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Ben Oostdam's letter of May 23, 1955
from Bangkok to his fiancee and parents in Holland
(translated from Dutch), page 5


How can we do that? On a bike riding behind us? Impossible. Give us some rifles to take along? Impossible. Come on,we are both former Navy sailors. Alright, we'll let you go without escort, but you have been warned! There's a Burmese officer with rebels, and there also are lots of tigers! So we are on the way again. A sandroad to Hiran, but first we pass the war cemetery of the Death Railroad victims.
It is very impressive,but you wonder if the sacrifice has been worth it and if the people learned anything. People here still remember clearly the Japanese lookout post on the pointed mountain, the American bombardments and the Japanese airstrip on a small island in the river, where they also used cables and hooks like we did on the "KarelDoorman". And every foreigner here is received cordially and with applaus.
The road here is built according to universal Japanese practice similar to the roads in the jungles of New Guinea. Wide, covered with gravel, and with many potholes due to poor maintenance. Bridges are caved in so you have to bypass them and pass through shallow creeks. The number of people decreases. After some 20kms I suddenly remember that we still have to eat breakfast and that the scooter could also do with some sustenance. A branch of the road takes us back to the river and into a pleasant small village where we cause considerable uproar. When we state that we came from Bangkok, nobody believes it. We persuade a friendly truckdriver to syphon some gasoline from his tank into ours and soon the scooter's tank is full again. We ourselves eat in a small outdoor cafe; I ask them to prepare rice with peanutsand coconut and sugar,because I did not relish the thought of rice with bacon and soup on an empty stomach. They pack the remnants in banana leaves so we can carry it along for lunch.Mom takes a break again from doing nothing, and I climb down to the riverbanks to take pictures of women in big hats who are standing upto their stomachs in the water assembling bamboo rafts.
The river here flows rapidly and you see a lot of these rafts passing by. On the front raft, they have built a kind of prow with a long steering sweep extending forward; then follow the other rafts, complete with small huts where you can see people sitting and cooking food. Swarms of kids hang down in the water from the rear of the last raft. It all looks very peaceful and cosy and more and more I am inclined to try and spend a few weeks of vacation in this neighborhood!

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