Just one week to go before I head to Asia to board the Eastern & Oriental Express in Singapore — sumptuous sister train to the Orient-Express in Europe. I’m all set. Well, mostly.
In case you’re wondering: Why that one? Why not the signature train in Europe (proper name: Venice Simplon-Orient-Express) everyone’s heard of? Because though I’ve been to parts of Southeast Asia, I can’t wait to see new territory from such a luxurious classroom. I daydream about myself all decked out on the stately observation deck, fanning the tropical shvitz with my hat, a la Agatha Christie, exotic drink in hand. (Ball caps and hot chocolate are my usual speed.) Hey, I can at least try to keep a stiff upper lip.
Besides, I’ve always had a thing for The Year of Living Dangerously. Yeah, when you really think about it, guess I’m sort of a cross between Sigourney Weaver and Linda Hunt. (If you’ve seen the movie, you know what I mean.) Actually, a former TV colleague used to call me Little Audrey Hepburn. I’d like to think he wasn’t talking only about her personality. This was ages ago, but still …
Plus … plus … we’ll be stopping at a UNESCO site in Malaysia with lots of Colonial British remnants, and the real bridge on the River Kwai. If you read my Out of Africa post, you know I really get into all that colonial pomp. I’m a very big fan of skownz and ka-lot-ted ca-deam.
Granted, this isn’t the Orient-Express Agatha wrote about. Close enough for me. Since there’s no Wi-Fi on the train, it’ll give me the chance to finally read the mystery in my private cabin. On the train designed in same tradition. How lucky is that?
Here’s where I’m going. Yeah, even on paper it’s migraine-inducing. Going again with a little help from AirTreks, the San Francisco agency that specializes in stringing together airline tickets to just about anywhere. You may recall they helped me last year with my round-the-world trip.
Nu Yawk, a layover in Dubai in the Middle East, and then on to Singapore. From there, the train through Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, ending up in Bangkok for a few days. Then a quick flight and quick peek at Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, before flying back to Nu Yawk.
There are other ticket agencies like AirTreks. But since everything worked out fab the first time around, I decided to trust them to arrange the flights. BTW, I started doing it myself, thinking the one-way fares I needed would prove less complicated and less expensive than the RTW jaunt. Trust me, they weren’t. As in $1,800 (including basic travel insurance) versus $9,000. I kid you not.
The tradeoff: Like last time, these airlines aren’t household names. Not in the U.S., anyway. Ow-kay. This Jewish chick with the Bronx pedigree did the Middle East layover thing before. Dubai airport has a lot of shopping and, I hear, a nice place to get a massage. I’m gonna need it.
So the big stuff is done. Including that pesky Vietnam visa. Last I mentioned it, my birth date was wrong. The consulate in NY told me to return it with yet another copy of my passport. About a week later, they actually called to let me know I messed up. (I sent a photocopy of the visa; they needed the original.) Told me it would be no problem, and it wasn’t.
This all had to be done through U.S. Postal Service priority mail. Not cheap, but certainly a lot less expensive than going through costly third-party companies. Since I allowed myself plenty of time, I didn’t need them.
Got my Hepatitis B booster shot. No malaria pills. I’m supposedly not going anywhere where that’s an issue.
Last big hurdle: Wardrobe, and trying to conjure up L’il Audrey instead of Minnie Pearl. Let’s just say I haven’t exactly been on my best behavior since my Biggest Loser Resort stint. Feeling more like Chris Christie than Agatha these days. So I was really sweating clothes shopping.
Finally eased into it yesterday with hats, which generally fit no matter what shape you’re in.
The Life is Good T-shirt’s an elegant touch, dontcha think?
Yeah, I know. I’ll get you, my pretty. And yer little dog, too. Mixing movie quotes, if I may: I’m gonna play Scarlett O’Hara and put this purchase off til tomorrow.
Gotta go. Off to Barnes & Noble to pick up Murder on the Orient Express to bring on the train. Seeing The Bridge on the River Kwai is also on my list of last-minute to-do’s.
Yeah, I love having pressing chores like these …