KanchanaBuri & SangklaBuri Trip – Day 3

Day 3 (29 August 2004) KanchanaBuri to SangklaBuri

As I am an early riser, I headed for the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery on the Saeng Chuto Road on a motorcycle. The cemetery contained the remains of 6,982 prisoners of war who perished during the construction of the “Death Railway”. During the Second World War, thousands of forced laborers and Allied prisoners of war suffered and died constructing and maintaining the Burma-Thailand railway.

An air of tranquility exudes in this sacred place

It is sad to note that so many young men gave their lives during the war that had no winners.

The tour van came late. The tour guide, Chan, obviously had more drinks than he could handle the night before. Unshaven and dressed shabbily, I now have doubts whether we would be in good hands for the next 36 hours.

The first stop was at the Hellfire Pass Memorial. The Australian Government constructed the memorial in cooperation with the Government of the Kingdom of Thailand in 1998. Hellfire Pass is a 500 meters long and 26 meters deep section of rock that was dug out by Prisoners of War intended to allow the ‘Death Railway’ to continue its route from Bangkok to Rangoon. Soldiers were forced to remove the rock using no more than picks, hammers and their bare hands. Of the 1,000 Australian and British soldiers who took 12 weeks to clear the stretch of mountain, 700 died.

Hell Fire Pass Memorial Museum

Here I quote the information on one of the plaques of the Hellfire Pass. “The name Hellfire Pass relates to the awesome scene presented at night by the lights from the torches and lamps in the cutting (of the pass)”

A section of the pass which claimed so many lives

The next stop was the Erawan Waterfall, followed by the Sri Nakharin Dam. I managed to climb all the way to the top tier of the waterfall with another teammate, while the rest swam in one of the pools at the lower section.

On arrival at SangklaBuri, we checked into a Guesthouse. Run by SY, a soft-spoken and extremely friendly person, the Guesthouse gave us a sense of staying with friends and family. SangklaBuri is really a nice place to relax

The Guesthouse overlook the lake. Here everything seems to stop

We were transferred to see the Mon village nearby. Taking a motorized boat, we surveyed the coast and the Mon village. There is a Wat that was submerged after the dam was built and the place flooded.

Historical Treasure gives ways to development

Later, we visited a Mon village and tried some of the local food there.

Food here is very much Thai

In the evening, we went to a local eating shop (Ran-Ahan) for dinner. SangklaBuri in the evening is a DEAD quiet place as the streets were dimly lit and the market deserted. We headed back to the Guesthouse after dinner for drinks and chit-chat.

SY is a Mon refugee and besides working in the guesthouse, she volunteered as an interpreter for foreign doctors working in the refugee camps along the Thai border. I was told that the two boy soldiers of God’s Army, a splinter group from the Karen Liberation Army (KNU) were staying near SangklaBuri. It would be interesting to visit them but it could be very dangerous.

Refugees staying near the Thai border are a source of cheap labor for the Thai company operating near the borders. They were not covered by insurance and when they met with an accident, their livelihood will be jeopardized. SY who had a degree from a Burmese University was trying hard to master her English with the only resource she had – an old, torn and heavy Burmese-English dictionary. While some of us, me included, complained how slow the broadband is in downloading, there are people out there without access to basic information. On my return to Malaysia, I subscribed, via Internet, a year of Reader Digest for SY to be sent to the guesthouse. A little kindness brings a lot of happiness, month after month.

While we sat in the nice comfort of the guesthouse coffee house and complained about how lousy the food were in the Ran-ahan in the town, there were people out there in the refugee camp, struggling to get even the basic meal.

More pictures can be seen on page 2…

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