After Bangkok David and I headed west to Kanchanaburi, a town known for its role in WWII, where the Japanese used POW’s and Asian laborers to build a railroad from Thailand to Burma that would supply their troops with enough food and supplies in Japan’s effort to siege India. We splurged on our first organized group tour, led by the eccentric Ana who immediately started off the tour with poop jokes that had me laughing until I cried, as well as speaking in her broken English in the most serious and strange way – after every sentence looking everyone in the eye and saying, “Yeah? Uh huh…”

David and I at the waterfall outside of Kanchanaburi

Our first stop was a pretty unspectacular waterfall that shared the same area with an old WWII train and dozens of food stalls selling various styles of banana and yucca chips. We then took an hour long minibus ride to Hellfire Pass, a museum and world heritage site that documents the history and the horrors that came from the construction of the railroad line from Thailand to Burma. Although there were dozens of POW camps around Southeast Asia and many in Thailand, this area that lies about 45 km from Burma was known as being particularly gruesome and got it’s name from the ghoulish scenes of emaciated POW’s carving away the mountainside, their bodies lit only by the makeshift bamboo lamps in the dead of night. The carving of the mountainside to make way for the railroad as well as the actual construction of the rail and the many bridges that are found along the way was all done by hand with simple tools by men who wore little clothing and no shoes.

Hellfire Pass and a remnant of the original railroad which was later destroyed by the Australian army after the war.

WWII bridge and rail still in use today.










Dav and I were stunned that neither of us had ever heard of this rail line of the many POW camps that resembled the Holocaust. Emaciated bodies, foot and leg ulcers, cholera epidemics, malaria, beri beri, dysentary, and the origin of the word “jap happy” – coined from a sort of loincloth that the POW’s invented when their own clothes had rotted away from the jungle environment.

Hanging with Kat










On a lighter note…After our sobering history lesson, we had a quick lunch of Thai food at a local restaurant and then headed to a small village where David and I had the time of our lives riding elephants followed by a ride down the river in a bamboo raft. The elephants were mother and daughter – Manush aged 45, and Kat aged 21. I rode on Kat’s head through the jungle and through streams with her large ears slapping against my legs. When she peed, it looked like she had got rid of ten gallons of liquid. It was all quite an experience.

Manush and I staring deep into eachother's eyes.

After the bamboo ride down the river we started making our way back to Kanchanaburi, not before taking a train ride along the original WWII rail line and seeing the bridge over the River Kwai that had been bombed various times by the allied armies. It was a fun, full day, and we were utterly exhausted when we finally make it back to our hotel. Alas, we still had enough energy for dinner and dancing the night away with a fellow Emersonian of Dave’s and his friend from Philly. Small world, eh?