Tuesday, June 26, 2012

E&O Express 1 River Kwai (6/25-26/2012)

Monday, June 25, 2012
At the Hua Lamphong Railway Station, or Bangkok Railway Station, we retrieved our suitcases and although it was early, we wanted to check which track to look for the Eastern & Oriental Express. The lady at the information desk sent us to Track 12. Some old train was sitting on track 12, but farther down, people dressed in dark green uniforms approached us. They were from the E&O company, who took our suitcases and sent us into an air-conditioned building. Ah, the dedicated E&O waiting room:
At the counter in the waiting room, we checked in, like into a hotel, and were asked our dining preferences. Snacks, cold drinks, hot water and a coffee drink machine were available for our refreshment. We spent over an hour here, until boarding at 5:30 pm. The train was on Track 3!
Our suitcases were already in the cabin, the room steward introduced himself and gave us our dining assignment card, and we unpacked. I then went to the observation car at the rear of the train, just in time to see us depart:
Bye-bye, Bangkok!
This is a stateroom, one grade up from ours:
Narrow corridors:
Emergency brake:
Vases of orchids in every car:
Our Pullman cabin:
Light sconce:
The air-conditioning vent:
Our private bathroom:
A dish of jasmine blossoms and toiletries basket:
Towel with the E&O logo:
We had to dress up for dinner, that is, Kent had to wear a jacket and tie. At the first dinner we shared a table with a couple from England in the Saloon Car:
Saloon Car lamp and orchids:
We started with panfried goose liver on a gingerbread tartine with a side of pineapple chutney drizzled with a balsamic reduction. (Very good combination of flavors.) Then a Tom Yam (spicy clear soup with meat and veggies) Cappuccino with fennel and celery, a spicy soup served in a cappuccino cup (I think it was blended or “creamed”). This was followed by Tranche of Lamb Chump (flank cut near leg) on Fricassee of Vegetables and Stuffed Pimento (with mashed potato) with Jus of Asian Spices. (The lamb was done just right.) Dessert was Khanom Krok (coconut rice cake or pancake) with a piece of chocolate ganache, Thai coconut ice cream and orange sauce. (There was also a “feather” of hardened drizzled sugar set upright on it.) Finally along with coffee (Doi Chang Coffee of Northern Thailand) or tea (Boh Plantation Tea of Cameron Highlands) were petit fours, a couple tiny bite-size chocolate and vanilla cakes. 
After dinner we checked out the pianist in the Bar Car:
Upon returning to our cabin, the bunks had been lowered:
Kent graciously took the top bunk!
Robes and wrist garlands:
A strange flower - Calotropis gigantea/Crown Flower:
We were taking the Classic Journey of the Eastern & Oriental Express, four "days" and three nights from Bangkok to Singapore, going through Malaysia. It travels 2,030km/1,262 miles, with two excursion stops, and many more stops to allow trains to pass on the one-track system. Track gauge is a narrow 1m/39" which resulted in a rocking and swaying ride.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012
We were out in the observation car by 6:30 am to view the crossing of the Wang Po Trestle. The locomotive had been moved to this end of the train:
Passing the Tham Krasae Station at the northern end:
Getting the green flag to cross the Wang Po Trestle:
Looking down the Kwae Noi/Little Kwae River:
You can see the raft hotel rooms of Saiyok River House Resort.
Starting across the 300m/984' long wooden trestle or viaduct:
Looking straight down:
Looking back along our 19-car train:
We sat in the observation car bar for a cup of coffee and tea:
One of the local crops is tapioca:
Stones in the fields:
Sun breaking through the clouds:
Returned to our cabin for breakfast:
At 8:30 am we were scheduled for our River Kwai excursion.
Lots of help to disembark from the train:
Tamiko by the "Bridge Over the River Kwai:"
You may have noticed that the Wang Po Trestle was along the Kwae Noi River. The author of the fiction novel "The Bridge Over the River Kwai" (later made into a movie) misplaced the bridge over the Kwae River, as he knew the railroad mostly followed that river. However, the bridge (although the book was fiction, the bridge is all too real) crosses the Mae Klong River, into which the Kwae Noi River flows. The enterprising Thais decided to rename the river the Kwae Yai/Big Kwae River, and where the Kwae Noi joins it, it returns to being the Mae Klong. This way, tourists could easily find the famous bridge over the River Kwai.
A small boat pulls a large raft:
Floating Restaurant:
What is this guy doing?
Oh, he's the one pulling us!
A walkway with platforms has been built on the bridge:
The original sections of the bridge are curved. Three sections were damaged when bombed, and were replaced with two rectangular sections:
As we were pulled down the river, an Australian, Rod Beattie, the Director of the Thailand-Burma Railway Centre, gave a talk on the history of the "Death Railway."
A tourist longtail boat in front of another museum, the WWII War Museum:
Another museum in town is named JEATH, an acronym of the countries involved in building the railroad: Japan, England, Australia, (America,) Thailand, and Holland.
Waterfront property:
 Can you see the boy collecting lotus blossoms in the photo below?
The raft dropped us off at a site of several temples:
The North Temple, a Chinese temple resembling the Temple of Heaven in Beijing, and Wat Neua, a Thai-Hindu temple. In the next block there was a church!
The longtail put up quite a splash:
Motor coaches took us into the town of Kanchanaburi and the Thailand-Burma Railway Centre aka Death Railway Museum:
We did not have enough time to adequately absorb all the information provided at this museum.
View of the Dan-Rok or Kanchanaburi War Cemetery from the museum:
Entrance to the War Cemetery:
Dedication stone:
Marked graves:
Back on the motor coaches to the train station:
Several bird topiaries, under the sign above and below:
The ubiquitous shrine to the Thai King:
We had lunch with an Australian couple in the Malaya Dining Car:
We started with a Pan-seared Scallop, Gratinated with Calamansi (calamondin)-Chilli on a Green Papaya and Pomelo Salad (shredded). Then Rolled Marsala Chicken on Lemongrass Risotto served with Fragrant Siamese Yellow Curry Bouillon. Followed by a Thai Mandarin Orange Segment with Light Mousseline Cream and Lime Sorbet. With coffee and tea were Mignardises, a type of petit four that are tiny cookies and chocolates. Oof!
In the afternoon there was a local and in-season fruit sampling session:
Clockwise from the honey bananas are branches of longans, yellow apple, green guava, rambutan, pink dragon fruit, pale yellow rose apple, lychee, papaya, and durian. In the center is a large green pomelo with some lychees and one sala.
The Sala fruit:
Rambutan, longan, and lychee:
Tamiko dressed for dinner:
Dinner was with an English-Norwegian couple.
Starting with an Amuse Bouche, then a Cheese SoufflĂ© with Lobster Bisque. You had a choice between  Roast Duck Breast with Cauliflower Puree, Pine Nuts and Tom Yam Ratatouille served with Honey Sauce or Tom Ka Kai (coconut soup) - Chicken in Coconut Soup Accompanied by Salad Kag (greens with peanut sauce) and Jasmine Rice. Then a Lychee Mousse Roll on Banana Ice Cream and Cinnamon Crackers, and Petit Fours with coffee or tea.
Bunk turndown:
Good night!
(The E&O adventure continues in the E&O Express 2 posting.)

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