t actually over the River Kwai at all and that it is actually over the River Mae Khlong and I know this as our accommodation, the gorgeous VN guesthouse which was ten minutes upstream… downstream? (I forgot) from the Bridge and when I asked Tod (the guy who worked there) he confirmed it was the River Mae Khlong… and Tod doesn’t lie (I might have googled it).
To be honest I didn’t have any preconceived ideas about what the Bridge over the River Kwai would be like, all I knew was that we were going to see a bridge, so when we arrived at our destination I cannot say that I was disappointed or at all surprised that what we were greeted with was in fact………….. a bridge.
After locking up our bicycles we fought through the thousands of tourists to walk across the bridge and discover what all the fuss was about. Walking across we saw some beautiful views and took some great pictures. There was nothing at all happening on the other side but I was happy enough.
After our short walk we went into the WWII museum, I cannot say I was blown away by it but I did find it very interesting and informative (although slightly distracted by Steve’s constant complaining). The look of the museum was unlike any other museum I have seen before, some of it unfortunately looked like a school project, but I can’t say I agree with Steve’s VM style analysis of the place! In amongst all the very well organised typewriters and other memorabilia were some really interesting artefacts and I was honestly amazed by the amount that was recovered from the War.
Would we recommend the Bridge over the River Kwai?
Despite Steve’s frustration with the museum, we can’t deny that the story is very interesting, we would whole heartedly recommend the place. The best thing you could do is get a train up to Nam Tok “Hellfire pass” it’s a three-hour journey that goes over the actual bridge, the views are spectacular and a good place to meet other people who are doing the same journey.
Word of warning! Hell fire pass is not open over Christmas Eve or Christmas Day and even after calling the tourism board to confirm that it was open, to which it was confirmed, it was actually closed for Christmas… and this is a country that doesn’t even celebrate Christmas…
More importantly we would recommend the Bridge over the River Kwai (cough cough) because then it would mean that you were in Kanchanaburi where you would be having a great time, bridge or no bridge.