From P. Murdock, Florida
This past Christmas my sister and I traveled to Singapore where we stayed a few days at Raffles before taking the Eastern & Orient Express for the 2 night/3 day trip to Bangkok. We were happy to leave the grim station, which is actually on Malaysian owned land, and even happier to be boarding this gleaming, dark green train with its beautifully old-fashioned décor. A quarter of a mile in length, the E & O has about 22 cars including 2 Dining, Saloon, Bar, Observation, Reading Room and 3 levels of Sleeping Cabins. We each had a “basic” compartment and were very glad not to be sharing because charming as it was, it was small. Only 62 sq. ft. but surprisingly comfy and well-equipped with nice hangers, international electric sockets, a safe and in the tiny bathroom, a shower, 110 volt adapter for razors, hairdryer and Bulgari “amenities.”
The staff couldn’t be nicer or more attentive and the service was infinitely smoother than the ride itself. Once we were underway, the train hurtled along the narrow gage track through the Malaysian peninsula with its dense jungles and palm and rubber plantations. While the rocking of the train didn’t disturb my sleep, reading or God knows, eating, lurching down the corridors resulted in bruises on both arms from hitting the sides. I wish earlier in the trip I’d seen the hilarious demonstration given by a fellow passenger of his solution to this problem, the sideways “crab walk.”
Lunch and dinner consisted of three artfully presented courses that were generally delicious. We quickly realized self-control was hopeless. Below is a sample menu so you can see what my waistline was up against. Breakfast: freshly baked croissants, coffee or tea, juice, fruit and yogurt. Served in one’s compartment. Afternoon Tea: with pastries and curry puffs. Also served in one’s compartment. Lunch: fragrant yellow pepper & pumpkin soup with raviolis of crab followed by aromatic cured duck accompanied by wok fried vegetables in light soya bouillon and ending with a deep-fried fruit samosa with lime zest & mint panna cotta Dinner: amuse bouche followed by a first course of pan-fried sea scallops with lemon & vanilla dressing accompanied by cauliflower purée. For the main course, a choice of medallion of beef with fricassee of crisply-cooked vegetables & deep-fried lotus chips in sweetened red wine reduction or A Taste of Malaysia: traditional Malaysian fried rice accompanied by nonya curry & grilled satay. Dessert was a gingered pineapple tarte tatin & macadamia parfait drizzled with mango sauce and then petits fours and café de Colombia.
Each day we had an excursion each day as well as onboard entertainment. The first night we stopped briefly at the Moorish-style station in Kuala Lumpur. From there are great views of the fantastic Petronas Towers, which sparkled like jewels. The next day after breakfast, we got off the train in Butterworth, boarded buses and then a ferry to Georgetown on Penang, where we had a tour of the market followed by a trishaw ride around this colonial town whose charm escaped me. At some point in Malaysia our engine died and as we were delayed 4 hours, the last morning we had to skip visiting the bridge over the River Kwai, which was fine. I don’t think I would do this trip again but once was a really fun way to travel between the two cities.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW IN ADVANCE - If you are a couple, it’s worth the extra money to get a larger State Cabin. And if you are with a friend, it’s definitely nicer to each have you own Pullman cabin. - There are two seatings for lunch and dinner. If you don’t want to eat early, arrive at the station on time to make sure you get the second (around 1:30 p.m. and 9 p.m.) or if you’d like a table for two. - Menus are set for lunch and dinner though at least at dinner you have a choice of two entrées. If there is any food you’d rather not eat, include it on the passenger information form. - Whether or not you wear evening clothes for dinner, which is encouraged, people do make an effort to change. Ladies, wear flat shoes! A nightly laugh was watching overserved women wearing very high heels ricochet through each car like pinballs. - Bring Dramamine if you’re prone towards motion sickness. - Consider bringing elbow pads to fend off the corridor walls!
Read our insider’s report on Bangkok
Read a member postcard on traveling off the beaten path in Madagascar
Read a You Asked: For a Colombia itinerary
Orient-Express offers special fares and amenities to Indagare members. For details or to book, contact our bookings department at 212-988-2611 or by sending an inquiry.