Tours

Thai-Burma Railway

Additional to the tragic war history, the programme is designed to allow time to experience cultural and commercial features of the cities, with the contrast of remote border country, villages and townships, plus everywhere the hospitality magic that is Thailand.

Some Random Facts of the Thailand – Burma Railway

Japanese Engineers stated that the completion of the railway involved the building of 4,000,000 cubic metres of earthwork, shifting 3,000,000 cubic metres of rock, and the construction of 14 kilometres of bridgework in a period of ten months “after hastening of 6 or 7 months” – all by absurdly primitive means.

Altogether 330,000 workers including 61,000 prisoners of war were employed on the railway.

The Allied War Graves Registration units decided that in 1946 the number of dead among the prisoners of war amounted to 12,399, including 6,318 British, 2646 Australians, 2,490 Dutch and 589 unknown prisoners. The bodies of the American dead were repatriated early in 1946. The total of deaths among the 270,000 labourers drawn principally from Burma, Malaya and Thailand was far higher. Some authorities place it at 72,000, but this figure may under estimate the dead by as much as 20,000….

The Thailand – Burma Railway commenced at Nong Pladuk in Thailand and ended 414.92 kms later at Thanbyuzayat in Burma. From Nong Pladuk to Three Pagodas Pass ( Thailand – Burma Border ) is a railway route distance of 300 kms. Full access is not possible at this time to the Burma (Myanmar) sector of the Railway at the Thailand/Burma border area due to instability within the Burma border region. Please Note : We have successfully negotiated a 20 kms excursion along the original rail route from the Burma/

Myanmar Northern end, requiring a journey to Yangon/Rangoon, then a day’s road travel to Moulmein and Thyanbyuzayat. A fascinating journey though somewhat arduous vehicle travel. This extension – additional cost – is available at the time of writing.

Our Tour

The tour has been planned to use vehicle transport to travel the main road from Bangkok to the remote border area of Burma and Thailand at Three Pagodas Pass over 5 days, stopping along the way at various sites of interest – including walking into jungle overgrown and abandoned railway features – with accommodation in comfort at night in good standard Resorts, Hotels and Guest Houses as selected. War time rail is also used for a short part.

Two full leisure days ( one in Bangkok and one in Kanchanaburi) are included in the programme to allow personal exploration time. Two organised half day tours are provided in Bangkok to introduce visitors to the city.

Some Random Facts of the Thailand – Burma Railway

Japanese Engineers stated that the completion of the railway involved the building of 4,000,000 cubic metres of earthwork, shifting 3,000,000 cubic metres of rock, and the construction of 14 kilometres of bridgework in a period of ten months “after hastening of 6 or 7 months” – all by absurdly primitive means.

Altogether 330,000 workers including 61,000 prisoners of war were employed on the railway.

The Allied War Graves Registration units decided that in 1946 the number of dead among the prisoners of war amounted to 12,399, including 6,318 British, 2646 Australians, 2,490 Dutch and 589 unknown prisoners. The bodies of the American dead were repatriated early in 1946. The total of deaths among the 270,000 labourers drawn principally from Burma, Malaya and Thailand was far higher. Some authorities place it at 72,000, but this figure may under estimate the dead by as much as 20,000….

The Thailand – Burma Railway commenced at Nong Pladuk in Thailand and ended 414.92 kms later at Thanbyuzayat in Burma. From Nong Pladuk to Three Pagodas Pass  ( Thailand – Burma Border ) is a railway route distance of 300 kms. Full access is not possible at this time to the Burma (Myanmar) sector of the Railway at the Thailand/Burma border area due to instability within the Burma border region.

Please Note : We have successfully negotiated a 20 kms excursion along the original rail route from the Burma/Myanmar Northern end, requiring a journey to Yangon/Rangoon, then a day’s road travel to Moulmein and Thyanbyuzayat. A fascinating journey though somewhat arduous vehicle travel. This extension – additional cost – is available at the time of writing.

Region History

Most Australians, British, Dutch and United States folk know that during the Second World War an infamous railway was built to connect Burma and Thailand by prisoners of war and forced Asian labour under harsh and primitive conditions to further the Japanese war effort.

The film “Bridge over the River Kwai” has popularised to legend status a script writer’s fictionalised vision of some events in the setting of the Thailand – Burma Railway, but above all, brought that Railway to the public consciousness.

