We recently had the honour of spending 3 nights on board the Eastern & Oriental Express from Bangkok to Singapore. This luxury train is a unique experience and a chance to not only enjoy the Asian landscapes, but also to dress glamorously and sample some of the best food in the world. In part one of our epic rail journey we covered some of the elements that make this train journey so amazing, but there’s much more to this 3 night tour. During the journey there are a two extended stops, one in Thailand and the other in northern Malaysia.
A morning in Kanchanaburi, Thailand.
Our first stop was at the town of Kanchanaburi, known for the river Kwai that flows through it and a rather famous bridge, bombed during the second world war. The Eastern & Oriental Express actually stops on the bridge where we disembarked for the short walk to a floating barge pulled by a small but powerful boat. On board we had complimentary refreshments and a fantastic in-depth and humorous history lesson from the curator of the local museum, an English man with a vast knowledge of the Japanese occupation in Thailand during WWII.
We cruised along the river Kwai, trying desperately to remember all the history we were being taught. Slowly heading towards a jetty near some newly built Chinese temples. Amazing colourful statues and pagodas, quite a sight to walk past and board 1 of 3 buses waiting for us. They took us on a quick 5 minute ride to the local museum next to the Kanchanaburi War Cemetary where more than 6800 commonwealth and dutch soldiers are buried or commemorated. Quite a sight. The museum is a very well presented and detailed look at what happened during the second world war and the prisoners of war that built the thai-burma railway, often referred to as “death railway” in Kanchanaburi.
As we left the museum friendly Eastern and Oriental Express staff handed is ice cold wet towels and bottles of water. Back on the buses for the 2 minute journey to Kanchanaburi station where are beautiful green train was waiting for us. Our carriage attendants greeted us with a smile and helping hand back on to our train.
An afternoon in Penang, Malaysia
Just over 24 hours after our first excursion and numerous sumptuous meals later, we pulled in to Butterworth in northern Malaysia. Penang Island is just a short ferry ride away or in our case another air conditioned bus taking us the long way round over the 13.5 km long Penang Bridge, the longest bridge in Malaysia in fact. We had a wonderful guide on board our bus teaching us some interesting facts about Malaysia, the island of Penang and daily life for the local residents. With the occasional joke along the way to keep us entertained. We were dropped off at the very beautiful Khoo Kongsi chinese temple where we got to explore the building and check out the interesting murals on the walls inside. When we left the temple there was quite a sight as around 50 or so tri-shaw bikes were parked waiting for us. We gingerly boarded our bike and our friendly “captain” did his best to propel us tourists through the streets of Penang. It’s a great way to see the city and great fun being in a mini race with our fellow Eastern & Oriental Express passengers, naturally we won, although I did none of the peddling! Our captain pointed out interesting landmarks and dropped us off at the entrance of the famous Eastern & Oriental Hotel. We were shown to the bar area by the pool where waiters were ready to hand us freshly made brandy cocktails.
Our stop at this famous hotel was short lived as our buses waited to take us back over the Pedang bridge and back to Butterworth Station. The engine was now at the other end of the train to pull us out of the terminus. It was another very enjoyable, albeit quick tour around the colourful streets of Penang. I’d highly recommend a longer visit if you’re heading to Malaysia, the food in Penang is fantastic!
Check out our short video with highlights from our Eastern & Oriental Express trip
Read part one of our Eastern & Oriental Express adventure here.