Helen and Randall on the road

A bit about our adventures 2011-2012

Thursday 17th – Saturday 19th November: Eastern & Oriental Express

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After an early morning swim in the glorious outdoor pool at the Ritz Carlton:

and a very slightly rushed breakfast, we were picked up and taken to ANOTHER 5-star hotel for check-in to the Orient Express – this turned out to be because the actual station is right on the slightly sensitive border with Malaysia and they are not keen on lots of people and bags milling about. The hotel is also rather more comfortable to wait in as the train can of course be delayed, particularly *at* said border because all the staff have to clear immigration too. As it turned out the train *was* delayed for about an hour, which was fine as The Regent Hotel had laid on coffee and rather lovely snacks, and we had wifi access. We handed over our check-in bags and also our cabin bags which were duly labelled and spirited away, and completed our immigration cards for Malaysia. Finally we boarded shuttle buses to the train station, exited Singapore and entered Malaysia, and were escorted politely to our home for the next three days:

Carriage entrance

Carriage outside


Cabin (en-suite with loo, sink and shower plus hairdryer & Bulgari complimentary bits and bobs)

Cabin – in daytime configuration


No sooner were we underway than we were summoned to our respective dining cars (having been given our assignments by our lovely cabin steward):

Full 3 course meal, coffee and petit fours. Fresh flowers on table. Beautiful table linens and E&O stylish porcelain. Gorgeous. Oh and Randall.

We explored the train which has various public areas; a reading room, a small shop selling train-related knick-knacks, a main bar with piano (sadly not a grand as it wouldn’t fit!) and a smaller inside bar attached to the observation car:

Bar area

Bar area again

Observation Car

The observation car gets busy at cocktail hour!

Observation car just after sunrise…nice and quiet!

Much like The Ghan, it seemed as if the main aim of the train staff was to keep us constantly fed, so no sooner had we come back from our wander around (and Randall had had a little snooze) than it was time for afternoon tea served in our cabin:

Then not long after that it was time to dress for dinner – as the train was slightly delayed, our arrival in Kuala Lumpur station co-incided with the dinner sitting, so we were all dressed up and only got a short leg-stretch at the station rather than the 90 minute scamper around KL we were hoping for.

Tarted up for dinner. Sadly this one’s a bit blurred (taken by random punter on the station) but you get the idea!

During dinner the steward changed the cabin over to the night-time configuration – sweet bunkbeds (only the ‘presidential cabin’ has twin beds not bunks) with fresh flowers and stylish linen robes for those Noel Coward impressions:

Before retiring we were reminded by the train manager that the train would be crossing a rather picturesque lake  around 6.30 in the morning, so we duly managed to get ourselves up just in time for sunrise:

View from the observation car

Sun rising over the lake

Assorted poses

Huge sun.

After breakfast we pulled into Butterworth station – sounds as if it should be a typical colonial town but it’s basically a big industrial centre from what we saw. We were summoned onto buses and crossed the Penang bridge to Penang island where we got a tri-shaw tour of historic Georgetown. I felt at least 75:

sharing the road with other, much larger and faster, vehicles!

Then it was back to the train for more food – lunch – and crossing the border into Thailand mid afternoon. The immediate thing we noticed was the increase in the number of people living and working alongside the railway track. Malaysia had been notable for the huge civil engineering projects; bridges, new railway lines, roads etc that were under development, so we mostly saw construction workers or plantations, whereas in Thailand we were soon rushing through small villages where there were people going about their daily lives. Much more interesting for me.
Dinner was ‘on the move’ and we dined in ‘the saloon’ with another couple with whom we sat up until almost midnight nattering before eventually retiring to our cozy cabin.
The next morning after breakfast served in our cabin we arrived at ‘The bridge over the River Kwai’:
only the rounded bits are original, the rest is bomb-damage replacement
Here we had a river boat trip with commentary by one of the museum volunteers (an extremely knowledgeable WWII historian) about the history of the railway, then a visit to the ‘Death Railway Museum
– a very well curated museum – recommended if you are ever in Bangkok and have time for the day trip. Very moving without being maudlin, giving a clear impression of the day to day lives of the workers, set in a social-military-historical context. It is right next to the war cemetery:
The remains of the thousands and thousands who died during the construction (over 13,000 POWs and around 100,000 Asian labourers) are still being found, and efforts made to identify them.
After that it was back on to the (stationary) train for a last lunch, then bundled onto buses for the last leg of the journey – 4 hours on a round-about diverted trip into Bangkok to our hotels – as the train couldn’t make the last bit into Bangkok because of the floods.
Anyway, we feel our photos didn’t really do justice to the whole glorious E&O experience, so here are some more from google: photos.

Written by helenbcn

November 19, 2011 at 11:23 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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