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Published: December 24th 2017
(No change from 2.1 except I have corrected references to Jim Davidson! It is of course Jim Thompson!!
As Singapore got rid of their overground rail system a few years ago, to board the Eastern & Orient Express, we had to make the journey to the northern most town, Woodlands, to get the train and pass through immigration for Malaysia. Not too much of a hardship as Singapore is only 25 miles long!
The train systems of Malaysia and Thailand and most countries in the region use 1 metre gauge (narrow gauge we might call it) and this can hinder the comfort somewhat, particularly in the old E & O carriages. The line is single track in Malaysia until you reach Kuala Lumpu, so sleeping was a problem. After that all the track has been relaid for high speed and is double track. Much smoother, but cambered. Our train did not tilt, so if lying down when going around a corner, you felt you must fall out of bed!
It is a very long train by modern standards, 17 carriages. Our cabin was in carriage E near the front. So the walk to the observation car meant passing
Part of the engine.
This was the boiler in effect, collecting water, heating it, running air conditioning etc. I was not allowed to take photos of engine for strange reason
two restaurant cars, kitchen car, two bars, reading room and various other carriages for accommodation. I obviously struggled to get passed the bars, but Frin had to make the long journey to the end of the train, to have a cigarette. The observation car is open air; blowy but warm.
The food was of the highest quality prepared by renowned French chef Yannis Martineau. We were woken by our man for continental breakfast in our room, followed by three course lunch, afternoon tea of scones etc and then another three course dinner. Perhaps all a bit wasted on Frin and myself!!
Our first stop was at Kuala Kangsar. This is the town where the Sultans of Perak Have their country residence. Malaysia is Muslim, but all regilions are tolerated and enjoyed. If Christians have a festival then there is a public holiday for all. Likewise for Muslims and Buddhists. Therefore Malaysia has 20 public holidays a year. Seems to work very well. We went to the museum of Sultan 34. Allan Shah of PeRaj was educated in England, went to Nottingham University, studied law and married an English girl. He was 6th in line to the throne and
Frin in cabin
Afternoon tea about to be served
head of the Judiciary. Due to family illness and death he became Sultan in 1985 and king in 1989. Being married to commoner and English to boot, did not go down well. He loved his sport and there are pictures of Paignton Hockey Festival 1952 and many golf pics.
The other noticeable point about Kuala Kangsar is that there are no dogs. Dogs are considered by Muslims with suspicion, but cats are everywhere. When you cross into Thailand, a Buddhist country, all animals rule the roost, especially cows (could be in Mumbai!!)
Our second stop was at Kanchanaburi (Bridge on the River Kwai). However it is neither on the Kwai nor is the bridge there the one about ‘The Bridge on The River Kwai’ is written. It is however a bridge built by the POWs and the river is now called the Kwai. The wooden bridge from the film is about 200km up the line! (The boss says the film was filmed in Sri Lanka!!)
The extraordinary thing that happened there was Frin was talking to the resident historian and mentioned her uncle William that she knew had died as a POW somewhere in that part of
the world. A brief visit to the researc centre tracked him down. And not only that he is buried in the cemetery opposite. We laid flowers!
Just had first day in Bangkok and vistied the Jim Thompson house and museum but more of him next time.
Merry Christmas to you all!!
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