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Night train to Singapore

The time passed surprisingly quickly in the Sri Emas waiting room. There was about 10 or 15 people all with onward train connections some going north, some south. Some people had booked a room to get some sleep while they waiting but we just sat it out, me catching up on my diary and Stef having a snooze. A bit before 2:00am they took us up to the train station and within minutes our train arrived.

We found our carriage and our beds. In China we had had a little cabin with four beds in it. Here it was the open carriage with beds lined up on either side, each having curtains you could pull across for privacy. As we were sorting our stuff and getting in to bed the train pulled away, only to stop again a few minutes later. It seems that most of the line is only single track so we had to move out onto a siding so that the north bound train could get into the platform.

Before long we were both tucked up in bed and although it was very early in the morning I could not sleep. I was waiting for us to be on the move, fully expecting that the motion of the train would help to rock me to sleep. Our departure time of 2:20am came and went but we were still at Jerantut station. A little before 3:00am the northbound train arrived, stopped for a couple of minutes for people to get on and then set off. We were then free to start our trip southwards.

Before long I had nodded off and I had a short but surprisingly comfortable night’s sleep. I woke at about 8:00am to see palm trees out of the window and the odd small village. Around me were the combined sounds of people snoozing, the guy opposite us had been gently snoring since we got on board and was still doing so, and people stirring and getting up. I got dressed and peeked in at Stef to find that he was awake having also slept well.

We chatted, played cards and watched the world go by out of the window. At Johor Bahru, Malaysian immigration came on board to check people’s passports. At Woodlands, on the southern side of the Strait of Johor, everyone had to get off the train with their luggage to go through Singapore immigration and a security check. As we got off the train Police with sniffer dogs got on the train. After a short wait we were back on board for the last part of our journey.

Again we had to wait for a train coming in the other direction. They are also doing work here upgrading the track so having been on time for most of the journey we arrived about ninety minutes late. Watching the people working on the track was quite entertaining. It looks like there used to be more tracks but they are now well and truly overgrown. About ten men were involved in the process of using a JCB to lift old overgrown sleepers off the ground and to put them in the back of a big truck. Of these, two actually lifted and guided the sleepers the rest just stood around and watched.

The train ride through Singapore Island gave us a glimpse of what we think we have in store to come. We passed housing estate with large, smart houses with immaculately tended gardens surrounding a private pool. There were huge apartment blocks and then some smaller, older houses and flats. A high proportion of the land has either already been built on or is in the process of being built on but there were also some open stretches of green parkland. Singapore train station itself was not what I had expected. I knew it would be small but as an international gateway I had expected it to be newish and fairly modern. Not so, it was a small provincial railway station in need of a lick of paint.

With no local cash we looked for an ATM and were surprised to find that the train station did not have one. It did have a moneychanger and US dollars were soon swapped into Singaporean dollars. A taxi whisked us to our hotel. We have continued our big city trend and gone for a spot of luxury and are staying at the Copthorne Kings. Cost wise we both are anticipating that Singapore will be the same as Hong Kong, certainly the good hotels are a lot more expensive than elsewhere in Malaysia.

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Singapore train station

One of the attractions of the hotel is that it has a self service laundry, much needed because most of our clothes are dirty and those that we wore in Taman Negara are also extremely smelly. We spent a couple of hours getting ourselves and our clothes cleaned up and then headed out into Singapore. It was already late afternoon by this stage and we had only planned to have a quick trip out. First off we went and picked up a replacement lens for our camera so Stef is now a very happy chap with a new toy to play with.

A taxi then took us to the Great World City Mall, one of many malls in Singapore, which is home to the Golden Village multiplex. Lonely Planet features this cinema and in particular its Gold Class screen so we though we would give it a go. We went to see Munich, which we both thoroughly enjoyed. I am not sure which was better though, the film or the experience.

For the price of a normal seat at a cinema in London you can get the Gold Class experience. It is a small theatre with just 30 seats. There is a private lounge with waiter service where you can have drinks and snacks before the film. The cinema itself is the most comfortable I have ever been to. There are ten rows of seats in three columns with two seats next to each other. The seats are like large padded armchairs each with a built in footrest and a table in between for your drinks and snacks. It even has a bottle holder to keep your wine cool. Each seat comes with a blanket so you can keep warm if the air con gets too cold.

Part way through the film the waiting staff came in and discretely delivered food and drinks to those who had ordered them in advance. If you want more you have to catch their eye because there is no button to press to get service, probably about the only thing they could possibly improve on here. It was just as well that the film was so gripping because otherwise it would have been easy to nod off. I was curled up and comfy and snuggled up under my blanket. It was pure delight!

We were a short way from our hotel so we ambled back. It still felt warm but nowhere near as hot as earlier in the day. Singapore is almost at the equator but unlike Quito in Ecuador where it was cool and windy I think we will have a hot and sticky couple of days here.