Leaving Singapore by train

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October 24th 2012
Published: October 25th 2012
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Farewell to HanoiFarewell to HanoiFarewell to Hanoi

Typical scene of vendor on street selling fruit, veges and all sorts
We left Singapore this morning by train. Thank goodness we had the foresight to buy some grog at Hanoi - there was absolutely no duty free anything between Singapore and Malaysia at the railway station. Not even a booth for buying water or snacks.

The flight from Hanoi was uneventful, but it was sad to break the group up in the international transit area. Ali, John and Heather are still (yup, we've had a lovely sleep and brekkie) flying to New Zealand and Rick and Pip were picked up at Singapore to travel over to Bintan Island for a week.

So now it is just me and Davie on our own.

Last night we checked into a very nice hotel, by far the nicest we've ever had in Singapore (Wangnz in Outram Road) - in the past the travel agent selections were faded tower blocks in the centre of Singapore. This time we are a hop step and jump from Chinatown, about a zillion restaurants and large cold beers. So off we wandered into the night. The restaurant scene was fair buzzing, but the night market was poorly attended and closed as we supped a fine beer around 8 pm.

The market was even more tatty than we had experienced in the past - with simply nothing that we would want to buy - not even amusing knick knacks. Maybe that explains the paucity of punters.

On the way back to the hotel we called into a departmental store and purchased Davie's annual supply of undies for a song, plus a couple of new check shirts. This means we can chuck old stuff away as we travel north into Malaysia, without worrying about laundry.

I am living in Vietnamese jim jams - loose flowing tops and harem sort of pants made of light slubbed silk. Cheap as, and they dry overnight - so my clothes are not problem. I might look a sight, but who cares? No-one knows me here, and Davie doesn't see that well.

No pho for breakfast - I felt deprived - it has been our staple now for a couple of weeks, and is an excellent start to the day. Surprisingly it seems to last as long as a couple of eggs, and is, of course, probably so much better for us. So for breakfast I had
Davie's deep fried spring rollsDavie's deep fried spring rollsDavie's deep fried spring rolls

Last dish in Hanoi - note Norrey's black iced "Vietnamese" coffee - very yum.
deep fried tofu with spicy peanut sauce and a spicy noodle and vegetable dish, after the lovely tropical fruit.

So what are our Malaysian plans?

We travel from Singapore to Malacca by train (yet another of these great train journeys - yeah right - train built by Hyundai in Korea in 1984, and not renovated since) where we get picked up by a guide for a day's look-see at this historic town, a Nonya dinner and then stay the night and off to Kuala Lumpur in the morning. We have two nights in KL and do the sights there, including the Batu Caves which are apparently pretty terrific, the Selangor pewter works, plus the bright lights of KL. We have a day and a night in the Cameron Highlands looking at tea plantations and enjoying a cooler night, then it is onto Georgetown in Penang.

So far the train journey has been a bit 1950s - with guards blowing whistles and waving green flags to start the train. We have travelled past miles of palm plantations - acres of rows of palms as far as the eye can see. Not sure what they are for, probably palm oil I imagine, but maybe palm kernels grown for kiwi dairy cows.

The villages, town and settlements we have seen in the first hour or so since leaving Singapore have been pretty poor - with a lot of rubbish and plastic waste and not much sign of affluence so far.

Well, who would believe it, the Eastern and Orient Express has just passed us going the other way. Very glamorous livery, a very long train, and guess what, it is the old Silver Fern train that used to ply between Wellington and Auckland in the late '70s. Apparently it was taken out of commission because it had asbestos in it, and the unions refused to work it. Then, it was sold offshore and refitted as the luxury train that goes between Singapore and Bangkok. I don't suppose it was seen as 'a strategic asset' that should not have been allowed to be sold to foreign interests. Aaah, the ironies of politics and life!!

Having not had the opportunity to buy some water, and having been on a relatively hot train now for a couple of hours, it might be time to see if there is a restaurant or bar somewhere up the train. A bottle of water would be welcome, and I guess Davie will think it is time for a beer.

Well, that was a quick learning curve. I walked past unbelievably smelly loos - simply gross, to the bar car. This is a sort of cafe with tables and a counter with slabs of coca-cola, iced (mis-nomer) tea, and pepsi along with pre-packaged chicken burgers and nasi goreng - both cold. The drinks were warm. Tough - we could have bought ice, but I wouldn't know where it had come from and how it was stored, so we drank warm ice tea out of cans. No beer, I forgot this is a strongly Muslim country that frowns on alcohol), so poor Davie had to drink warm sweet tea instead of his preferred cold beer.

I think we might need too get a bit sophisticated with what we take with us on some of these longer legs of our journey. I guess a chilli bag would be relatively easy to find and our hotels, so far, have always had fridges. So we could carry cool provisions instead of having to rely on suss stuff.

We could have also bought samosas from an old woman hawker walking through the carriage. Hmn, I am a bit conservative and cautious these days. She had a plastic basket and several plastic bags full of pies. Poor old thing she was pretty crippled and slow - but hey you don't want cooled down hot food here - huh?


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