Live the adventures of Dan Walker's travels through reading his travel journal. The travel journals are listed below in descending order of date. To search the travel journals, use the keyword search at the bottom of the page.
|Tuesday, March 13, 2018 13:55:24|
China, Thailand to Singapore 2018: 10 Eastern & Orient Express, Singapore & home
Tuesday, March 6, 2018
Breakfast was served in our compartment. Once that was done we gathered in the bar coach to disembark at the River Kwai. We walked down to the river to board a barge with seats. As we were towed down river towards the museum the curator gave a talk on the history of the bridge.
He said the film is a work of fiction - the actual River Khwae Yai is much further south, and there was never a railway bridge over it - the track of the Thailand to Burma railway runs along one side of it. The steel and concrete bridge on which our train was currently sitting was shipped from Indonesia and erected by prisoners of war, however the river was the Mae Khlaung. As the movie caused such a tourist boom, the problem was solved by renaming the river Khwae Noi. The bridge was bombed by allied forces and later repaired.
The museum is well done, giving a vivid impression of how terribly the prisoners of war were treated when building the railway. There were about 18,000 Austrians, 30,000 British, 18,000 Dutch and 700 U.S. POWs, plus about 200,000 Asians. 16,000 POWs and about 100,000 Asians died in the 12 months it took to build the 415 km railway through impossible jungle and mountains, including working during monsoon season..
The cemetery is very well kept, but it was very sad to see the hundreds of headstones of soldiers in their early 20s who never had a chance to live their lives. A deluxe double deck bus got us back to the train. After dinner it was another sing along, first with the Taiwanese and later with people from the second sitting for dinner.
Wednesday, March 7, 2018
We skipping breakfast to sleep in, as it was about 3 PM before we reached the site of today's excursion. The options were a hike up a high hill or a visit a local village. As the station had 55 steps up to the road I didn't leave the train, remembering well the problems with my knee caused by the steps in Phuket. Marilynn went on the village visit and said it was worth doing.
Tonight was the last dinner on the train. Two performances by Malaysian dancers were held in the bar car, after which we had our last sing along. Dick, an elderly fellow with some mobility problems, his grandson Daniel, a French Canadian and Peter the piano player stuck it out with us until about 1 AM.
Thursday, March 8, 2018
We had to get up early as luggage was collected at 9 AM, however we did not reach the Malaysian-Singapore border until after 11 AM. Here we were cleared through customs and immigration without passengers doing anything other than presenting their passports, being finger printed and photographed.. Train staff looked after baggage including putting it into taxis. Ours drove us a long way to the historic Fullerton Hotel.
Our beautiful room was ready early, and it was nice to be have space to move around. The hotel was built in 1928, originally intended as a post office. It is very near Singapore city hall, and is the point at which distance measurement within the city were taken. A meeting of the top ranking military officers of ASEAN countries was under way at the hotel, so lots of brass around. Surprisingly, there was no security.
An underground walkway connects the hotel with a promenade that follows the shoreline, where there are restaurants and hotels. After dinner at a waterfront restaurant escalators took us to a pedestrian bridge over the road to Raffles Place shopping plaza, where we changed money. At the hotel we had a night cap in the open air rooftop restaurant, where there is an amazing view of the city including the three high buildings that support an enormous boat shaped bar, pools and restaurant complex. The city and its lights are magical at night.
Friday, March 9, 2018
After a late start we got the concierge to purchase tickets for the aquarium and print them for us while we had brunch. By making the purchase on the full sized smart phone that came with the room we received a discount, bringing the price down to $60 Singapore dollars ($US 45) for both of us. The free phone can be used for local and international calls, internet and data, all at no cost.
There is a Metro (subway/underground) called the MRT in Raffles Place across from the hotel. We purchased a 2 day pass, which we used to get to Sentosa Island, where a number of attractions including Universal Studios and the aquarium are located. The rail pass cost S$26 each, of which S$10 each will be refunded at the airport or City Hall station. The MRT runs to airport terminal 2. The system is easy to use, clean and safe.
At the end of the MRT line we purchased a day pass on a monorail that serves three stops on the island. Once on the island all transportation is free, including buses along the sandy shoreline. There are a lot of high end hotels catering to beach lovers, something I'd never thought of Singapore having.
Our first stop was at a four story shopping mall with corridors of shops going in all directions. An exit leads to the plaza from where various attractions can be accessed, including Universal Studios and the Aquarium. We chose the latter. It is very well done, with hundreds of varieties of sea life swimming around and over us in giant tanks holding a total of about 10 million imperial gallons of water. It was the largest aquarium in the world until 2014 when a larger one was built in China near Macao.
Next was the monorail to the beach where we took a bus down the coast to explore other beaches - all have the same soft golden sand. The water was clear, yet offshore dozens of ships awaited dock space.
Near the hotel we had a dinner of snacks at a popular bar. Most of the pubs were full, as it was just after quitting time – the area was quite lively. We had a night cap at the hotel rooftop bar to watch a light show.
Saturday, March 10, 2018
Breakfast was a splurge at the hotel buffet – S$45 each, but the spread was huge. This time the MRT took us in the opposite direction to Arab Street, an area of about a dozen city blocks where two story buildings are preserved as they were in the past. All were occupied with restaurants and shops – it was like being in an Arabian country with the smells, the appearance, the menus and the dress of the local people. One difference is that there are bars, even though it is a heavily Muslim area, and it is clean and safe, as everything is in this city.
After another short ride under the city we surfaced in Chinatown, a similar situation with two story original buildings, well maintained and a heaven for shoppers in traditional markets. Marilynn had a great time while I had a Chinese beer. The last place we surfaced was Little India, once again with the original shop houses from days gone by. We had an Indian meal for dinner, washed down by Indian beer. Before returning to the hotel we stopped at a waterfront bar for a drink, and a walk along the promenade. We were both exhausted.
Sunday, March 11, 2018
We were up earlier than we wanted to be, but the one place the hotel fell down badly was in providing bedding that is not allergenic. I'm allergic to feathers, and their solution of a skimpy sheet covered blanket gave us three nights with little sleep. Breakfast consisted of 7/11 egg sandwiches we bought last night. We checked out before noon and taxied to the airport, about 25 minutes away. Our flight was not until 3:40 PM, so we checked all baggage including those we usually carry, and retired to the lounge for a reasonable lunch.
The Xiamen (pronounced "Shamen") Airlines 737 got us to Xiamen City, on the coast of China across from Taiwan, in 4 1/2 hours. The next Xiamen 12 hour flight to Los Angeles was on a very well equipped 787-9 with flat bed type seats, so we got some sleep. We had to walk to the adjoining terminal to check in for our midnight 5 hour Delta flight on a 757 to Costa Rica and home.