WAR IN THE TROPICS - WWII SITES IN SOUTH EAST ASIA HISTORY

June 21, 2018

The modern history of South East Asia is a rich blend of native traditions and foreign influence. One of the most profound foreign influences on the native region occurred during the Second World War. The reach of this global conflict touched all parts of the planet, and some of the most ferocious and fascinating fighting happened in South East Asia. With vital shipping ports and resource rich lands, this region proved to be pivotal battleground not just for strategic territory, but raw materials. Throwing native populations into conflict with both foreign invaders and their own neighbours, the jungle landscape was home to fighting that changed the future of the region. Sansara’s Hua Hin location puts history buffs close to some of the most famous locations of this storied period.

The Bridge on The River Kwai, due to the novel by Pierre Boule and the famous film of the same name, is known around the world. This infamous bridge, built by allied POWs during WW2, is in lovely Kanchanaburi. This mountainous natural environment is just three hours outside of Bangkok, or about a four hour drive from Hua Hin. Once there, the bridge itself is open for foot traffic and passing trains. Nearby museums show artefacts from the war, and depict daily life of the prisoners who constructed it. A solemn reminder of their sacrifice can be honoured at nearby Kanchanaburi War Cemetery, where around 7,000 POWs are buried. Some of them died building the Bridge on the River Kwai, while others died while constructing the railway the bridge serviced: the notorious Burmese Death Railway.

The railway earned its name through the brutal discipline, punishment, and torture that forced the allied POWs to work themselves literally to death at the hands of their Japanese captors. Nowhere else is their labor- and the misery they endured while doing it- more clearly on display than the Hellfire Pass Memorial Museum, Just over 50 KM from Kanchanaburi town, it can be reached through a day trip after visiting the Bridge on the River Kwai. And that day is worth it: HPMM has been called by some the best museum in Thailand, and ranks among the top five in Asia by trip advisor.

This haunting site features the towering stone walls that were blasted through by allied POWs using dynamite, shovels, and bare hands, while working in the most appalling conditions imaginable. But far from a depressing experience, the museum shines with the light of human resilience and brotherly comradeship. Soldiers gave their lives to help each other survive, and their remarkable, heroic stories are told through audio guides and an excellent array of informative materials in the museum.

Reading history is one thing. Being there where that history happened is an incredibly powerful experience. Sansara puts residents-and any friends or family who visit-within driving distance of one of the most moving war memorials ever built. Because this history is so rich, and the now peaceful landscape so beautiful, repeat visits reveal more chances to learn and explore. Through Sansara’s community creators, we’ll help residents put together tour groups, help them join others, or see that their individual plans are well sorted and organized.