Kanchanaburi


Bridge on the River Kwai - Arrival

 
 

Wantanee, Tim and Mark visit the bridge over the river Kwai in Kanchanaburi and contemplate their first impressions of the site and how their expectations differed to the reality. The group consider how the Hollywood movie ‘Bridge over the River Kwai’ encouraged Western tourists to visit the site for popular culture reasons, and how in turn this shaped the way locals developed the site and the surrounding area for tourism purposes.


Bridge on the River Kwai - 'Sunset at Chaophraya'

 

Mark and Wantanee reflect on how the recent Thai film ‘Sunset at Chaophraya’ has influenced domestic tourists’ interpretation of the site and how the memory of war fits into this experience, if at all. To conclude, they discuss the annual festival that occurs at Kanchanaburi each year to celebrate the end of World War II and the role both films ('Bridge over the River Kwai' and 'Sunset at Chaophraya') play within the festival sound and light show.

 

Kanchanaburi Day Two - Part One

 
 

Mark and Tim reflect on how the focus for tourists at Kanchanaburi has changed over time – beginning in the 1970s with Western tourists visiting after watching the film, ‘Bridge on the River Kwai’, to present day domestic tourists visiting for a relaxing weekend away from the city. This shift is further analysed by Mark and Tim as they discuss how the heritage industry in Southeast Asia has moved on from antiquities and monuments onto industrial sites – in the case of Kanchanaburi, railway heritage and steam trains are the main drawcard to the bridge, not so much the history of the ‘Death Railway’.


Kanchanaburi Day Two - Part Two

 
 

Wantanee and Tim consider the different narratives been told by the local people of Kanchanaburi and the official academic histories published, in particular reference to the bridge. Further to this they touch upon the history of the Chinese Temple that overlooks the river Kwai and discuss the reasoning’s for its construction at that location.

*For more information about the controversy surrounding the Buddhist Statue on the river, read: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/thailand/6118331/Calls-to-remove-Buddhist-statue-from-Bridge-on-the-River-Kwai.html


World War II and JEATH War Museum Reflections

 
 

Mark, Wantanee and Tim contemplate their visit to the World War II and JEATH War Museum and analyse the various themes on display and more traditional approach to showcasing collections. Standing in front of the Thaiyanusom Monument, the trio discuss how the structure is now a site of annual reconciliation ceremonies and highlight its uniqueness in representing Asian war memory, as opposed to the more common Eurocentric approach.


Kanchanaburi and Hellfire Pass Reflections - Part One

 
 

Wantanee, Mark and Tim reflect on their visit to Kanchanaburi and how the formation of memory has differed between different nationalities and groups of visitors and in turn, how these memories have shaped the narratives that are told at the site in the present day. Further to this, they discuss the ways in which popular culture, in particular the Thai film ‘Sunset at Chaophraya’, has influenced domestic tourists’ interpretation of Kanchanaburi and Thailand’s involvement in World War II. Finally, Wantanee explains how domestic tourism has been strongly encouraged by the Thai Government in an effort to stimulate economic growth. As a result, Wantanee explains, Kanchanaburi is a very popular site for local Thai tourists, however the bridge and associated military history are not the focus of these visits.


Kanchanaburi and Hellfire Pass Reflections - Part Two

 
 

Tim, Mark and Wantanee analyse how the landscape surrounding the bridge invokes a sense of nostalgia for a simpler time. Linked to this sense of simplicity is the idea of industrial heritage and a nostalgia for steam trains – a concept that has possibly overshadowed war heritage to become the leading symbol of the bridge site. Lastly, the trio analyse the ways that World War II in Thailand now ties into a present day longing for simplicity and revisiting a sense of ‘Thai-ness’ – something Kanachanaburi may represent to local domestic tourists.


Kanchanaburi and Hellfire Pass Reflections - Part Three

 
 

Mark explains his research into peace pilgrimage activists visiting Kanchanaburi, in particular Takashe Nagase, and reflects on whether the Japanese tourists visiting the peace temples today understand the military significance of the site. Mark, Wantanee and Tim further discuss how Thailand has become a less problematic space for Japanese tourists, in terms of war memory, as there is a mutual understanding in Southeast Asia that Japan as a nation positively reshaped their image post World War II by contributing to preservation and industrial projects across the region. The three surmise that as a result, Japanese tourists to Kanchanaburi are viewed in a positive manner, and in turn their experience of the bridge site is not focused on war remembrance.


Kanchanaburi and Hellfire Pass Reflections - Part Four

 
 

Wantanee, Tim and Mark reflect on their visit to the Hellfire Pass Museum and discuss their first impressions of the space and surrounding landscape, in particular the spiritual experience it evokes. Following on, they discuss the inclusion of the Romusha (conscripted Asian Labourers) and their role in World War II, in the exhibition interpretation and analyse the meaning behind both the inclusion and exclusion of their story in other museums and heritage spaces in Southeast Asia. Finally, the group consider the academic interpretation of the site and how in particular, the Pacific theatre of World War II still holds so much significance to Australians.


Kanchanaburi and Hellfire Pass Reflections - Part Five

 
 

Tim, Mark and Wantanee question the overarching ‘Australianess’ attached to Hellfire Pass and debate whether domestic Asian tourists to the site understand the history and interpretation of events on display. The selfie revolution is touched upon and the trio debate whether social media has significantly influenced the way people view and act within places of trauma and pain. In conclusion, they discuss how local Australian politics still influence the narrative that surrounds the site, regardless of it being located on foreign land, and moreso, how political parties tend to use this narrative to push their own political agenda back at home.