Bamboo Heart Inspirations 1988 SE Asia Trip: Kanchanaburi Part 2
It is a while since I had time to do any posts to my Bamboo Heart insprations blog. Here are some more photos from the Kanchanaburi sections of my 1988 trip with my mum. First up are the ones from the photo gallery on my website. You’ve might have seen all these before..
We went to see the Bridge on the River Kwai of course – a boatman took us on a longtail boat up the river from our hut and we sped right underneath the bridge. We also visited the war cemeteries and went to the only museum that was there at the time to document the building of the railway- the JEATH museum (which I renamed as the Death Museum in Bamboo Heart – I thought JEATH was a bit confusing). I wrote about it in my diary ‘v interesting – if disturbing. Explained a lot about the building of the Death Railway. The prison camps (it was constructed like one) the living conditions – horrors of illness, disease torture and slave labour. Somehow in the heat and the jungle you can appreciate more of what it was like. Loads of photos of POWs and the railway – maps, plans and articles. Most harrowing of all were the accounts by the men themselves and the artists impressions. I felt rather stunned and sickened by it all.‘
This vehicle was near the bridge on the river Kwai in 1988. I don’t remember noticing whether it was still there in 2010 when I visited again with my eldest son, Ollie. This is what I wrote about it in 1988:‘Saw the old railway engines they had on display – most interesting was the converted truck they used to build it. It had been a road lorry and they’d simply put the chassis on top of the railway wheels, and it could be converted back to road use at any time. It was really battered and old-looking, and with half closed eyes you could see it chugging up the railway through the jungle, or pampas loaded with half-starved men and their tools.’
We also did a lot of travelling around the province by bus, visiting the Erewan Falls and Sai Yok National park. The region is wild and beautiful, craggy hills covered in jungles, lakes, waterfalls.
Mum under an enormous teak tree near Kancnahaburi 1988
The teak forests in Sai Yok National park in Kanchanaburi province were felled for sleepers on the Death Railway, but the forests were replanted in the 1950s.
Wat Tham Khao Pun, Kanchanaburi
This is us at cave temple near Kanchanaburi – I have scribbled Wat Tham Khao Pun on the back of the photo. More details about the cave temple from Lonely Planet here .It is quite near Chungkai camp, where my Dad was imprisoned for several months between December 1943 and June 1944 (link to my website page for more details) .Chungkai camp also is the main setting for the railway scenes in Bamboo Heart.
Not quite sure why Mum was wearing ankle socks in this photo! Maybe she had blisters? Can’t quite fathom that one. My diary doesn’t say much about the caves …’crossed the river by ferry and were driven through the baking hot countryside towards the hills. Then walked up to a cave temple. It was lovely and cool inside and you could walk a long way down the corridors and passageways. Really weird rock shapes and every so often a Buddha in a cavern...’
Caves near Kanchanaburi 1988
One day we took a train from Kanchanaburi on the railway to as far as it went at Nam Tok. I used passages from my diary about that day for the trip Laura and Luke take in Bamboo Heart. I will type them out in full and include a link to them from my website, but here’s a small section: ‘up to the station to catch the Kwai train. It arrived about half an hour late. Only 3rd class tickets available and the carriage was very bare – painted brown with old-fashioned adverts on the walls and wooden seats. The windows were wide open and we got a good view of the countryside. Miles of paddy fields, cassava plantations, bananas, then jungle encroaching.
Crossed the Kwai bridge, then trundled across the plains towards Burma, following the valley of the Kwai river. The valley narrowed and went between two cliff faces. The railway had been blasted and chipped out along here. Then the train slowed right down and we began to cross a ledge built of wood and raised on stilts above the river. It was about half a mile long. Quite hair-raising…
Next time I will blog about our adventures in southern Thailand, including in Phuket where we stayed in the On-On hotel (years later used as the set for the dive of a guesthouse in the Khao San road in the film of the Beach)…