Bridge, River Kwai Yai

The Thailand – Burma Railway was built by the Imperial Japanese during the second World War using allied prisoners or war and Asian laborers.  The railway ran 415 km from Ban Pong in Thailand to Thanbuyuzayat Burma, now known as Myanmar since 1989.  Many still prefer to call it Burma.  It is also known as the Death Railway.

I started researching the bridge, railway, and the involved history and quickly realized I could spend months learning enough to be accurate, years to truly understand.  To cover this subject/location with any meaning is beyond the scope of this column.  Instead I’m going to cover it as a first time tourist to the area and give you my initial observations and feelings.

Bridge over River Kwai

My first impression of the bridge was that it was like any tourist area, totally overrun with picture taking tour bus riders with absolutely no interest in the actual history beyond showing their family and friends a few blurry photographs and telling them “I was here..”

Bridge over River Kwai

The bridge was so full of tourists I knew I wouldn’t get the photographs I wanted from this location so I spent the new few hours scouting out a more scenic location where I captured the Feature photograph.

Bridge over River Kwai

I decided early on the best way to capture something so historical was in toned black and white images.  Walking the area we came up with several vantage points that provided decent but not good views.

Bridge over River Kwai

I must say the sky and clouds provided a welcome addition to the scenes.

Bridge over River Kwai

The construction is not unlike many old bridges I’ve seen dotted across America.

Bridge over River Kwai

If you think the throngs of noisy and disrespectful tourists lend a bad flavor to your experience you haven’t seen anything yet.  It seems like every major hotel has “party barges” which assault your ears and senses.

These party barges have huge speakers blaring out the worst karaoke you’ve ever heard, and as they draw close to the bridge the drunken antics of the partiers can be seen from the shore.

Bridge over River Kwai

The abuse continues into the night.  I don’t understand what would motivate people to come all this way to such an important historical site and then spend their time singing in terrible Thai, Korean and Chinese.. getting drunk and shouting and fighting, and generally making supreme asses out of themselves.

I’ll be going back to properly capture the bridge during different times of day, weather, and light.  I see a lot of photographic potential in this location and I must say I was enthralled with the locals in Kanchanaburi and the people I’ve met along the way. 

Next week we’ll visit one of the war cemeteries.