Hop aboard the Eastern and Oriental Express
If you like constantly changing views whilst eating your breakfast, why not book a passage on the Eastern and Oriental Express. As you enjoy breakfast the train exposes your eyes to water buffalo, elephants and the jungle.
To begin this journey, you will need to arrive at the main station in Bangkok and board the green and gold carriages which will then carry you over 2,030 km to Singapore. The train will take you past remote hamlets with people smiling and waving at level crossings. As the train crosses the country you begin to realise that the people here still get excited when they see such a huge, beautifully painted vehicle.
To ensure you can take full advantage of the beautiful sights, try to get into the last car of the train. This is an observation deck, wood and brass panelled, and it has a lounge and bar. The train pulls out of Hualamphong Station and passes through the shanty towns of northern Bangkok.You can keep cool on the observation deck because of the breeze that whispers across it.
The carriage attendants deliver your luggage to your compartment, while you enjoy the views. Prior to the trip you will have chosen which compartment you would like, either a presidential suite or a compact. The presidential suites are spacious and contain twin beds, the compact is a pullman compartment with two bunks, the upper folds back during the day and the lower one becomes a sofa. All compartments are en-suite with shower and toilet, they also have carefully hidden storage space.
This train is a five star hotel. It attracts clients from all nations and many of these people are there to celebrate a special occasion. You are summoned to dinner and must dress formally. A typical dinner on offer could be : terrine of tiger prawn and mango with a vanilla and lobster vinaigrette dressing, shiitake and enoki mushroom soup perfumed with truffle and steamed sea bass with tofu followed by roast pineapple tart with banana tuille and coconut jam cream. People tend to head for the bar after dinner but a few prefer to go into the observation car to watch the jungle pass by. If you can persuade the staff to switch off the lights then you can enjoy the spectacular show of the stars in the overhead sky.
When you finally retire to your compartment, you will find the carriage attendant has been and turned down your sheets. After a good nights sleep, if you can rise by 6am you will be able to join the throngs of people in the observation car as the train climbs the Tham Kasae wooden viaduct. This is just before the train crosses the bridge over the River Kwai.
This bridge, built by Allied prisoners of war and native slave labour, is a famous reminder of the Death Railway. 100,000 labourers died building this railway for the Japanese military, 16,000 prisoners of war also died, some of them are buried in the Kanchanaburi Allied War Cemetery. The bridge itself is a simple structure of black painted steels that still bears the scars of the bombings during the war
After lunch the train heads south down the peninsula. The scenery changes from the hilly regions of western Thailand and through countryside that is becoming more cultivated. You will see water buffalo pulling old-fashioned ploughs through the paddy fields.
The train crosses the border with Malaysia during the night. The next morning you disembark for a ferry ride to Penang island, while you do that the carriage attendants complete the immigration procedures on your behalf. You visit Khoo Kongsi, a short way outside Georgetown. Khoo Kongsi is a preserved clan village which consists of a theatre, rowhouses and a decorated Chinese temple that has frescoed walls and lanterns. You are then taken to the Eastern and Oriental Hotel by rickshaw. The Hotel dates from 1885 and is totally independent from the Orient Express company.
The last night on the train and after dinner you are treated, in the bar, to a performance of traditional Malay dancing.
You are woken by a knock on the door so you can marvel at the views as the train crosses the causeway that links Singapore to Asia’s mainland.
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