BBC's Great Asian Railway Journeys Ayutthaya to River Kwai S01E04 1080P HD

BBC's Great Asian Railway Journeys Ayutthaya to River Kwai  S01E04 1080P HD

Show Video

i'm in southeast asia with my 1913 bradshaw's  handbook published at the height of european   imperialism my 100 year old guy book  will leave me on a railway adventure   through archipelagos and peninsulas dotted  with hills forests and paddy fields i'll tour   towering mega cities and magnificent mosques i'll  encounter golden buddhas and jewelled temples   and experience some of the world's most  spectacular and notorious railways as i travel   through the diverse nations of this vast region  i'll learn how they asserted their independence   against the british french and dutch empires to  become the economic tigers and dragons of today my rail journey through thailand continues i  began in chiang mai and traveled south to the   former teak town of lampang my next stop will  be the old capital of ayutia i'll continue to   make long before i end at ganchenaburi and  the infamous bridge over the river kwai on my travels i have a close  encounter with an astonishing railway   i think i might lean back at this point  i'm sized up by a gentle giant she's   just getting used to me now i can feel the intake  of air from that trunk and discover the splendors   of the former capital of siam it was one of the  wealthiest cities in asia let alone southeast asia i'm in the northern city of lampang a charming  town which grew after the teak industry of the   19th century at the time of my guide lampang was  surrounded by forests rich with tea harvesting   this valuable commodity was tough work with  much of the heavy lifting done by elephants today tea clogging is banned but elephants  remain an important part of thai culture   just outside lampang is a hospital dedicated to  these magnificent beasts the elephant has been   fundamental to the economy and the defense of  siam for example they used to mount artillery   on the back of one of these animals  to create a sort of prototype tank a   person who owned an elephant was a figure of  great prestige if you've ever had to give it   tons of food each day you realize you have to be  pretty rich the rare occurrence of a so-called   white elephant has to be offered to the king and  indeed the white elephant appeared on the flag of   siam until 1916. it's a measure of the respect for  this animal that the friends of the asian elephant   have mounted this hospital to deal  with wounded and damaged elephants this hospital treats everything  from minor discomforts   to major complications and they  have a few long-term residents good to see see you too what's the name of  the elephant her name is mocha and why does   she have only three legs uh cheese step on  landmine oh my goodness a lamb mind mine how   awful and how long has she been here uh  three years now is the elephant quite   well is the elephant otherwise okay he's  okay now but he had a positive leg now   well i see yes this this enormous uh false leg are  you wanting help yes i'd love to what shall i do elephant must be very used to this because  she's very calm as we do it a few adjustments   how is that motion is that a bit better so  prosthesis is back on the leg has been washed   are you okay with me you're okay with me she's  just getting used to me now i can feel the intake   of air from that trunk she's just making sure that  i can be trusted i think why not musher well done   and our three-legged elephant has  become a four-legged elephant again conflicts with neighboring myanmar have  left a border littered with landmines   and this hospital has become a leading  center for elephant prosthetics faster than i can go i don't know  what's going to happen when i'm finished i'm leaving lampang to continue my journey south the line from lam pang cuts  through the center of thailand   for 500 kilometers the landscape changes from  the lush jungle of the north into the fertile   plains of central thailand that for centuries  have grown the bulk of the nation's food i'm making my way not to thailand's  present-day capital bangkok   but to siam's medieval capital ayutia it's located in the south central region of the  country near thailand's most important river this is the mighty zhao prior river upon its  banks the kings of sam built a summer palace   i've decided to cross its noble waters  not by mere boat i'm being born aloft   this cable car is operated by monks before i reach the old city i've had a tip-off  about a curious monument from the 19th century   well this is a surprise indeed a gothic  revival chapel it's as though that cable car   had in a few meters transported me back to europe   but in no gothic church are you  required to take your shoes off what niwe tamapur is a buddhist temple  built by the modernizing chula long gone   king rama v in 1878 and it's a mark  of how far he embraced western ideas well the gothic theme is continued inside with the  pointed arches the hammer beams the stained glass   but there's no doubt that this is  a buddhist temple and i think that   in the late 19th century in siam this would  have been regarded as a symbol of modernity   i'm just sorry that modernity apparently meant westernism off on the waters  of the jau preya river siam's medieval capital was built  along the banks of this major river   i am at what my bradshaws calls the former capital  of ayutia with its gigantic ruined temples just   eight hours by stima from bangkok it's a bit  like visiting winchester in england or toledo   in spain or philadelphia in the united states  cities that were once the seat of government   that reinforced the national story in the  decades before my guidebook nationalism   had been the guiding spirit it had led to the  unification of italy and germany and given   stimulus to imperialism so siam needed to be  on its guard with his own providential story of nationhood all right and the nation had a rich history that could