Thursday, June 28, 2012

E&O Express 2 Penang (6/27-28/2012)

Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Leisurely breakfast and plenty of time to rest up from lack of sleep on a herky-jerky train. The rocking is one thing, but the unexpected and frequent sudden stops and starts don't make for a smooth ride.
We made a stop at the border between Thailand and Malaysia for customs. Our room steward had our passports and paperwork, so he took care of all that for us.
We didn't take advantage of it, but we could also request morning tea in our cabin, as well as a full afternoon tea service. Complimentary coffee and tea were always available in the bars.
Spent some time in the observation car:
You can see the construction parallel to the tracks for a high-speed rail line.
Karst mountains and banana trees:
Rice paddies:
Coconut trees:
Karst mountain and  rice paddies:
Today we had lunch with a New Zealand miner living in Australia, in the Rosalinde Dining Car:
Brunch started with an Amuse Bouche, which was a piece of tuna tartare. Had Poached Eggs with Asparagus on Freshly Baked Brioche with Hollandaise Sauce and Crispy Bacon. Then Aromatic Steamed Sea Bass served with Egg Tofu and Shitake Mushrooms (bland). Dessert was Mangosteen Panna Cotta with Fresh Fruit Salad. (Oh, creamy!) Then the Mignardises with coffee or tea.
We arrived early (1:45 instead of 3:00 pm) in Butterworth, which meant we had more time for our excursion.
One of the E&O cars:
Done by the same designers who did the sister train of the Venice-Simplon Orient Express.
The destination marker:
We boarded motor coaches and headed across the Penang Bridge from Butterworth to Georgetown:
It was very smoggy today. The bridge is 13.5 km/8.4 miles long, the longest bridge in Malaysia.
We were dropped off at the Khoo Kongsi Temple, the grandest clan temple in Malaysia:
Established in 1851, built in 1906.
The ancestral hall:
Gilt carved wood detail:
Back when a privileged few were able to obtain university degrees, clan members would be honored with a signboard: 
Now when university degrees are easier to obtain, members get a small plaque:
The main hall:
Mother-of-pearl inlay furniture:
Wall paintings:
Ceiling ornamentation:
Carved granite decorations:
 The unhappy ancestor:
The happy ancestor:
Rub his head for good fortune:
Or rub the coin under the railing near the happy ancestor:
A Sikh guard:
In the plaza below, trishaws/tricycle rickshaws were waiting:
An especially decorated trishaw:
Time for our trishaw ride through Georgetown:
Traffic jam:
Using a CD as a reflector:
Our driver knew enough English to point out some sights.
The Acheen Street Mosque minaret:
Driving in the left-hand lane:
Little India "saree" shop:
The mannequin in blue was bowing:
A music shop blared Bollywood music:
Kaun Im/Goddess of Mercy Temple:
St George's Anglican Church (1818):
The round building in front is a memorial dedicated to Francis Light, the British founder of Georgetown.
The Supreme Court (1903 in Palladin-style):
The Penang State Museum (building constructed in 1896 as a school):
Assumption Catholic Church:
Founded 1786, built in 1860.
Graffiti or ad?
Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion:
Built in the 1880s and distinctive because of the blue color which was chosen since white represents death to the Chinese. In 2000 it merited the UNESCO Most Excellent Heritage Conservation Award. The house is also featured in movies, including "Indochine."
Lim Lean Teng Mansions (1913):
The French couple arrive in the most-decorated trishaw:
The driver also provided hip hop music!
We then spent an hour at the Eastern & Oriental Hotel (no relation to the train), where we received a damp towel and a free drink of Pimm's:
The Malacca Strait:
Tamiko by the pool:
Finally we hopped back on the motor coaches.
Drove by City Hall (1903 Victorian-style):
Fort Cornwallis (established 1786, built 1810):
Because the E&O train was not yet ready for us (they had to do things like move the observation car and the locomotive to the opposite ends of the train), we were driven back to Butterworth to see a Hindu temple.
Sree Maha Mariamman Devasthanam Temple:
Impressive gopuram/Hindu monumental tower:
Bodhi tree:
Surya, the solar deity of Hinduism:
His chariot is pulled by seven horses, representing the seven colors of the rainbow.
Fertility shrine:
We returned to the train by about 5:30 pm.
Tamiko poses in the observation car:
Kent waves farewell:
Rolling along again, we passed millions of palm oil palms:
Dinner was with another Australian couple in the Malaya Dining Car.
Dinner started with an Amuse Bouche, then Laksa, a Curry Soup with Noodles, Prawn and Quail Egg (it was spicy but good, and got us coughing). We had a choice of Braised Beef Cheek with Bah Kut Teh (meat bone tea) Herbs, Potato Mousseline and Bak Choy with Savory Abalone Mushroom (we couldn’t find the mushroom, but the beef was oh, so tender!) or Ayam Rendang (dry curry chicken) Biryani, Tender Spiced Chicken Leg Served with Fragrant Long-grain Rice and Pickles. Dessert was Mango Parfait with Papaya Jelly, Peanut and Cashew Nut Tuile (cookie) and Passionfruit Coulis (fruit sauce). Petit Fours with coffee and tea.

Thursday, June 28, 2012
Finally got a photo of a Muslim mosque and minaret in Malaysia, a country that is officially Muslim but known for their stated toleration of other religions (since there are many Chinese and Asian Indians in the country).
Around noon, we arrived at the border of Malaysia and Singapore, and waited for the customs proceedings to be finished. Then we rode across a causeway and were in Singapore. Our luggage had been taken from the rooms earlier. We breezed through customs and found our bags waiting for us at the taxi stand.
We caught a taxi to the nearest Metro station.
See the Singapore 1 posting for the rest of the day's activities.

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