by Anura Guruge
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On Friday night, at the scintillating “North Shore Acappella” concert, one of the other volunteers, always up on world news, whispered in my year, over the signing, something about “The Bridge Over The River Kwai“. I couldn’t hear all of what he had to say because we were standing quite close to the stage and the group was in full swing. I didn’t get to see him afterwards. But, I made a mental note to Google ‘News’ to see what had transpired BECAUSE I have been multiple times to BOTH locations — the movie set remains in Kitulgala, Sri Lanka (née Ceylon) and the ‘modern’ metal bridge, downstream where the real one used to be, near Kanchanaburi, Thailand.
All Sri Lankans of my vintage have a vested interest in “The Bridge Over The River Kwai“. It was one of two iconic movies shot in Sri Lanka, the other having been “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom“. The ‘Indiana Jones” movies is set in India and was supposed to be shot in India. But they ran into ‘issues’ and moved the filming to Kandy, Sri Lanka. All the brown folks masquerading as Indians are Sri Lankans and Spielberg, to save money, didn’t even bother to make them learn ‘Indian‘ (e.g., Hindi or Urdu). Instead they speak Sinhalese. For those of us who understand Sinhalese it is hilarious.
Anyway, the “The Bridge” is a legend though the whole thing is ‘factional’ — loosely based on real events, but it is NOT 100%. Plus, there never was a river named ‘Kawi’!
When I lived in Ceylon, i.e., before August 27, 1967, I used to go to the Kithulgala Rest House, as with all of the other, British-legacy, 30 or 40 Rest Houses in Ceylon, on a fairly regular basis. At least twice a year. I don’t recall ever spending the night there. We would typically stop there for lunch on the way to delightful Nuwara Eliya (the climatically COOL hill capitol of those days) or Hatton (prime tea estate country). I would order my de rigeur Rest House meal, Fish & Chips (British style) with tomato sauce (if they had it), and then head down to the river.
I spent the summers of 1973 & 1974 in Bangkok, Thailand while I was finishing my first degree at Swansea. Kanchanaburi, those days, was a nice 90 minute drive from Bangkok. I remember going there at least twice, but it might have been more. There is a relatively famous Buddhist temple complex close by. I walked across the metal bridge each time. I had a picture of the metal plaque that is there commemorating the real bridge.
So I just want to document this because I feel an attachment to both places.
Wow. The exterior, and by that I mean the main yellow building, hasn’t changed much. There used to be a dining room that KIND of overlooked the river over the vegetation. You couldn’t see the ‘remains’ of the bridge from the Rest House. You had to walk down, always checking your crotch for leeches! Leeches were a big problem in areas such as that and they made a beeline to your crotch. That is where they could do most damage. So if you were a local that is where you started checking. On the leg was piece of cake.