be  told through its magnificent palaces and temples   this is what chai watanaram and any website will  tell you that these reliquary towers are known   as prang and they form a skyline as impressive  as a modern-day new york city or dubai and that   is the way to think of this because ayutiya was a  world-class city one of the largest in the world a   metropolis it sent ambassadors to japan and china  and to versailles in france and yet it's all gone   because civilizations do not last  so passes the glory of this world   a hit historical drama on thai television  was set in these romantic ruins so dressing   as the characters and taking selfies have  become a popular pursuit here hello ladies and you speak english obviously  have you come from far away   from bangkok yes where did  you get the costumes did you opposite uh temple here yeah two hundred  two hundred bucks very cheap ready cheers   is that to buy or to rent ah  rin are you having a lovely day   yeah yeah very happy happy can i  have a selfie should we do a selfie i'd like to find out more about ayutia  and its significance to the thai nation   at the time of my guidebook so i'm  meeting professor of history dr dera i don't know what this is absolutely astonishing  the monuments that i've seen in ayutia are   grand on an epic scale this must have been an  extraordinary city please describe it to me   well it was the capital of thailand or siam it  was in call for over 400 years from the middle   of 14th century to the middle of the 18th century  and it was very prosperous it was a port city   as well as a city which had a large hinterland  of rice fields all around it so it had a big   population it was one of the wealthiest cities in  asia let alone southeast asia with whom did these   people have trading relationships oh they were  trading with china with the malay states with the   indonesian islands and then as time went on the  muslims from india and the middle east came in   and then the europeans the portuguese you know on  all points of the compass not because the uti had   spices we didn't have that no gold but we had a  lot of things which came in the entrepreneur trade   chinese ceramics japanese ceramics japanese  fans spices from indonesia and so people could   buy them and resell elsewhere and also this land  had a lot of forests from these forests from these   jungles you could get a lot of goods like elephant  tusks you know ivory you've got deer skins   and even live wild elephants which were not sought  after in india believed it or not or not you know   and so the thai sold hundreds  of elephants to india each year   halfway between china and india this thriving  commercial kingdom was one of the great powers of   asia but that came to an abrupt end in 1767 when  neighbouring burma invaded burning and ransacking   the city ayutya never recovered what happened  to the dynasty and to the people of the city   the last king abita died either in the action or  immediately after the the battle uh leading to the   fall of the city we're not quite sure how he died  for the people tens of thousands were taken away   as war captives to to myanmar to burma and quite  a few of them escaped and about a year after that   a leader rose up was a half chinese half siamese  general and then he managed to reunite quite a   lot of the country and drive out the burmese  garrison that dynasty lasted until 1782 and   the chakra dynasty came to the throne the chakri  dynasty is of course the democracy which still   reigns at this time it's now we're in the  into the 10th reign of the chakri dynasty the chakri dynasty did not  resurrect ayutia as the capital   choosing to start anew in bangkok ayutia  was left to decay until around the time of   my branch horse when a strong national story  was needed to bolster thai nation building   uh terror quite a contrast in architecture  here now yes why have you brought me to this   spot well michael mainly because it was uh built  in the early twentieth century by king julien   to associate himself with the utr kings did kings  not normally come to a utr to associate themselves   with the old dynasty before that that not been  any ceremony of this kind but with him it was very   conscious effort to to link bangkok to the utr  and this kind of formation of a national history   was considered to be necessary in order to make  us civilized and with a historical heritage has   stretched back hundreds and hundreds of years  king rama v declared a utia a protected zone   in 1908 and its great past was written  large into the history books of the thai nation i'm up with the lark and i've made my way to a  uts station ready to catch the train heading south   with the ring of the bell everyone  leaves the safe shade of the ticket hall   and comes across to platform 3 for bangkok but i'm not going to the capital i'm  traveling 80 kilometers west of bangkok   to a place known today as summit songkran  which locals still call mae klong it's an old fishing port and every day holds a  market which i'm told i particularly will like oh my goodness here is the railway going  straight through the market the stalls come right   up to the track the canopies hang over the line  this is clearly active you can tell because the   rails are not in any way rusty and i just hate to  think what happens when a train comes along this   narrow gauge track opened as a goods line in 1905  carrying produce from fishing ports to the main   markets of bangkok extraordinarily today trains  pass along this line up to eight times a day   as far as i know the train is due in a  very few moments and no one yet has shown   any inclination to move in fact situations now  got worse because there are trolleys actually   on the tracks and nowhere that i can see that  people could escape too the clock is ticking okay the trade is now  clearly coming we can hear it   and the business of clearing the produce away  from the track is beginning there we go the   canopies