Bangkok to Singapore 2016
After a crazy 24 hours in Bangkok accompanied by monsoon rains we looked forward to a relaxing journey back to Singapore aboard the luxurious Belmond train. The itinerary would take us through Thailand and Malaysia. We would be travelling for 4 days, spending 3 nights on board calling at River Kwai and Death Museum, Kuala Kangsar and Kuala Lumpar before arriving at Singapore Woodlands Station for a short car trip into Singapore city.
The purpose of the journey had been to celebrate my retirement. We started the holiday in Singapore attending the 3-day Formula 1 Grand Prix prior to flying north. Away from the noise and bustle of fast cars and large crowds – we obviously had never visited Bangkok before!
We knew we would only have a short time, so by pre-planning, we did manage to visit a variety of Temples, Palaces and markets. We used the popular local mode of transport – Boat/ferry – to move up the river then walked back towards the city centre stopping at places of interest. Well, most of the way, we did eventually give up and caught the boat back. They are very regular and behave like buses – you wait some time then two come at once.
Luckily the day we arrived was dry – and, again, luckily the next morning a monsoon arrived which changed our plans. Looking for ‘indoor’ pursuits we discovered the Jim Thompson Museum, him of Silk and architecture fame. I would recommend a visit to view the building itself alone – plus lunch in the restaurant was good. (http://www.jimthompsonhouse.com/)
Boarding the train at Hua Lampong station was interesting – meeting fellow passengers with who we would be spending the next 4 days could have been an anxious time but it was easy to see that everyone else was as excited about the coming adventure as I was. www.Belmond.com/trains
The cabins were comfortable and reasonably spacious, although not sure how someone of a larger size would negotiate the shower. We avoided the need to toss a coin as to who would climb up to the top bunk as we had twin beds. That said we did have a ‘bunk bed’ arrangement when we travelled on the Orient Express to Venice and coped well.
It is obvious that a lot of planning is undertaken by the train team to ensure everyone has a good experience – down to rotating seating plans and settings for meals. No panic if you were seated with anyone difficult to engage with as the chances were you would not see them again. We were lucky in that our fellow passengers were friendly and fun yet not encroaching when we wanted to sit quietly in the Observation Car etc.
The Observation Car was popular – it was the only place to obtain access to Wi-Fi, although few people were observed using it and then only for short periods. I used it for a few minutes daily just to send updates and photos to our children. Other than sitting peacefully watching the world go by the main source of fun in this car were the passing Palm Fronds and low hanging trees that would ‘whip’ anyone lost in a daydream – much to the entertainment of others.
For me the highlight, if I could call it that, was the trip to the River Kwai and the visit to the Death Railway Museum and Research Centre. Disembarking from the train we travelled on a slow boat along the river. The original bridge is no longer there although some iron sections of it were used when the bridge was re-built. During the boat journey an Australian expat related the history of the bridge and the many nationalities forced to suffer dire living and working conditions whilst it was built. The focus at the museum is to demonstrate the grisly events and conditions in realistic terms. Although not a vast exhibition I found it very emotive. ‘Man’s inhumanity to man’
Followed by a visit to a WW11 Cemetery, beautifully maintained as they always are, added to the poignancy of the day and it was a rather sober group that returned to the Train to continue our journey towards Malaysia.
The excellent dining experience soon lifted the mood and many found their way to the Bar to enjoy the piano playing and local traditional entertainment.
The train also stopped at Kuala Kangsar where we visited local Museums, a Mosque and finally a Royal Palace (that was closed for renovation, so we only could walk around the perimeter)
Although a stop at Kuala Lumpar was planned our train had had to wait in a siding for a national express that was delayed, consequently we did not arrive in KL until late and so were restricted to a walk along the platform.
The train journey is a way to see local scenery and village life at a leisurely pace, providing an opportunity to gaze on paddy fields and the many uses (and abuses) of scooters as a mode of transport.
Nowadays the train terminates at Woodlands Station in north Singapore, so a short Taxi ride is required to travel to the city centre. For us this meant a journey to Raffles for a 4 night stay before our flight back to the UK. The reputation of exceptional service and friendly staff is well deserved in this traditional hotel.
Returning to the office to render my resignation and to commence working three months’ notice did not go as planned – due to events in my absence I found myself agreeing to stay another 9 months.
Back to earth with a bump you could say.