Generations of visitors to Thailand have travelled to Kanchanaburi to see the “Bridge over the River Kwai”, and, in some cases, be taken to the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery to pay respects to those buried there. Fewer still travel the 80 kms North of Kanchanaburi to visit “Hellfire Pass” and the newly constructed Australian Memorial alongside a deep and long prisoner excavated railway cutting. For many people, this is as much of the historical localities as they are able to see or are informed about.

Most tour programmes are designed for a short exposure to the Thailand – Burma Railway, kept in a geographically small area, with varying depths, details and accuracy of the historical truths of the events, characters and places that make the real story. For some the “standard” tour is sufficient. Our tour is not for them, it is for those with an interest in the deeper history of those times and the role their countrymen played in the events, or perhaps connection through a relative or family friend who worked or died on the line.

To see where these things happened, to hear researched and accurate renditions of events, access detailed historical records of the people caught up in the tragedy that accompanied the engineering achievements, and visit geographically accurate sites of POW Camps and cemeteries, railway stations, sidings, bridges, engineering works and features; this is what we provide to members of our tour groups. Additional to the tragic war history, the programme is designed to allow time to experience cultural and commercial features of the cities, with the contrast of remote border country, villages and townships, plus everywhere the hospitality magic that is Thailand.

Cost

$2860

Inclusions : 11 days tour

  • All transfers – airports and rail
  • All road tour transport
  • All entry fees
  • Two half day tours in Bangkok
  • One full, one half leisure day in Bangkok
  • One day optional activity in Kanchanaburi
  • Six days touring and exploring along the Thailand – Burma POW Rail localities with expert commentary and guiding.
  • Price : 2015 Price Aud$ 3255.00 share twin, land price. Single Supplement Aud$ 811.00

Outline of Programme

The itinerary attached outlines the activity programme. There is a mixture of conventional “tourist’ features – such as museums and cultural attractions – along with off the beaten track destinations such as long abandoned sections of the Rail, bridging remnants and cuttings only accessed by these groups, requiring walks cross country through jungle to see and hear about these lonely, silent sites.

The in country logistical support and indigenous information is provided by Oriental Voyage Company of Huang Kwang, Bangkok and the Thai Burma Railway Centre of Kanchanaburi – who both are highly recommended in their service and our previous experience.

We travel from Bangkok with stops at significant sites in the Rail story : from where the rail transported prisoners from Singapore’s Changi Prison gratefully left their overcrowded railcars – and their first dead – and started their long journey out along the planned route of the line; to the last accessible section at the border with Burma.

We will include (using the remaining existing war time rail line from Kanchanaburi to Namtok) travel by passenger train, a distance of some 80 kms. The rail line from Nam Tok to Burma was torn up shortly after the end of the war, but the rail “road works” remain.

We will see museums, the “Bridge over the River Kwai” and two War Cemeteries, immaculately kept, one in and the other adjacent, to the city of Kanchanaburi. A feature of this area (Kanchanaburi) we will find to be the new Thailand – Burma Railway Centre, alongside the War Cemetery. An impressive number of informative displays will pass on information to group members, supported with a lifetime’s collection of rail relative artefacts gathered by the Managing Director and Curator of the Centre. Did you know the Second World War Allies had “smart bombs” and used them on the Thailand – Burma Railway ? This is the place, the displays, and the staff, to learn a myriad of facts from with their commitment to “real history”.

We utilise the expert knowledge and skills of the Centre’s Managing Director, Rod Beattie, for the next few days of the tour as he accompanies the group to the Burma Border and Three Pagodas Pass, to share his knowledge and feeling for the Rail. His years of commitment to research and exploration benefit our groups in the depth of knowledge made available, plus his excellent raconteur skills in bringing events to life. Over the next three days we will travel from Kanchanaburi out to the remote Three Pagodas Pass on the border with Burma, and back. Both as we travel and at stops at places of significance or attraction, expert commentary will be provided on historical and other matters of interest.

As well as the significance of the localities travelled through to the Thai – Burma Rail, there is much to be taken in as we travel into some of the most scenic road systems in Thailand through mountainous country off the general tourist routes. Markets out near the border are worth the visits we include in our timetabling for unique handcrafted items – including textiles, tapestries, wood work, gemstones and precious metals. Our tour also visits an ancient Khymer city in remarkable condition – an unexpected and spectacular contrast.

On our return to Kanchanaburi we have a leisure day for folk to wander about this rural Thai city and perhaps check again into the wealth of information at the Thailand – Burma Railway Centre, or walk to the shop site of a local Thai man who risked everything to help prisoners obtain medicine and other life saving items.

Bangkok the next day gives the group on opportunity to have a more relaxing tour about the city’s environs and waterways, followed by opportunities to explore (and may be shop) in a city that has literally everything.

Next morning our airport transfer from the hotel accommodation is included in the tour package. Our tour ends at the Bangkok International Airport.

We programme to bring you the real railway history, local life and culture, and an opportunity to see both remote rural and city Thailand along with a natural environment far from the tourist centres. We hope you will take these memories and images home with you.

Catering

All breakfasts. Lunches 7 days, Dinners 7 days.

On 2 own time days self provide lunch, dinner. Breakfast are at hotel standard within overnight accommodation along the tour route and Bangkok.

Lunches are at selected local restaurants along the tour route and Bangkok. Dinners are at hotel standard at overnight accommodation and at selected restaurants.

tbr-breakfast2 tbr-breakfast tbr-breakfast3

Medical and Fitness

Not all hotels, conveyances, sites and attractions we will be visiting on this tour are handicap friendly. If you have any disabilities, which cause you to require physical assistance of any kind, please advise us in writing at the time of initial inquiry – before booking.

Consult your medical practitioner for advice on any vaccinations or medication suggested for your travel in Thailand – and Burma if that option is also chosen.

Inquiring clients with mobility disabilities or limitations need to discuss with us their participation on this tour. Fitness and agility must enable participants to climb in and out of small boats, tour coaches, climb and descend stairs, and do some moderate cross country walking to commentary positions – several or many times a day. In some cases a “travelling companion” organised by the participant and totally responsible and able at all times for the effective mobility assistance required, may be sufficient. Discussion is welcomed, but the final decision as to eligibility rests with the tour operator with the best interests of all involved in mind.

Clients are also needed to confidentially advise and discuss with us any medical condition which could impact on their welfare and ability to participate fully for the duration of this tour. An “approval to participate” letter from a registered medical practitioner may be required, and a competent travelling companion organised by the participant to be responsible for the monitoring and all assistance which may be needed. Please be aware areas of this tour are some hours away from full scale medical facilities. An appropriate amount of individual medication (and a small reserve) for the duration of the tour needs to be carried and, a copy prescription in case the medicine used is subject of possession limitations in Thailand.

Travel Requirements

Extract from Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade “smartraveller” website “Australian tourists travelling to Thailand through one of the international airports on an Australian passport may currently enter Thailand for up to 30 days without obtaining a visa in advance. This is referred to as a “visa exemption”. Australian tourists travelling overland into Thailand through a border crossing may enter Thailand for up to 15 days without obtaining a visa in advance. A visa is required for longer stays or for travellers intending to work or to travel for purposes other than tourism in Thailand. Thai authorities require all travellers to have at least six months’ validity remaining on their passports. You may be refused entry to Thailand, or may not be permitted to board your Thailand-bound flight, if your passport has less than six months’ validity.”

For medical matters relating to travel for this tour, please refer to the “Medical and Fitness” entries.

Tour Staff

frank

Frank Taylor

30 + years of practical experience with off shore operations, including remote localities and developing countries, visiting Australian Military History sites leading tour groups, film documentary operations logistics, historical researchers and authors. Experiential depth of management listed below.

Additionally a proven ability to organise and operate group tours to locations as above for special interest groups such as family members of those who served, associations and significant event commemorative tours.

Licensed Australian Travel Agent

Frank Taylor, owner/manager, served 31 years in the Western Australia Police (Traffic, General Duties, Emergency Operations) Deputy Principal Police Academy ) retiring as an Inspector, and in the Australian Army Reserve (Armour, Infantry and Military Police) through all ranks retiring as a Captain after some 38 years. Experience gained in those services is applied to effective planning and safe operations of tour activities.

