I first visited the remarkable Thai city of Bangkok in the year 1985. I was a member of an Australian FACE troop (Forces advisory committee on Entertainment.) sent by the Australian Government to entertain Australian and NATO troupes stationed in Thailand. My assistant was a very beautiful 18 year old Australian dancer called Elizabeth who was making her first trip overseas. Boy was she in for a shock!
Thailand is an amazing place, unique in so many ways; Sex trade capital of the world, the Chao River with its rice barges heading to the inner port, three wheeled Samlors, or Tuk-Tuks as they are known battle for fares amongst the thousands of office workers and tourists. And of course on the Patpong the young ladies of the night prepare to meet their prospective clients in bars and go-go establishments throughout the city.
In front of the Grand Palace, a huge park, Pramane Ground, plays host to the thousands of Kite fliers against the gold-spires backdrop of the Palace.
Mostly known for its nightlife, there is so much more to this remarkable city.
If you are adventurous, this is a food lover’s paradise. There are restaurants that cater for almost every taste from Chinese feasts to Seafood banquets. Noodle shops, open air restaurants, floating restaurants, the list is endless. Bring an oral fire extinguisher as the Thai food is extremely hot!
As an archaeologist, my quest lay in a different direction – apart from the most beautiful temples and historic monuments, an hour’s drive from the city of Bangkok there is a unique archaeological site known to very few.
Some of you may be old enough to remember an award winning movie called “Bridge over the River Kwai” starring the now deceased superstar Alex Guinness. The movie told the amazing true story of a group of world war II prisoners captured by the Japanese and forced to construct a railway bridge across the River Kwai”. It was truly a remarkable film made even more so by the fact that it was true. What was not known was that one of the prisoners was an archaeologist and in the course of their escape tunneling activities discovered an unknown archaeological site. He made no mention of his find to his captors and it had little interest to his fellow prisoners and remained his secret until their release.
It was to this site of the “Death Railway” that I headed.
The Burma – Thailand Railway is approximately 250 miles long and stretches between Bangkok and Rangoon Burma (Now Myanmar) and its nickname of the “Death Railway” was well deserved! Historic documents show over 180,000 Asian laborers worked alongside some 60,000 allied prisoners of war.
Over half the Asians died and some 16,000 prisoners of war perished at the hands of the Japanese in the construction of the bridge under what can only be described as horrific conditions.
An exciting part of my day’s excursion was a trip (Mercedes limo and all) on a Bamboo raft up the river and under the bridge. Our return trip to Bangkok included a stop at one of three cemeteries that contain the remains of these heroic veterans. It was an unbelievable and very moving experience.
Perhaps one of the most important travel tips I can share with you is to look beyond the ‘tourist’ traps and explore the oft hidden secrets of your intended destination.
For more on this exciting destination visit: http://www.diggerhistory.info/pages-battles/ww2/kwai.htm
Enjoy your Travels and Explorations.
Dr. Peter J. Shield PhD (http://worldofunexplainedmysteries.com )