Brigid, our 14-year-old, Bella, and I spent two hours on a local bus to Kanchanaburi today, to the North West of Bangkok, to visit the site of the famous River Kwai bridge, as mythologized, not altogether accurately in the 1957 movie.
For all the tackiness of the surroundings of the actual bridge, which sits amongst countless souvenir stalls, people with very sad looking tigers and leopards (100 baht to sit next to them for a photo, poor bloody things), it is something humbling to see. The most bizarre part of it was a young, quite clearly Japanese, girl, selling “Death Railway” postcards. Odd.
In the centre of the town sits Kanchanaburi Cemetery, where many, just under 7,000, of those who died on the Death Railway are interred (or at least the Commonwealth dead – the graves of some 270,000 Asian forced labourers are mostly unknown).
And you wonder again, despite everything you have read and seen on screen and paper, when confronted with the awful reality of it all, about the horror and pointlessness of what humans, mostly men, do to each other, century after century.
Nothing I could write here could express more than the images below, and most especially, some of the very sad and poignant messages from home on the grave markers: