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The Bridge over the River Kwai

December 7, 2002
Kanchanaburi, Thailand

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On our tourist travels, we often (always?) ride merrily over the tracks of a history of pain and suffering. We tour dungeons in castles and marvel: how could they have thrown prisoners down here to suffer for years and die alone in the dark? We shake our heads and amble through the souvenir shop and back to our rental car, which carries us down to a warm pub.

Rarely is it so recent and clear as on this fun -- yeah, it was fun -- train ride along the River Kwai northwest of Bangkok. The book and movie focus on the bridge, but we are told the real struggle was in chiseling the railroad bed out of rock cliffs, to create a link from Bangkok's ports to the Burmese front where the Japanese were fighting the Brits and Americans.

Thousands of prisoners died to build the link, but now it's a nice afternoon ride for tourists and a ride home for a few hundred school kids, all soaked from running in the warm rain to catch the train.