Friday, October 12, 2012

Next up...

... is Papua New Guinea.  We leave on 13 November for Cairns, to board our charter flight to Madang.

Once we get there we'll be board the True North ship for 11 days of sailing around the east coast of PNG.

Looks pretty magical, right?

Saturday, June 2, 2012


I should have written this post months ago, but I lost the will to blog. Anyway, here is the report on the final stage in our holiday, in Singapore.

We arrived at Woodlands Station and caught a cab to our hotel, the Millenia Ritz Carlton. We have stayed there before and it was excellent, but this time it just seemed a little... less excellent. Service was a bit poor, which I think was the main problem.  And they charged us a fortune for wifi, which is inexcusable.

This is the view from our lounge window at night: 01 Singapare Night

During the day we had views of the Marina Bay Sands hotel which is the one with the crazy ship sailing across the three buildings: 03 Singapore Day

And they have an excellent shopping centre with many nice shops at the bottom.

One day we decided to go to the Art Science Museum, which is the lotus-shaped building you can see in the photo above. We paid our $25 (each!) to get in, went up to the top floor to start looking at the exhibits, and found... nothing. Turns out the Art Science Museum (a misleading name if there ever was one) only has travelling exhibitions and all they had was a Titanic exhibition which had already been in Melbourne two years ago. Talk about disappointing. There was no art, no science. The boy was furious and argued with three different people to get our money back. He succeeded in the end, but it was a total waste of an hour.

We also met up with some friends from Melbourne who moved to Singapore a couple of years ago, and had lunch and a wander around Dempsey Hill, which is locally known as the Aussie Expat centre of activity. 09 Singapore Demspey Hill

It was a lovely day out and we ended up back at their place for dinner. So great to see Melissa and Dave again after so long!

On another day, we also went over to see the Merlion, which has been the symbol of Singapore for ages. It's a massive tourist attraction: 06 Singapore Merlion

And then we had the most wonderful experience coming home. If you fly first class with Singapore Airlines, you get to go through customs at Changi Airport via a special separate entry where you sit in leather chairs while they stamp your passport and clear you through Immigration. Then you get escorted to the first class lounge, and if you are regular customers like we are you get to go into the Private Lounge where everything in the known universe is available to you. God it was good.

So all in all it was a wonderful holiday. I would definitely recommend the Eastern and Oriental Express train, it was a fantastic experience. Next time we go to Singapore we'll be staying at the Mandarin Oriental, as our experience there in Bangkok was top notch.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Eastern and Oriental Express Part 2 - Malaysia

After crossing the border into Malaysia nothing really changed, although the scenery was a little different, as there are a lot of palm oil plantations everywhere. Pretty much as far as the eye could see, in fact.

Our stop in Malaysia was at Butterworth Railway station, where we boarded a bus for the short drive to Penang Island.

We were supposed to go on a trishaw ride through Penang to the Eastern and Oriental Hotel, but our driver looked like he might have been a heroin addict and soon lost the rest of the crowd. We ended up making him stop so we could get out and walk. Luckily we found one of the train passengers who told us where the hotel was so we could meet up with the rest of the group.

16 Train Penang

18 Train Penang

We got back on the train late in the day. The most exciting thing that happened that day was an emergency stop by the train - we were having lunch and one of the waiters yelled out "hold your glasses" so we all grabbed our glasses and only one person spilt theirs as the train ground to a halt in a very short time. We had to get a replacement engine as ours had blown a gasket and kept overheating. It was quite exciting.

By the way, on the Eastern and Oriental Express you get silver service tea sets and cutlery, heavy crystal glassware and fine bone china crockery. No plastic to be seen!

Eastern and Oriental Express Part 1 - Thailand

The next part of our holiday was a train ride from Bangkok to Singapore aboard the Eastern & Oriental Express train.  It was totally amazing and I highly encourage anyone who likes train travel to do it.

01 Train

We left from Hualampong Railway Station around 5pm, and settled into our lovely cabin.

 (that's not me - I borrowed this image from the E&O website)

We had dinner late that night, around 9.15pm, but after consuming some snacks and a bottle of champagne in our cabin we really didn't care.  By the way, the dress code for dinner was formal - men were expected to wear a jacket and tie at least.  I had an assortment of dresses with me so that didn't matter.

The next morning we were woken up by our lovely cabin steward at quarter to dawn so we could see the train cross over the trestle viaduct along the River Kwae.  We arrived in the Observation car when it was still dark and consumed some coffee to wake up.

04 Train Viaduct

07 Train Viaduct

Here's the sun rising:
08 Train Sunrise

Our next stop was the Bridge over the River Kwai itself. Our train stopped on the bridge and we all got off:
11 Train on Bridge River Kwai

And then we went on a raft ride down the river, passing under the bridge:
12 Train River Kwai

And down to the museum in Kanchanaburi (sorry, no photos allowed). It was quite fascinating and I had no idea so many people - both prisoners of war and asian workers - died to help the Japanese build this bridge and the Thai-Burma Railway.

We continued our train journey after this stop and crossed over the border into Malaysia early the next morning.


We departed Melbourne on 2 March, and arrived in Bangkok (via Singapore) around 8pm.  We were met at the arrivals gate by a man who whisked us through security and immigration, took us to collect our luggage and then found our driver for us.  Got to our hotel - the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok - and checked in very quickly.  If you are every going to stay in Bangkok, I highly recommend the Mandarin Oriental.  The rooms are lovely, the staff are friendly, and the service is excellent.

As we were only in Bangkok for one and a half days, the next morning we departed on a quick tour of the city.

01 Thailand Chinatown

The Old Royal Palace:
05 Thailand Old Palace

One of many monuments with elephants:
06 Thailand Statue

The Chao Phraya river, which runs through Bangkok:
13 Thailand Chao Phray

View of the river from our hotel room:
17 Thailand Hotel View

Bangkok was an interesting mix of old and new, rich and poor. It was extremely hot - about 38degC each day, and very humid. I swam every day in the pool, which you can see at the bottom of the last picture above.

On the night before we left, we decided to have dinner in the hotel's famous french restaurant, Le Normandie. It was extremely glamorous and the food was excellent. What was even more exciting, was that the Crown Prince of Thailand's first wife was also dining there that night, so we got to greet her as she arrived in the restaurant (with an entourage of about 20, and four security guards). Most exciting. My shoes were better than hers, though.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Next up

It appears that I have not yet told anyone about our next holiday, which starts one week from today.

We'll be flying to Singapore and then on to Bangkok, where we have a couple of days before getting on a train - the Eastern and Oriental Express - which will take us through Thailand and Malaysia and down into Singapore.  Then we have a few days in Singapore before heading home.

I'm really looking forward to it.  We have friends who moved to Singapore about 18 months ago and we haven't seen them since, so catching up is on our list of priorities.

It's going to be a great holiday.