The heroes of the past are not forgotten in Asia, where war memorial sites continue to make popular tourist destinations from Vietnam, to Korea and Thailand. Exploring such historical sites can be touching, nostalgic, captivating and even emotional for some visitors, so here are a few not to miss.
Just six Australians survived the three hellish Sandakan Death Marches during World War II, when 2,400 POWS and 3,600 Indonesian slaves were forced to walk with supplies for the Japanese battalions from East Borneo to Ranau. Today, tourists flock to Sabah in Borneo to see the orangutans and other rainforest life, but the lives of those who died in the Death March are beautifully remembered in The Sandakan Memorial Park.
The movie, The Bridge on the River Kwai brought notoriety to this otherwise unremarkable town just a few hours bus ride from Bangkok, where a newly constructed bridge attracts thousands of photographers daily. The original bridge, still standing close by, was built in 1943 with the purpose of aiding the transport of supplies for the Japanese in Burma. Over 12,000 POWS and 90,000 civilian workers died during the construction of the Death Railway and the POW cemetery here makes for a humbling visit and a must in Thailand.
The Taukkyan War Cemetery is a moving memorial to the 45,000 people who lost their lives over a three year period. The cemetery opened in 1951 as the public resting place of many young Commonwealth soldiers who died in battle in Burma during World War II and remains one of the most popular war memorials in Asia today.
Cannons, ammunition bunkers and underground military tunnels are just a few of the wartime memorabilia on offer in Southeast Asia's largest war museum, sitting atop Ghost Hill. Built in the 1930s by the British as a fort, this was later the site where the battle for Penang was fought and lost to the Japanese. Later it was used as a prison base for POWs and became infamous for stories of cruelty and torture. Walk and crawl through various spaces and be thankful you're now allowed out.
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The chilling Choeung Ek Killing Fields are a 30-minute drive from the centre of Phnom Penh and remain one of the most popular tourist destinations in Cambodia. This is where the Khmer Rouge tortured and massacred thousands of children and families during their four year reign. On a rainy day you can still see pieces of clothing rising up from the ground from those buried beneath.
This ancient walled fortress, still riddled with bullet holes, was the site at which marines fought during The Battle of Hue, which raged for over a month and is known as one of the longest and toughest battles in the Vietnam War. Tourists can cycle around the Citadel, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, taking in the Royal Tombs of Hue and the Thien Mu Pagoda, or see it via the Perfume River on a cruise.
While it calls itself a war memorial, this gargantuan space is actually a military history museum in Seoul, where tourists can look at planes, tanks and guns and learn about the country's war-riddled history. With indoor and outdoor exhibits, over 9,000 artefacts from the Korean War and a memorial for fallen soldiers, police and Korean war participants, it's a fascinating trip through time.
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