Right on time, Sungkom (my butler, one of three on my far east journey) knocks and brings in my coffee tray. Coffee hot pastries hot, but could not force down the Cornflakes. I’m loving the service, by the way. We alight the train at Wang Po or very near, Nigel tried to befriend a puppy, but he’s having none of it. So we head off to the river Kwai, and it takes about 40 minutes in a small minibus. It’s a bright morning. The sun is low, but it’s already hot.
At the Felix resort, we are met by the staff who have set up a cooking station right on the river. We too and fro as the sun is moving all the time and decide which area would be the best place to film. It overlooks the infamous bridge. I stand and stare at this trophy to extreme suffering and think about the film…. It’s quite a moving moment. I think of the thousands of lives that were lost in the making of this railway. In fact, they say that for every sleeper laid, and it represents a life lost. I can’t help but think about the famous film with Alec Guinness and lose myself for a few moments. I struggle with the enormity of the whole job and how humans can be so cruel to each other.
With this still in my mind, I quietly and quickly set up, and we are ready to film my Thai Congee breakfast cookery slot. Yannis, love him, had prepared for me some congee, a sort of rice gruel. It’s eaten all over Asia for breakfast. Its made by simply boiling rice in water or stock until it falls apart. It’s then flavoured with various bits and pieces. These can range from sliced hot chilli and garlic oil to peanuts and fresh Thai basil, coriander root and crispy onions. I start by sautéing the very lean pork I had bought in the market in Bangkok for a few seconds then adding a little fresh garlic.
I added that to the broth along with the pan juices and then garnished it with 3 herbs, peanuts, cashew nuts and a little Nam Prik, a powerful fish paste. It was quick, 12-minutes to be precise and looked great on camera. It had to be because the train was arriving in 20 minutes. So we hopped onto 2 tail motorboats. Basically thin canoe type craft that has reconditioned truck engines in them; they are mad!!!!! The lads who drive them are very proud of them and pimp them up by chroming various covers and housings. They really do fly.
We get onto the bridge at the right time, and the train rolls into view. Everyone goes a little quiet, and the engine carefully and slowly rolls onto the bridge. There are a lot of people taking photos, and another film crew from Japan are near us. It stops right on the bridge, and our fellow passengers get off and go for a river cruise. We film underneath and on the bridge once the train and moved on to Kanchanaburi station where we will get back on. We finally get all the shots we need and get back on the bus. It’s a welcome respite from the heat. Once on the train, I shower, take a quick nap, and write up a few notes before lunch. We pass through small towns, open fields and lush vegetation; Thailand certainly is a beautiful place.
Lunch again was in the Rosaline restaurant, and we were on the second sitting at 1.30. The restaurant is light and airy and has the smell and feel of a lovely old country house hotel. The smiling staff bring a wonderful array of bread, and we are poured chilled water. The view outside is turning more tropical, with banana trees and fish farms springing up everywhere. Even large mountains start to appear. Back to lunch, Yannis pops out to see us, and we film up buying ingredients with him tomorrow at the market and his cooking demonstration on board the train.
We start with seared scallops with Calamansi chilli on green papaya and pomelo salad, a light-refreshing starter; it’s very nice. Next, a chicken roll with masala spices on a lemongrass risotto. Finally, a pineapple Tarte Tatin with ice cream and pink candy floss. The kitchen really does pump out some lovely food.
After lunch, it’s back to the filming, and we do a couple of pieces to camera stopping at Hua Hin. After an hour or two, we start to see the sea from the train, and the terrain changes somewhat. After that, we head into my room for more filming, the outside on the viewing deck for a final piece whilst the sun sets below the palm trees.
A gin and tonic later, I’m back in the room to write some more before our dinner at 9.15 sharp.
Dinner is good again with lovely bread to start with. This evening we are dining in the Adisorn restaurant car, some 8 coaches away from my own. A lovely taster of we had to start; sadly, I cannot find it in my notes anywhere swiftly followed by a really delicate twice-baked cheese soufflé with a lovely shellfish sauce. The soufflé was not too heavy on the cheese. The sauce spiked with tiny rounds of vegetables.
I had Thai fish curry with rice and Asian vegetables. The fish delicately poached in a wonderful spicy broth is probably the best sauce I have had on my trip. Rice and a fried vegetable to accompany were again just perfect.
Yannis pops out, and we reschedule our cooking to 9, not 8, as we are travelling over the border into Malaysia, and the customs guys get on and go through the whole train, even checking his kitchens. This pleases Lynsey, as she has to check all the kit through as well.
I bid goodnight to everyone and head back to my cabin; Sungkom has it already for me. The blinds are drawn, and the bed is perfectly made.