2014 Quiet Lion Tour report

2014 tour party …………………………………………………………………………………………

The Quiet Lion Tour 2014 tour group outside Home Phu Toey after the Dawn Service at Hellfire Pass. Ex POWs Milton Fairclough, Neil MacPherson OAM and Harold Martin seated at the front with Thai Agent Vivatchai Wongusthat.

On 17th April a complement of thirty four travellers assembled at Perth International Airport for the 2014 Quiet Lion Tour to Thailand and arrived at Suvarnabhumi Airport at 3:30pm. The group then proceeded to the Royal Benja Hotel where the party met the other five members. On tour were ex POW s Neil MacPherson (accompanied by his son Alan MacPherson, granddaughters Krishna Vanderwiede and Gypsy O'Dea and three great grandchildren) and Ex POW Milton (Snow) Fairclough (accompanied by his niece Sue Sheridan). Committee members on tour included Eric Wilson, chairman BTRMA, Neil MacPherson, Alan MacPherson, Krishna Vanderviede, Ian Holding and David Piesse. Owing to the media reports of the Thailand political situation the Western Australian Department of Education withdrew their approval for school groups travelling on the tour. Some junior members were able to come accompanied by parents. This gave us a small group of twelve juniors which were able to participate in the Wreath Laying Service at Kanchanaburi War Cemetery, accompanied by students from Kings College, Auckland, New Zealand. Esperance was represented by Olivia Morris and her father Steve, Jamie Shaw and his father Jason. Mingenew was represented by Hannah Poultney and Wagin was represented by Meg Pearce accompanied by father Tom Pearce. On Day Two, we travelled to the Summer Palace at Bang-Pa In, then on to Ayuthaya, an ancient Thai capital before cruising back into Bangkok on the Chayo Praya River with lunch served aboard. It was a good chance for all to get to know one another. This was followed by a short foray by some to try retail therapy in Bangkok City before dinner. Day Three, with fun and niceties done we headed to Nakhon Pathom , Nong Pladuk, Ban Pong, Tha Muang and Kanchanaburi, learning the Railway Story as we progressed into western Thailand. After lunch we visited the Thai-Burma Railway Centre and had a brief visit to the War Cemetery. We arrived at Pung Waan Resort for an enjoyable swim, dinner and an overnight stay. Day Four saw our group back at Kanchanaburi Cemetery and the Railway Centre before catching the train to travel over the Bridge over the River Kwai and later over the remaining "Death Railway" to Wampo, including crossing the infamous Wampo Viaduct. After lunch we visited the site of the Tarsao prison camp and hospital (Now a resort). Returned to Home Phu Toey at 5:00pm. The next five nights were spent at the Home Phu Toey and everyone had a chance to get comfortable and not have to get bags out to move on for the next phase of the tour. It is a very convenient base from which to visit the Kanyu- Hintok section of the railway. Day Five, we went to the site of the Takanun camps with particular reference to F Force. From there we went to Khao Laem Dam, an irrigation and hydro-electric supply built by the Snowy Mountain Authority under the Colombo Plan and completed in 1985. Lunch at the Dam staff club, courtesy of EGAT. Visited Wat Takanun overlooking the site of the Australian POW camp, Returned via Brankassi and Hindato camps. Walked the Railway Heritage Memorial Trail through Hintok Cutting, the Three Tier Bridge site, the Seven Metre Embankment, the Hammer and Tap Cuttings, several trestle bridge sites, over shelving into Kanyu Cutting and on to Hellfire Pass Museum. Day Six we had the Buddhist Ceremony in Weary Dunlop Park followed by a ceremony to mark the passing of Khun Kanit Wanachote, a long term friend and creator of Home Phu Toey. Visited the site of the Hintok Mountain Camp, Kinsayok Camp area and Sai Yok Yai Waterfalls followed by lunch served on a houseboat whilst travelling down the River Kwai Noi, terminating at Konyu River Camp. Returned to Home Phu Toey via the Hintok River Camp which is now an “eco” camp.   On day seven visited Tarsau (Nam Tok) town area, the Sai Yok Noi Waterfalls and the site of Tonchan South Campsite, and Thadan Bridge and the Elephant Park (also a POW camp site). From there we travelled to Lat Ya Shinto Peace Park and on to lunch on a raft on the Kwai Noi and Kwai Yai rivers. Back to Home Phu Toey via Chungkai Cemetery and Chungkai Cutting. We had our farewell dinner and concert night as guests of Khun Suparerk. Day Eight, free day with passive activities, a chance to visit Weary Dunlop Park, Jack Chalker Gallery and other displays. A small group travelled to the camp sites of Shimo Songkurai, Songkurai and Kami Songkurai (the main camps of F Force) and on to Three Pagodas Pass. Returning to Home Phu Toey at 3:30pm in time for a run through with the juniors for the Wreath Laying Service, Media interviews for ex POWs and dinner for special guests and the Quiet Lion Tour group.   Day Nine, ANZAC Day, early morning call for the Dawn Service, bags to the lobby and on the bus by 3:15am, arrived at Hellfire Pass in good time to find good positions around the cenotaph. The service began at 5:30am with dawn breaking and birds starting to chatter in the trees making for a memorable and emotional time. After a gunfire breakfast at Hellfire Pass Museum we returned to Home Phu Toey for breakfast then off to Kanchanaburi for the Wreath Laying Service at 10:00am. This is also an emotional service among the nearly seven thousand graves with our Quiet Lion traveller ex PoW Neil MacPherson giving the address for the POWs. The Junior Members of the Quiet Lion Tour joined with the student members of the Kings College Auckland, New Zealand, to carry the wreaths and present them for laying by the dignitaries from the various embassies stationed in Bangkok. It was great to see the NZ component of ANZAC take part in the ceremony. We enjoyed a couple of drinks courtesy of the NZ Embassy and departed to Tida Loa Riverside Restaurant for lunch at the Bridge over the River Kwai then back to Pung-Waan Resort for swimming and dinner and an early night. Day Ten, to Kanchanaburi Stadium for the ANZAC Cup, an AFL football match, hosted by the Thailand Tigers AFL Football Club versus the Pakistan Markhors. The match was won by the Tigers. Back on the bus again, this time for a lunch appointment at Sampran Riverside, formerly known as the Rose Garden. Lunch was followed by an Elephant show and a Thai cultural show. Back into Bangkok for our last night. Day Eleven, breakfast and a free day in Bangkok for sightseeing, shopping, riding trains and lunch out. Final dinner and wrap up of Quiet Lion Tour 2014. Left for Suvarnabhumi Airport at 8:30pm. A very successful tour completed despite the smaller than usual number that travelled with us. The plane left at midnight and the Perth contingent arrived home safely at 8:00am on Monday morning. David Piesse Tour Leader.    

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