Frank Taylor has acted as a consultant for the following:

  • Consultant and PNG facilitator for the Australian Army documentary film “The Bloody Track” (1992)
  • Facilitated – including PNG Location Management - Chris Masters’ Kokoda Trail filming operations for his highly acclaimed 4 Corners production of "The Men Who Saved Australia" (1995)
  • Initiated the concept and facilitated ( PNG Location Management and logistics ) the Electric Pictures award winning documentary film “Requiem for a Generation of Lost Souls” (1996)
  • Facilitated ( PNG Location Management and military advisor ) the Kokoda Trail and PNG beach head filming of the 2 part documentary "Kokoda" ABC (2010)
  • Planned and facilitated author Peter Brune's fact finding trek of Kokoda, Milne Bay and Gona/Buna/Sanananda for his best selling "A Bastard of a Place". ( Acknowledged )
  • Planned and facilitated author Peter Brune's
  • Singapore/Malaysia/Thailand/Burma exploratory journey fact finding for the production of his current book project on The Fall of Singapore/Changi and the Thai-Burma Railway – “Descent into Hell”. (Acknowledged )
  • Facilitated and lead research treks of the Kokoda Trail for Paul Ham and his best selling book "Kokoda" and for Dr. Peter Williams’ for his book “The Kokoda campaign 1942 – Myth and Reality”. ( Acknowledged )

Consultative assistance given and acknowledged by author Phillip Bradley for his authoritative reference book “On Shaggy Ridge” and to Bill James’ ( trek leader & research information ) for his “Field Guide to the Kokoda Trail”. ( Both acknowledged )

Consultant advice to groups and organisations including PNG’s Tourist Promotion Authority, National Cultural Committee and Oro Provincial Government of PNG; RSL ( Australia ) National Headquarters, Kochi-New Guinea Association ( Japan ); “Australia Remembers” Task Force Australian Department of Veterans’ Affairs; Alamein Military Museum Egypt; Tobruk Tourism Authority Libya; International Heritage Section Department of the Environment Australia etc

Member of the Kokoda Trail Maintenance Advisory Committee and of the Kokoda Ethics & Advisory Committee which reported to the Australian Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Kokoda. Founder committee member of the Papua New Guinea Travel Industry Association. Panel member Kokoda Trail Military Heritage Project. He has travelled over the Kokoda Track some 130 plus times

Committee member of the 16 Battalions’ Foundation and Vice President of the 28th Battalion ( The Swan Regiment ) Association - and life member of that Association

And directly contributed to the following :

Establishment of bronze plaque monuments at key locations along the Kokoda Trail, beach locations of Buna, Sanananda, Gona; memorials for RSL Australia, the American Legion, Australian services unit associations and private families; and ANZAC memorial plaque at Gelibolu Turkey

Location, reporting and recovery of remains of Australian and United States servicemen from Papua New Guinea locations

The introduction of Australian relevant material for display in overseas public settings - including museums and schools- such as the Gaba Tepe Museum, Eceabat High Schools ( Gallipoli ), the Alamein Military Museum Egypt and in Tobruk, Libya, Grass Roots Museum ( Kochi Japan )

Village community benefit works in the Owen Stanley Mountains, Finisterre Mountains, Buna-Gona-Sanananda and other remote localities in Papua New Guinea; “Weaving for Women” support group Sangklaburi, Thailand

    Rod Beattie

    Born: Gympie, Queensland, Australia. 17 July 1948.

    • Education :- Primary education at Wolvi State School.
    • Secondary education at Gympie State High School.
    • Graduated from Queensland Institute of Technology, 1976 (Civil Engineering Design). Part time.
    • Graduated from Darling Downs Institute of Technology, 1976 (Civil Engineering Construction). By correspondence.
    • Graduated with Diplomea of Gemmology from Gemmological Association of Australia, 1978.
    • Employment :- 10 years working for Queensland Main Roads Department on road design and construction (1969 - 1979).
    • 10 years operating my own gem mining, cutting and wholesale business (1979 - 1989).
    • 3 years working as a consultant on gem projects in Thailand, Vietnam and Laos (1990 - 1994).
    • 18 years as Manager of the Commonwealth War Cemeteries in Thailand (1995 - 2013) working part time.
    • 2½ years as Project Manager of Hellfire Pass Project (1996 - 1998).
    • 2001-3 designed and built my own internationally recognised museum in Kanchanaburi, Thailand.
    • 11 years since furthering my research into prisoners of war of the Japanese.
    • Military Service :- 6 years in Australian Army Reserve (1969 – 76). Three years in infantry and three years in engineers. Rank – Corporal.

    In February 1994, I was approached by an Australian former prisoner of war to clear the pathway into Hellfire Pass prior to a visit to the site by the then Australian Prime Minister Mr. Paul Keating. Soon after I was again approached by the same former PoW to erect the plaque commemorating the internment of the ashes of Lt Colonel 'Weary' Dunlop at Hellfire Pass on Anzac Day 1994. Having attended my first Anzac Day Dawn Service at Hellfire Pass I quickly appreciated the importance of the site and offered my services to the Australian Thai Chamber of Commerce to voluntarily maintain the short (400 metres) pathway into Hellfire Pass. This had previously been randomly maintained by members of the ATCC or Australian military personnel on exchange visits to Thailand. When funds became available to the ATCC I supervised the construction of a second concrete pathway leading to the northern end of Hellfire Pass.

