Joanne Kennedy from Kennedy & Turner Travel Associates recalls her South East Asian adventure of 2008.
My trip began on British Airways with a flight from Sydney to Bangkok. British Airways was a fantastic airline to fly with and provided excellent service. The flight back home from Singapore was even better as the bigger aircraft provided more leg room. Also, at Singapore Airport we were able to check in six hours prior to our flight which was very impressive and helpful.
In Bangkok we stayed at the beautiful five star Dusit Thani, conveniently located right on the Skytrain line. The rooms were huge and the service was excellent, although the check-in counter was difficult to find. I recommend staying on the Dusit Club floor, which gives you access to the exclusive Dusit Club Lounge for a beautiful breakfast.
We travelled from Bangkok to Singapore in the luxury of an Orient Express train, which took a total of four days. This option offers a number of different accommodation levels. The State cabins offer twin accommodation, with six cabins and one butler per carriage. The Pullman cabins are a little larger offers single twin bunk beds and one butler per carriage. The pick of the lot is the Presidential cabin. These are very impressive and worth the extra dollars to upgrade. There are only two of these cabins on the train so you need to book early.
The service on the Orient Express was flawless and the meals were all delicious. Lunch and dinner were served in the restaurant, while breakfast, morning tea and afternoon tea were all served in the cabin. The trip itinerary included two stops. The first was at the River Kwai where we enjoyed a guided raft trip along the river to admire the beautiful scenery before boarding a coach for a tour of the Kanchanaburi area which was definitely worthwhile. The second stop was at Butterworth, from which we caught the ferry over to Penang for a tour of the mosques, temples, churches and bazaars. This segment of the trip was unfortunately very hot and not as enjoyable as the first tour. If you’re ever doing this rail journey, expect delays of up to five hours. While the first night was a bumpy ride, the trip was on the whole a great experience and I definitely recommended Orient Express for those seeking an alternative mode of travel within Asia.
Upon arriving in Singapore we checked into the St Regis, a beautiful luxury hotel considered a ‘six star’ property. The foyer was grand and immaculately kept, while the friendly greeting from the staff and personal butler service were very impressive. Check-in is done from your room, and a 24-hour butler service is included in the price. Rooms are extremely luxurious and equipped with all the latest electronics. There is also the award-winning Remède Spa which is very indulgent and relaxing. The hotel is situated only a minute’s walk from Orchard Road.
From Singapore we flew Silk Air to Siem Reap in Cambodia. The seats on this flight were surprisingly roomy, more so than many long haul flights. In Siem Reap we stayed at Le Residence D’Angkor and did a guided tour of Angkor Wat with Travel Indochina. The accommodation at La Residence D’Angkor was excellent. Built in traditional Khmer style using natural woods, the hotel had an authentic and exotic feel. The service was outstanding, the location perfect, and the rooms large and comfortable.
The guided tour of the temples of Angkor Wat with Travel Indochina was an experience of a lifetime. I’ll never forget the sight of Angkor Wat at dawn with unobstructed views of the sunrise and temples. It was mind blowing to think about the people who must have lived and worked in the temples so many years ago. You can often catch a glimpse of a monk dressed in orange against the dark backdrop of a temple, which takes an amazing photo. The tour guide was fantastic and explained everything in a really interesting way. He was attuned to the needs of our group and gave things a unique perspective.
Ta Prohm temple was my favourite. It was completed in the 13th century then abandoned when the Khmer empire fell in the 15th century. It then remained neglected, untouched and forgotten for centuries as Mother Nature took over. This made the experience incredibly special for me. I could have spent a full day there in awe of the enormity of this temple’s history. They say it took around 80,000 people to fully maintain and service Ta Prohm and its surroundings, among them high priests and dancers. Early in the morning is the best time to see this amazing spectacle. This unforgettable experience at Angkor Wat capped off an amazing trip – one that I can highly recommend to anyone.
Have you experienced this or another luxury train journey? Our experiences are only half the story. Share yours in the comments section below.