The purpose of my trip to Kanchanaburi was for a spot of history geekery.
Tomorrow is going to be the full day for that, I know the pub quiz fans will be looking forward to that but today’s wandering around included a stroll to see the bridge that goes across the river that is called Kwai.
“So, the Bridge on the River Kwai?” you ask.
Yeah, but no.
The story of the Bridge was a fictionalised account of the building of the Death Railway by Prisoners of War during World War Two.
However there were several bridges and there were many attempts made to sabotage the construction. Concrete was badly mixed. Termites were introduced to wooden structures.
Neither the book nor the film do justice to the horror of the conditions experienced by the men working on the Railway.
A sign close to the bridge I visited today said that for every rail sleeper laid, one man died.
So, there were several bridges and there was actually a bridge crossing a key river – the bridge in the novel and the film was based in this.
It’s just that it never actually crossed the river Kwai. The river had another name. Once this confusion was realised in the 1950s… what to do.
The solution: change the name of the river. Geography rewritten to support a mistake in fiction. Not the first time and it won’t be the last.
And of course, the whole point of The Bridge On the River Kwai was that the bridge was destroyed.
So, yes, I did visit a bridge and it does cross a river Kwai but it’s not the bridge over the river Kwai.
Visitors today don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story… and it is a great story… just we’re commemorating a fictionalised account rather than the actual events.
It’s the Thai equivalent of visiting Juliet’s House in Verona. A house was selected in the 1940s to be labelled the house of Juliet – there is also one for Romeo though not nearly as popular – to support tourism to the area.
And everyone who writes the name of their love on the wall must be shocked when they hear that it is not left for all time… every year, the walls are whitewashed for the ritual to begin afresh.
The looming thunderstorm did eventually clear the crowds.
Kanchanaburi was quiet today and to be honest I was shattered after 24hours travelling from Georgetown. So I didn’t go far, beyond planning the next few days activities.
When the storm burst this afternoon I had the excellent fortune to be trapped in the market at the food court.
Nothing for it but to have lunch and what else but pad thai? There was a man running a stall cooking nothing but pad thai.
It was a step up from the Henry Ford approach to choice – there were two, chicken or pork and I chose the latter.
There might not have been the culinary variety as offered by the other vendors but this guy had got his product perfect and the queues and busy tables rapidly pulled me away from the lady with seven options on the menu.
My only problem was discovering that the coffee shops and stalls were on the other side of the carpark.
While I waited for the rain to ease I admired the local commitment to moped riding in all weathers.