    Having become involved with Hellfire Pass I set out to learn more about the history of the railway by collecting books about the railway. Being self employed and having time at my disposal I then started to explore and map the abandoned railway and locate former PoW campsites. Locating and mapping all the accessible railway in Thailand and some in Burma took four and a half years. Over the years since I have located the majority of PoW campsites in Thailand and some in Burma.

    To give visitors a better understanding of the work done in building the railway I, helped only by my wife and the occasional visitor, set out to clear a longer section of the railway northwards from Hellfire Pass. These four and a half kilometers, which took more than a year to clear, now form the walking trail part of the Hellfire Pass memorial.

    In 1995 I was appointed manager of the Commonwealth War Cemeteries in Thailand. In this position I met many people searching for information about relatives who worked or died on the railway. To help these people I began a worldwide search for original PoW records of deaths on the railway. I still continue to search archives around the world as time and funds allow only now my search if for PoWs of all nationalities who worked on the railway.

    Because many visitors to Kanchanaburi have the mistaken belief that members of their family slaved on the railway when in fact they were taken to other areas of Asia by the Japanese my research into the fate of prisoners of war has spread to all areas of Japanese occupation. These records now have information on more that 100,000 American, Australian, British and Dutch servicemen.

    In 1996 I was appointed Project Manager to oversee the construction of the Hellfire Pass Memorial Interpretative Centre and permanent improvements to the previously cleared length of railway. During this time we cleared another four kilometers of abandoned railway northwards from Compressor Cutting but this section was subsequently not maintained by the Australia government and has now reverted back to jungle. The Australian Prime Minister, Mr. John Howard, opened the memorial on 24 April 1998.

    In 1999 I began planning and designing a new museum to be located in Kanchanaburi to cater for the very large number of visitors who visited the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery and who were searching for information about a relative who worked and perhaps died on the railway. A second motive was to create a factual museum display to offer to the large number of tourists whose tour did not take them on to Hellfire Pass (approximately 95,000 of the 300,000 annual visitors to the war cemetery went on to Hellfire Pass). Construction of this privately funded museum began in 2001 and it opened in January 2003. A Thai business associate purchased the land specifically for me to build the museum and he and I funded the construction of the building. Myself and three friends then established and funded the company (TBRC Co. Ltd.) to develop the museum galleries and other facilities. The entire design of the museum was done by myself as was the construction of the building (using a Thai builder and his staff) and much of the installation of the museum displays.

    At the time of opening limited funding meant that a number of gallery displays had to be deferred until funds became available. In 2005 the Dutch Embassy came forward and offered to fund the completion of several of these displays. This help plus several personal donations has allowed me to complete all of the original design elements of the museum. Because my exploration and research into the railway is ongoing further development of the Thailand-Burma Railway Centre is also ongoing.

    An important part of the work that I have done over the years is to take former PoWs or their families back to their areas of work on the railway. Originally this was done voluntarily but has now become an important part of TBRC's operation. As time allows I also continue to search for particular areas of interest along the abandoned railway and uncover many wartime artifacts and stories.

    In January 2010 my work researching the fate of all prisoners of war who worked on the Thailand-Burma Railway was formally recognised by the Dutch by my being honoured by the Dutch Queen. This was by my being appointed a Knight of the Order of Orange Nassau.

    In the same year I began a more detailed mapping project of the entire accessible length of railway in Thailand. This involves clearing/walking the entire railway and recording all identifiable features (cuttings, embankment, bridges, etc) complete with GPS locations. This work continues as time permits.

    On 27 January 2012 I was presented with the Order of Australia Medal in recognition of the work that I have done for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and assistance to former prisoners of war and their families.

    In the Queen’s birthday honour list of 2013 I was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire. At the end of June 2013 I retired after eighteen years as manager of the war cemeteries in Thailand to allow me to commit more time to TBRC, the increasing number of families wishing to make pilgrimages along the railway and to the ongoing research into PoWs.

      Krittika Phiwkliang

      In country staff (local guides, drivers, chefs, etc) as selected.

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