The old train rumbled through the countryside, a rhythmic beat creating the soundtrack to our journey.
We were on the Burma Railway, known as the Death Railway on account of the brutal conditions endures by those who helped build it. POWs from allied countries (particularly Australia, The Netherlands, America and Great Britain) along with Asian labourers, were forced to slave away in brutal conditions to clear dense jungle, cut through mountains, build bridges and lay tracks.
While the area is famous for the Bridge over the River Kwai, there was so much more to the experience. The Wampo Viaduct, whose wooden struts cling to the cliff side for dear life. The acres of countryside, melting from farming land to tree covered mountainous lumps. The other passengers on the train, friendly, fascinated and faces full of smiles.
At the end of our rail journey lay the Hellfire Pass, one of the most brutal sections of the train line during construction. The train stops well before this section, now preserved by combined Thai and Australian efforts, as a memorial to those who slaved and perished.
It is both a beautiful and haunting place. For those unfamiliar with the history, a series of exhibits, accounts by survivors and photographs help to paint a very bleak picture. POWs toiled away carving out the mountain side, sometimes round the clock, with primitive tools and little nutrition. Walking through the pass itself is a very humbling experience. Eerily quiet, the cutting looms large overhead, ready to swallow you up. Little memorials lie here and there, left by the relations of those who perished there. One a place of suffering, it now spreads messages of peace.