Friday, 11 April 2008


In 1988 I visited Kanchana Buri and the River Kwai for the first time.A modern , black steel and stone bridge now spans the river where the old bridge once stood.Nearby is a bustling railway station and trains frequently cross the bridge.The track snakes off into the jungle , towards the exotically named Three Pagodas Pass and Burma.It is a popular destination for tourists and there is a brisk trade in souvenirs.About two hundred yards downriver from the new bridge are the ruins of a smaller wooden supply bridge also built by the prisoners.Only a few pillars and stanchions remain.There are several museums full of war memorabilia of all kinds. Steam locomotives used in the war, stand near the bridge ,bedecked with Japanese flags.There are giant statues of Churchill ,Hitler and Mussolini with potted biographies of each in bad English,for the benefit of the uninformed.There is a gay ,fairground atmosphere, quite out of keeping with the history of the place.There are even ‘genuine’ Second World War steel helmets on sale- although I would not recommend buying them. To say that their authenticity is in doubt would be putting it mildly.