Friday, 7 October 2011

A pictorial tour to Thailand with final destination-Kanchanaburi's Death Railway

                                    Bridge Over River Kwai/Kwae
These two ladies tried to sell us tickets for sexy show at Hadyai  but we bought overnight bus tickets to Bangkok from them instead. It's expensive at RM88 one way per person. We might have been overcharged. The 11 hrs ride came with a simple dinner.

Hadyai City's chaotic streets & buildings as seen from higher ground
Upon arrival at Hadyai I played a round of tennis with these two guys. Apa nama? Too difficult to remember their Thai names.
                                            Top rated Lee Garden Hotel
Saw this portrait of King Bhumibol Adulyadej & Queen Sirikit in their younger days when they were in Switzerland, at a small shop selling picture frames.
I couldn't let go this one week old puppy, it was so cute.
                                           The bus interior was okay
               This was the so-called VIP bus that took us to Bangkok
                  Double decked buses at North Terminal to Bangkok
Met these two Japanese girls at the SkyTrain station at Chong Nonsi. My smattering spoken Japanese came in helpful.
Chao Phraya is quite muddy during hightides and when it is raining
                   A long luxurious boat catered for Western tourists
A creative horticulturist designed this masterpiece of gardening at the perimeter of the Royal Palace

             The notorious red light zone of Patpong                                 
The iconic Wat Arun-Temple of the Dawn
by the riverside of  Chao Phraya

In the final days of December 2004, I invited my good chum SP Chong to keep me company to visit Thailand by means of road travels instead of the conventional flying since we both had just retired, we would have ample time to do our sightseeing at our leisure and pace. Chong readily accepted and we were off for an 8 days tour of Thailand that took us to Hadyai, Bangkok, Kanchanaburi, Surat Thani, and Koh Samui and back. We traveled over a distance of more than 2,600 km both ways when we ended our journey.

                          Looking down the terrain with the river below
                              sends a chilling feeling down your spine
       The interior finishing & fitting of the train coach are mainly wooden. 
By overnight bus ride from Kuala Lumpur we reached Hadyai in the morning after clearing the customs and immigration check points. The next day in the evening we left for Bangkok, more than 900km away by bus (toll free all the way). We put up a night’s stay in one budget hotel (TB700-rather expensive but it is right in the heartland of Bangkok) and promptly arranged a tour to Kanchanaburi’s Death Railway, 120km from Bangkok City. We had another night stay in Bangkok before leaving for Surat Thani, aiming for Koh Samui. The double decked coach left us by the road side of the highway at 4am in the morning before it continued its journey to Phuket Island with 28 Norwegian young ladies-they were going to Phi Phi Island for their undersea diving rendezvous. Inside a hut by the roadside ran a travel agency which arranged us a tour of Surat Thani and subsequently Koh Samui. The Thai lady boss named 'Toto', a fat lady who spoke Italian (married and divorced from her Italian husband many years ago) charged us TB 2800 for two for the tour of Koh Samui and the ferry ride to and fro the scenic resort island with lunch. We put up a night at the upper floor of her agency office in Surat Thani with dormitory beds and mosquito nettings (FOC!). The agency arranged a van to bring us back to Hadyai the next day (It was Christmas Day), more than 400km away, before we continued our trip home. It was a tremendously disastrous day when we woke up from our Hadyai Hotel; the epoch making Tsunami December 26th 2004 hit Thailand relentlessly together with 9 other countries. A total of more than 200,000 lives perished in 2 hours. I wondered those golden haired Scandinavian girls survived their ordeal when they went undersea scuba diving around Phi Phi Island. I read from the papers the next day to know that 200 Scandinavians were not accounted for when Tsunami occurred near Phi Phi Island. For our 8 days tour, we spent approximately RM800 each for our memorable trip to Thailand.

Kanchanaburi Death Railway a.k.a. Burma Railway a.k.a. Thailand-Burma Railway a.k.a. Bangkok-Rangoon Railway

                       A replica of the huts that housed the forced laboured POWs
                      was built for display at The JEATH War Museum (JEATH-
                      Japan, England, Australia & America, Thailand, Holland.) 
   Picture depicted Japanese Kempeitai 憲兵隊 soldiers watching over the
                     POWs carrying tools and materials to the work site

                        Head down, unexploded? No worry, it's just a dummy

Memorial plaque in memories of 3,000+ Royal Dutch  POWs who perished during the period  of building the Death Railway.
There are about 7,000 graves of Commonwealth servicemen (5,084)
and Dutch soldiers (1,896) at Kanchanaburi's Don-Rak War Cemetery
A group of Australian students and their teachers paid tribute to their countrymen who lost their lives here
The cemetery is managed by Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Among the graves this blossoming lily plant caught my attention
                        The students observed a moment of silence
A British soldier's grave stone. S. Whittaker was 30 when he died
We did not take the elephant ride as it was smelly there. The baby elephant was dancing to the beat of a boisterous music.
                       Bangkok is not devoid of highrise buildings
A giant-sized poster of Queen Sirikit - Thai people revere their royal family with feverish admiration
              Bangkok's Hua Lamphong Railway Station - The interior
This long haired man was not happy when I took the picture of his baby, despite I asked permission. His child on the other hand was smiling and looking adorable.
Hua Lamphong Railway Station's main entrance-We boarded a bus near the station for Surat Thani & Koh Samui 
With the introduction of MRT-SkyTrains, Bangkok's perennial traffic jam seems to have eased.
                                              Volvo vintage car at display
                       Expensive 5 star-rated hotels are everywhere

The Death Railway was constructed by the invading Japanese Kempeitai Imperial Army using forced labour to support its defence line to transport its supplies for its warring activities in Burma which they had occupied after defeating the British. It was a 415km long rail road intended to stretch from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi (120km from Bangkok) and further into Burma’s capital city of Rangoon. Some 200,000 Asian forced labourers from Malaya, Singapore, Indonesia, Burma, Thailand and India were sent to the project sites under wretched and destitute condition to work 18 hours of hard labour everyday. Another 60,000 Allied (The British, Australian, New Zealander, Dutch, American, and Canadian) captured Prisoners of War were there too to toil day and night. The construction was carried out during June 1942 to Oct 1943. Of these 90,000-100,000 Asians and about 16,000 Allied POWs died as a direct result of this rail project. Many were practically beaten to death or shot in their bid to escape. Many more died of tropical diseases of Malaria, Dysentery, and Cholera; also malnutrition, starvation and exhaustion. Survivors of these appalling living conditions were relieved when the war ended but they were mainly skeletal in their looks and they walked like zombies. 

Although that was just a dummy, but the effect is tantalizing
The War Museum is located within Wat Chai Chumphon temple compound

After the war the final part of the rail tracks (Beyond Nam Tok Sai Yok Noi, North of Kanchanburi) were removed by Thai government for laying tracks elsewhere, and quite a large part of other tracks of the notorious Death Railway were submerged in water during floods. A completed dam project also flooded some distance of the rail track too.

                               Right on target but not exploded
                         Which one you choose to be hit?
                         Seated between two devastating bombs
                          Bombs, more bombs, all rusty shells
Statues of ancient traditional Thai armed warriors
An arsenal of military weaponry of riffles, guns, pistols and swords etc are on permanent display at the War Museum
And lots of morbid pictures of atrocities. Chong seemed to be unfazed.
Peace had returned to River Kwai more than 60 yrs ago
Tourists and Thai pedestrains walked leisurely all over the Bridge, not conerned with train coming their direction. We too crossed it at our pace.
Money making minded Thai people built a number of floating restaurants here.
While crossing the bridge, you'll have the few span platforms built at the sides of the rail track for you to seek refuge when the train comes.
The colorful fast running boat ferries tourists for lunch after a cruise
Here comes the train, it moves very slowly 'cos there're lots of people on the track.
The Memorial Wall with inscription near the Death Railway tells the history of the Burma Railway. 
The rail line follows the contour of the hill
as well as the river's meandering
Peaceful, quiet and rustic ambience-Those are river houses.
The rail track laid more than 60 yrs ago is still reliable. The tour included a ride on the train to the village some 15km away and back.
William Holden & Alec Guinness played the key roles in this touching movie.

Though there were talks since 1990s about rebuilding the full rail line into Burma, now Myanmar, (This nation is not very friendly with Thailand anyway, they were warring and feuding enemies since umpteen years) but surveyors claimed that lots of tunneling through the mountains and terrains were needed to carry out in order for the dream to come true - so it remained a dream. Funny though, I read from the Death Railway Memorial Wall erected near the tiny railway station where detailed history was inscribed there. It was stated that after the war, the British government ‘sold’ the Death Railway to Thailand for $1 million! (US$ or British Sterling Pound, or Thai Bahts - not stated). The railway tracks were laid in Thai soil by Japanese army with forced Asian labourers and Allied POWs, with some steel rails stripped, scandalized and taken by the Japanese from Malayan Peninsula. So what right had the British had to demand $1million from the Thai government? “You want money? Go ask the Japanese!” our Thai tour guide Miss Dara was jumping with rage and vehement indignation as she pointed at the lines of inscription to me.

             Large transport goods boat docked at Surat Thani Quay
Wide-bodied with multi decks, well-designed and good looking ferry that brought us to Koh Samui 
Top deck of the ferry-it is definitely more comfortable than the ferries plying the sea-route to Langkawi.
Surat Thani as viewed from the ferry leaving for Koh Samui
                Miniature fowls feeding on corns thrown at them.
           The popular Golden Buddha Temple of Koh Samui
The statue of a topless woman is definitely a taboo in islamic Malaysia
                      Blue sky, calm sea, this is an island paradise
Such tranquility, clean, fresh air, with serene backdrop of Gulf of Thailand, so enchanting-This is what  Koh Samui offers.
     Father, child and mother rocks watching over the horizon
                     The tide brought in sea water into this shallow pool
Soap carving- ingenious craft but she got no customer, yet she kept on smiling
                            NamTok NaMuang waterfall of Koh Samui
                                    This Toyota Wish brought us round the island
Neat and tidy, well-designed T-shaped jetty where ferries will dock. Cars can drive in directly.
          Viewed of the T-shaped jetty from the opposite direction
                                            Back to Surat Thani-It's a hive
                                           of activities at quay/Jetty area     
                                 Going to school for this girl            
The cook cum driver of this restaurant-cum-hotel-cum-travel agency looked like a fearsome pirate, but he's actually a nice fellow.

I had a session of tennis with my good friend Sombat at Jiran Nakorn Stadium & Spots Complex, about 3km from Hadyai City before leaving for  Malaysia. Sombat had been a school teacher and a tennis coach at the sports complex. He always led groups of Thai school children below 12 to come to Kangar, Perlis for Tennis competitions.  They had been winning medals under his coaching. Unfortunately the following years  I couldn't contact him   anymore; according  to his wife who sold hotdogs and sausages near the stadium, he was  gravely ill. Due to language and communication obstacles,  I couldn't get more details.                              
 Alan CY Kok   
The date of pics had been obliterated
because it was erroneously set in the camera.     


  1. A real picture for the death railway for the second world war in Thailand Burma . It really catch the attention of the world.

  2. I wish my friends had the time to have lunch with me on a weekday...krabi hotels and resorts really pretty.

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