are moving back last the stalls  begin to move back the most amazing sight i think i might lean back at this point absolutely amazing shaving the stalls passing  on top of the produce the low-lying baskets are   just left in position and the train goes  over them with maybe a centimeter or two   to spare surely one of the bizarrest  sights ever to be seen on a railway they call this the railway cafe i wonder why it's the last day of my journey and i've come  130 kilometers north west to ganchanaburi   it's a western province that  borders neighboring myanmar these beautiful historic balconied houses  which are just dimly visible behind the   tangle of electric cables are the sort of  heritage that attracts foreign visitors   but in fact most people who now  come to kanchanaburi are part   of a curious modern form of tourism  which has to do with war and death   hearing ganjaruburi is a notorious railway  during the second world war japan occupied   much of southeast asia prisoners of war and slave  laborers were forced to build a 415 kilometer line   they were treated brutally and so it became known  as the death railway i've been joined by boom   who works at the thailand burma railway center  boom many of us think we know something about   the railway but why did japan need to  build it because they want to use the   land transport supply troop to burma  otherwise they would have had to go a   long way by ship yet right in the wartime  chip sun they load a lot and looking for   where the safe route to burma so there was an  existing railway in burma and there was one   in siam thailand and they needed to join the  two together yes they want to do that how many   prisoners of war and how many civilians were used  in the operation about 60 000 prisoners of war and   about 200 000 civilian labour tell me about the  terrain that they had to cross they have to cut   the mountain they have to build the bridge and  sometimes across the river because the location   in kanchanaburi and burma very difficult to build  a driveway and then they had to build just one one   year only this cutting here how long did it take  to make this about two weeks that's extraordinary   men were forced to work impossibly  long hours with little food   or medicine in japanese samurai culture  imprisonment was a disgrace and captors   were treated with contempt starvation disease  and torture led to the deaths of more than 12   000 prisoners of war and 90 000 civilians it  said that one man died for each sleeper laid tell me about the finishing of the railway  line the start work is above october 1942   and railway completes october 1943 yes about  one year it's a fantastic achievement isn't it   yes this railway can use for two years until  15 august 1945 just when the japanese surrender the appalling events surrounding  the building of the railway   were dramatized in a film in 1957 the  bridge on the river quiet tourists   but also veterans and their descendants  are drawn to visit this infamous place some of those who died building this railway  are buried in the ganchanaburi war cemetery this beautifully tended and very  moving war grave at kanchanaburi   is the resting place for about 7 000 prisoners  of war mainly british australian and dutch   and thousands more lie in two similar  cemeteries and tens of thousands of   southeast asian civilians also perished  building the railway they died of starvation   and disease and cruelty and some perpetrators were  executed when the peace came the slave labourers   with very little in the way of food or tools in  about a year constructed 400 kilometers of railway   over 600 bridges through the jungle they are  heroes all and the wonder is that anyone survived the line was dismantled after the war but in  the late 1950s some sections were reopened   and it's become a place of remembrance   of the many railways that i've traveled  this is perhaps the most poignant the line follows the river in the  direction of myanmar formerly burma   i've been thinking about whether it's  right to enjoy riding on the death railway   and i think it is because international tourism  is a sign that now southeast asia is at peace   and tourists from countries that were previously  at war are enjoying the sites together and isn't   that the sort of world that the prisoners  of war were hoping for and fighting for   the train has slowed down to walking pace for  one of the most spectacular parts of the journey   we have rejoined the river but  now we are suspended above it   crawling along a little wooden  platform high above the water i'm reaching tam krasi the last  station on this part of my journey   which has been enlightening and at times emotional when britain and france had carved up the  rest of southeast asia siam's king rama v   swiftly annexed the old kingdom of lana around  chiang mai he denied the europeans excuses for   colonization by granting them trading privileges  and modernizing his country the monarchy survived   and during the 20th century unusually for this  region communism was kept at bay thailand has   endured some turbulent history but at least it  has avoided the post-colonial anti-communist wars   that devastated vietnam laos and cambodia  this is truly a country of exceptions next time in thailand's capital bangkok  i'll stack in its biggest floating market   you can get street food almost anywhere but canal  food has to be bangkok i'll discover the impact   of a royal railway gift queen victoria sent  king rama the fourth king wong kud a train set   and i think that inspired a lot of people and take  my life in my hands in one of the city's iconic   tuk-tuks you certainly feel every bump in the road  but in bangkok's notorious traffic it sneakily   finds its way through movie makers share the  films that have influenced them life cinematic   is a new series starting with oscar winning sam  mendes talking to edith bowman bbc4 tonight at nine you

2021-01-30 04:47

Show Video

Other news